This landscape is 24″x36″ and has always been my favorite size to paint, it is the right proportion. It works well on a wall above a fireplace or over a large piece of furniture. This size canvas takes about four days to paint, with a couple of days drying time in between. I have always kept three paintings going at once, that way when I have gone as far as I need to on one, I can let it dry while I work on another one. Painting wet on wet ends up a dull grey picture, bright highlights will pop out if the paint under it is dry. I have never used an easel, it is awkward and makes my arm tired. I had rather stand over the canvas with it lying flat on the table or sit with it propped up in my lap. When paintings were finished, Dan framed them for me. A salesman came twice a year from Brownwood to show me the samples. They have beautiful ready made frames with elaborately finished corners. Even a small 5″x7″ painting in one of these frames turns it into something special.
Between Mason and Llano,Texas there is a place called Art, population 18. This old stone Methodist Church stands out there in the country by itself. It is picture perfect with huge live oak trees, lush grass and just another wonderful scene in the Texas Hill Country. It was built by early German settlers to the area. In the spring time the pasture is covered in bluebonnets and wild flowers, and it is beautiful any time of the year. I painted this scene several times at different seasons. My grandmother grew in the area around Loyal Valley and Camp San Saba near here and remembered a few of the last Indian raids. She had lots of stories from her childhood. This is a sweet part of the Texas Hill Country. Bluebonnet time is over for the season but everything is green and beautiful, the Indian Blankets are stunning.
This picture today is a thoroughbred horse I painted for practice. I have painted a lot of horses in the last 60 years and it has always been a pleasure. People treasure their horses, there is a special bond between them. Ranchers use quarter horses in Texas, I painted a quarter horse for someone who was giving it to her husband for Christmas one year. She gave me a photograph to go by, mesquite tree, calache road and their recognizable ranch land in the background. This was going to be an easy one. I loved doing it, but I did ‘doctor up’ it up just a little, you know, a little more muscle, longer legs, what I thought would enhance it. I showed it to Jim Cawley ~a horse expert and friend~ to have him critique it before I delivered it . His comment was, “Dang, that is a fine horse but that is NOT Bob’s horse!”, so I started over from scratch and painted Bob’s real horse. Jim taught me a lot about horses, I have had to remove the perfectly painted whiskers in a horse portrait, re-work the eyes (moon eyes are not acceptable) and every horse has to be the exact color. Horses have four legs, sometimes I would have liked to have painted them standing in tall grass, the legs are no fun.
Harold Wood, who was in charge of the LBJ Park near Johnson City once sent me an old photograph of a camp cook with his chuck wagon and wanted me use it as a subject for an oil painting. I really enjoyed painting it and it hung in the Library and Conference Room at the park for several years. It reminded me of far West Texas and the Culberson County Ranch. Hunting camps still have camp cooks, usually one of the hunters takes on the job and does it year after year. Sometimes a real cook comes and gets to hunt for free. I can only imagine the men starting out early on a cold morning with a big breakfast of scrambled eggs, boiled coffee and biscuits cooked in an old Dutch oven on the open fire, then heading out for the big hunt. This is where fathers bond with sons, brothers with brothers. This is where friendships are made that last a lifetime.
A painting of an old oak tree out on a ranch road in Schleicher County, and one of the ornate frames I told you about in an earlier blog, I like these frames because they go well with landscapes, water scenes, portraits, and just about anything I paint. They do more than just hold a painting on the wall, they compliment it. Hobby Lobby carries nice ready made frames in different sizes and the corners are finished, they are reasonably priced. Most of my frames come from the TWT Company in Brownwood, they are finished in real gold leaf and some are hand carved. The scene from this painting is near a pasture where my sisters and I use to hunt ‘chigger toes’ in the spring. Those are little red fruits that grow on the top a round pincushion cactus. They look like small red peppers but are are sweet and tasty. I still look for them in the pastures around my house~it is exciting~ like finding Easter eggs~or your lost keys~
This is a landscape I painted in 1989. The barn was near Fredericksburg,Texas, the rest is just dreamed up. I have never painted on site, everything was painted at my kitchen table. I have always taken pictures of interesting trees to put in a painting, otherwise I would find myself putting the same tree in the next picture. I took pictures of barns and houses, then built a painting around those. Old houses add a lot of interest, they all have a story. A clothes line out back, with some clothes moving in the breeze can bring life to a dilapidated house. You don’t want to see one too far gone, you want to have hope that there is still some life left in it, that someone can still make a home there.
