In 1963, we had a seven year old in school and a two year old baby at home. I was painting every day, it helped keep me from being lonesome. (work and projects always make me happy). PJ wanted to do whatever I was doing, so I let him paint with me. I could give him a brush and a canvas and he liked it. One day I saw a perfect picture of him working in his pajamas and I painted this ‘mama picture’, something to keep for myself. Both our boys have been the subject in many paintings. They were always available and willing. Being mama is the best of all blessings, and now I am mama to my little ‘ four legged babies’.
This is an old steer skull I found in the pasture. First the buzzards, then the bugs, finally staying out in the weather for a couple of years, and it was nice enough to work on. Fine horns, nice bone structure, it was like it had been hand carved. I can just imagine what a beautiful creature he once was. I sanded it down until it was smooth, stained it, then put on several coats of polyurethane varnish , sanding it between each coat. I painted a cattle drive scene on the forehead, then added leather strings and turkey feathers.
A friend who knew I liked to work on the skulls left a goat head on my front porch one morning, It was way way too fresh! I held my breath while I carried it out behind the rock fence and left it for a year. Then I found it there one day and made a wall hanging from it. It is a beautiful skull, I liked working with it. I hope this one lived a very long time and died of old age. I like goats~
This old cowboy wasn’t really a cowboy at all, he just put on the hat for me that day. He usually wore a hard hat, he worked in the oil fields in West Texas on drilling rigs. He was my daddy, Jack Elder, and was the subject in several paintings. When someone has a wrinkled and weathered face, those are the best to paint. He could be a farmer, roughneck, sea captain, or cowboy, rough and rugged. I could just put him on a different hat and in a different setting and make him whatever I wanted. My favorite painting was always the one I was doing right at the moment. I have always been a landscape artist, all the other things were just for fun. If you can wake up every morning with a project, you will be excited all your life. (This morning it is to make some peanut patties.)
When I think of the excitement of July 4th fireworks, bombs bursting in air, the crowd holding it’s breath for the next shower and explosion of colors, it is one of the things we all love. Or the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, where the beautiful balloons drift into the air to fill the sky with colorful, billowing shapes, puffing as they rise into the heavens. Everywhere you look, the sky is filled with wonderment. We all cheer and are thrilled by this experience. Drive through the Texas Hill Country in the spring and see the bluebonnets and wildflowers. This is the best of all. Around every curve, a new scene of beauty. It takes your breath away. This is a drive you need to share with others.There are massive live oak trees, mesquites just starting to put out their bright green lacy leaves, the red sandy roads with puddles of water from a recent shower, it paints a splendid picture. There are miles and miles to see all over Central Texas, the best being from Mason to Stonewall. This is the Texas Hill Country. This is the Lord’s Work.
Hemphill Wells in San Angelo invited me to have an art show and demonstration at their store in 1973, (the same time the San Angelo Roping Fiesta was being held at the fair grounds, the men roped, the wives shopped). I painted for a week and enjoyed every minute. People came to look and other artists came watch me paint the bluebonnets, landscapes and water scenes. By the third day, they were bringing their folding chairs and staying all day. (Mr. Russell wasn’t too happy, he had planed for it to be a time they would be shopping for pretty things on the fourth floor). This is one of the paintings, it is 24″ X 36″. Since I was painting under florescent lights, the colors seemed pale, I had to work to make them brilliant. Later when I came home I found all the pictures were extra bright and a little different from the norm. I was happy with the end results. I was invited back several times for demonstrations, something I looked forward to. I never taught art lessons but gave demonstrations along with the art shows. When people watch, they are inspired and they learn a lot of the tricks and techniques. I learned from an early age by watching my mother Elizabeth Elder. She was wonderful painter. If you pick up a brush and squeeze paint out on a pallet, I will be cheering you on!
