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.
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.
Sunday was 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~
Here is an old ranch house I painted in about 1968. It seems like all of these old houses were built from one of two house plans. This one had one front door (sometimes two) and a wing built out in front. (there was usually an add-on shed in the back). Then there was the house with a long porch across the front and two or three front doors. You would wonder which door to knock on. Most of these old places had an out house. The better ones had a pit toilet with a modern looking oak seat and a metal floor. (home for granddaddy long leg spiders.) Others were two and three hollers and a trap door in the back.The yard had a picket fence to keep the stock out. The barn was usually finer than the house and there was almost always a windmill, the sound of the mill turning is something we always remember. There is something cozy about these old houses. A nice place to come home to. When my granddad retired he and my grandmother moved to their farm at Grit. Before they finished fixing up the old house, it was primitive but it did have running water inside. I loved being there, it was wonderful, the kerosene lamps smelled good but they didn’t put out much light. What I missed was a refrigerator, they had an ice box and things were never very cold. Granddad built a big cement tank and we waited all summer for it to fill up so we could go swimming, when it was time for us to come home, there was about nine inches of water in it. I had to save my new blow up water wings for another year.
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~
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~
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
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~
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 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!