Sunday is Mother’s Day and what a special day! This was my mother Elizabeth Elder, she was a wonderful mother and grandmother. We were best friends for all those years and almost everything I ever learned came from her, creative in every way, but her greatest talent was painting. To watch her paint was an inspiration, she taught art for most of her life. She introduced the world of art to this part of West Texas. There are many people who come into our lives who mean everything to us but there is only one mother, mine was smart, pretty, creative and so much fun to be with. She was special~
This is a painting I did of my daddy, Jack Elder at the Hulldale barn. He was always good to pose for me. He was not a cowboy, or a sodbuster or a plowboy, he was a roughneck. His usual dress was coveralls, steel toed boots and a hard hat. He worked full time in the oil fields until he was 68 years old, he liked it. He liked his coffee shop friends, his fruit trees, and liked being in charge of everything around him, including me. We locked horns many times through the years. Daddy would do things without thinking. He would have a mess on his boots and scrape them off with his pocket knife, and a few minutes later be peeling a pecan or a peach with that knife for one of the kids. He liked to cook. His peach cobbler recipe was original, it went something like this~
My friend Pat brought me an snap shot of an old grist mill in Glen Rose, it was built back in 1860 and at one time owned by her Great Grandfather Price. She wanted me to paint it for her. She told me the story behind it and I found more information on the internet, so while I was painting, it was interesting to know the history. She remembered visiting her grandmother there when she was growing up so it was part of her young life. Once when she was six years old, her mother put her on a bus in Ballinger, sat her behind the driver and told him not to let her off until she got to Glen Rose where her grandparents were waiting to pick her up. Times were different back then. After I finished the painting and she had it for a few days and came back and wondered if I could add some children playing in the yard. I asked my little Edmiston neighbors to come over and pose under my oak tree, with a wagon and the swing, then painted them in the picture. It brought it to life. This old building still stands in Glen Rose, it has been a grist mill, cotton gin, hospital and now an art gallery, many changes in a century and a half. Pat has this little bit of history hanging on her wall. I enjoyed painting it~
This is a picture of the ranch in the Delaware Mountains in far West Texas. It is 70 miles from Van Horn so is about as remote as it gets. You see Guadalupe Peak in the background, the highest point in Texas at 8,751 ft. It is a magical place, the ranch has been in the family for around a hundred years. One day Dan’s Grandpa Pelt was in the coffee shop at the Menger Hotel in San Antonio when he got to visiting with a man sitting there and they started talking about their ‘white elephants’. Grandpa had property in the Valley near Edinburg and the other man had a large ranch in Culberson County. When they were finished that day, they had made a a trade for each other’s land, sight unseen. Back in those days, deals were struck like this all the time. The ranch has been wonderful for 5 generations to enjoy. It is a favorite family hunting place with big mule deer, antelope, and every kind of wild life. The first time I saw it, it took my breath away, coming up to the rim and seeing for a hundred miles, it was like the Grand Canyon of Texas. Thank you Grandpa, sweet trade~
I was having an art show in Dallas in the 1970’s, I painted while people browsed and watched the demonstration. I loved doing this, so many people either painted or wanted to paint. There was a young man who came every day and sat and watched and asked questions. He just knew he could do it and was serious about trying. I gave him a list of paints, brushes, canvas sizes and told him to buy a ‘How To Paint’ book. All of this would cost him about $25. I painted a couple of fast sketches on a pad for him to follow when he got started. He was on fire, he couldn’t wait to get going. Several months later I was in Dallas again for a show, I wondered if I would see him. Sure enough, here he came all happy and excited. When I asked him how the painting was going, he said he had put it off for a while. Right after he bought the art supplies, he came to watch a man demonstrate guitar playing and had always wanted to play guitar so bought one and was taking lessons! I love this story, it just shows that we all have the urge to do something creative, it doesn’t matter what it is, just so when we hear that voice inside, we know we must do it.
This is Debbie Pina, she grew up on the farm where we lived. She was one of the sweetest children I ever knew and simply adored by her grandmother Goya. Her mother was a nurse and her daddy worked for the city, her parents were tragically killed in a bus accident a few years ago while on a tour with a group from the First Baptist Church in Eldorado. Debbie lived with her brother Danny and his family after that. She and Danny were often the subjects in my paintings. A farm is a wonderful place for children, always something interesting going on. There was a storm cellar, tractor, barns, two ponies and a goat. We had a tree house, there was the ‘Peacock Club’ in the garage room, and there was a cave in the pasture. (Even after my boys were in college, their friends, several from other countries, came to spend the weekends and savor the country life). Those are sweet memories