These two oak trees are between Brushy Top and Eldorado Texas. This area is not quite in the Hill Country but it is where Texas starts looking good. It is more rugged than lush, good sheep and goat country, big ranches with many sections of land, oil and gas, fine people. We are 90 miles from the Mexican Border town of Del Rio. There are lots of scenes to paint, you just have to look for them. If you drive west you can end up in El Paso, 382 miles down the road with only a couple of towns in between. Some people move to Texas after driving down that highway, it is vast and remote, the clouds are spectacular and you feel a sense of peace. It is a world in itself. Get your camera and come to Texas~
I found some 16″ tall china dolls that had good features but ugly painted faces. They cost less than $5 so I bought several. I sanded the paint off, which took a while because it was kilned fired. Then I repainted them using my oil paint to look like real people with soft colors and pretty eyes. I made new bodies to replace theirs which were stuffed with something like floor sweepings. I designed pretty new dresses. They turned into something you might find in a doll shop. The carved chairs were a copy of those in my dining room. These were gifts for my sisters Nancy and Tricia, and I kept one for myself. This project was one of my favorites. My grandmother Montgomery had a neighbor who had a beautiful china doll in her bedroom and I was was captivated by it, as a young girl I dreamed of having something like that. Finally I got my own doll~
The boys posed for me when I was painting a lot of cowboy pictures. PJ and his friend Matt were always good to let me use them as my subjects. There is an old barn on the place at Hulldale, a good background for all kinds of western scenes. Here is one of them holding a Winchester 30-30 rifle, and of course had a pistol in his holster. They did some target practice out there, it is several miles from neighbors so the perfect place. They usually found a rattle snake around the barn so the guns were put to good use. I liked painting the guns, boots, and cowboy hats. I liked to add a little humor to the paintings, this one had wasp nests on the studs. They are a fact of life around barns and out buildings. If disturbed, they can sting the daylights out of you, ‘you gotta run fast’.
Pablo was sitting in the market in Guanajuato Mexico when Dan took his picture. They spent quite a while visiting, he said his family farmed some land and he came to town on Saturdays to watch the people. He had several brothers and one was in prison because of “trouble”. When we came back home, I painted his picture and instead of having him in the market, I put him out on his farm since he was proud to be from the country. I like painting people, I am not a portrait painter, but faces are fun to do. These don’t have be exactly like the person, just a face, and I like remembering their story. Everyone has a story, all they need is someone who will listen. That was Dan~
Meet Stanley and Rose Olive, the Jamaican dolls I made in around 1956 . He was a wheeler dealer and she was a show girl. After a while I decided they needed a place to sit so I made the two wing back chairs. Stanley has a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes in his shirt pocket, he carries a leather bill fold in his pants pocket with a driver’s license and a picture of Rose Olive. She used to have a big purse but lost it. I liked these two characters. A few years ago, someone came to my house and was offended by them so I put them in the cedar chest in the attic for quite a while. I just recently decided to bring them back out and enjoy them again. They are really quiet nice, they have never caused trouble ~except for that one time~
This is a painting I did in 1976, bluebonnets have always been my favorite subject. In the spring time throughout Texas when the country has had rain at just the right time, everything turns blue. The best is always in the Hill Country around Mason, Llano and Fredericksburg. This should be a good year. Everyone looks forward to a day trip on the winding roads to see all the wild flowers. They last for several weeks. It is a sight to see and one of Texas’ most beautiful treasures. It will take your breath away.
I copied a chair that had belonged to Dan’s grandmother which was over 100 years old. The real chair was hand made and uncomfortable, the seat was too high, so I cut off the legs and made new mortise and tenons, put it back together and it is now (like in The Three Bears story) just right. The miniature is 12″ tall, my first attempt at carving. It is made from dowel pins and oak wood. Ron Sutto came one day and told me how nice it was, in fact he bragged so much about it, I was feeling just pretty good! After he left, I picked it up and said something like, ‘it is a darn good piece of work’ ~ then dropped it on the tile floor and it splattered into a dozen pieces. (pride before the fall) I put everything in a shoe box and left it for a couple of years before I had the energy to rebuild it.This was the beginning of a passion for making miniatures.