The wrinkled hands of artist Herbert E. Fain may shake a little due to age and Parkinson’s disease, but after 77 years, they still make beautiful music.
When Fain picks up his favorite violin and puts it to his chin, he warns that he doesn’t play as well as he used to, yet his passion for music pours forth with every note.
Fain, better known as Buster, has been playing and making violins since he was 13 years old. Several of the instruments he has crafted are proudly displayed throughout his home, like pictures of his children might be if he and his wife, Jeanie, had any.
“I’ve always been a stickler for workmanship,” says Fain, who as a boy swept the shop of his mentor, a violin-maker name Glidewel in Wichita Falls.
“I got to see what Mr. Glidewel did and how he did it,” Fain says. “It was a challenge for me to see if I could make a violin after watching him.”
Fain opened his own shop before joining the Air Force in World War II. He earned his living by making and repairing violins and violas, and by playing the trombone as first chair in Oklahoma City’s symphony orchestra.
After the war, he became a salesman, but continued to operate his violin shop out of a back room of his house.
Love for violins and Jeanie eventually led Fain to discover another talent – painting.
Jeanie wanted a picture of a violin, but no artist could satisfy Fain’s meticulous eye for craftsmanship. He decided to paint Jeanie’s violin himself.
“I wasn’t interested in someone else’s interpretation of what the violin should look like,” says Fain, former president of the Dallas Artists and Craftsmen Association.
Fain began oil painting in 1964 and now has a studio filled with landscapes and seascapes behind his house. His work is exhibited at Art Encounter in Northlake Shopping Center.
Today, Fain has given up the trombone because “you have to keep your lips in shape,” he says, and he has stopped playing the violin at Urban Park United Methodist Church because of Parkinson’s disease.
His illness has him moving slower and remembering less, but he remains passionate about his violins, his landscapes and especially Jeanie.
“I enjoy my painting and my music,” he says. “I think God has been good to me.”
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