Painting of Orange Elephants

Painting of elephantsPainting of Elephants by my Uncle.

My uncle and my daddy were roommates in college; they married sisters, were both architects, and designed and built their family’s homes. Whereas my daddy did photography (see one of his photos here), Uncle Dean was a painter.

As long as he was working, his art interests were curtailed — a matter of time I’d assume — and his projects seemed to be mostly for his family. One Christmas he made a complete set of felt decorations for their tree. I remember them as fantastic, with touches of sequin, but I can no longer describe them.

After he retired, he took up painting full-time, taking classes and joining the Colorado Watercolor Society and having work accepted for their exhibitions. He knew I was interested in art, so when I visited, he’d take me down to the basement where he had his canvases stacked against the wall. One by one he’d take the new ones out, turn them around and we’d talk about the pictures. This one was one of his favorites. The assignment in his class had been to use the color orange. He told me that orange was a very difficult color to integrate into a picture, but he felt he’d done it.

He also taught me about acrylic paints – how they can be used thick, like oil, or thinned and used like watercolor. And he made me see how difficult watercolor is: if the artist wants white in the painting, he must leave blank paper. To have the whole picture in your mind’s eye and to control the paint around white space seems to me impossible.

After Uncle Dean died, my cousin had prints of some of his paintings made. I asked for this one and have always loved it. It hangs in my living room, reminding me of a kind and talented man.

Sentimental “Old Master” Painting

“Old Master” portrait, girl with a pink ribbon in her hair, in the line of the famous Pinkie. The back of the frame is old wood; the visible gold trim appears to be gesso, but it’s some sort of very early plastic I’m guessing. The pink inset trim is velvet.

This masterpiece was found by my grandmother in the junkyard in Salina, Kansas. She was an eccentric, my grandmother. As a child I didn’t like to go to her house because she never had anything entertaining for kids. The best thing was the window to the front door, which was round, suggesting a ship.

But when I became a teenager, she taught me how to bake cinnamon rolls from scratch. I’ve kept the recipe through the years; written on the back of an envelope, it was my talisman for success. I still can bake killer rolls. Her advice included: “Keep the dough loose, loose when you knead” and “Always rinse the measuring cup and add to the dough so as not to waste a drop.” (Sounds like a woman who would haunt a junk yard, rescuing treasures, don’t you think?)