I was invited to exhibit and demonstrate oil painting at the ASU Folk Festival in February of 1973. I met a lot of people and also saw many familiar faces. I liked the demonstrations, everyone was happy and full of chatter, they enjoyed watching and many of them were also painters. I had my miniature covered wagon and all the little rooms on display so if anyone wasn’t interested in painting, they liked to look at the little things. The famous wood carver, Gene Zesch was also exhibiting his wonderful carvings, he carves old cowboys and anything to do with ranch life, with much skill and unbelievable humor. I was in good company that day, it is a sweet memory for me~
I painted this picture of Gen. Robert E. Lee in 1984, from a photograph by Mathew Brady~ published in Harper’s Weekly at the time, the caption read: “This photograph shows shows a picture of Robert E. Lee. The picture was taken shortly after Lee’s surrender. The photograph was taken by Mathew Brady, and shows the General in his uniform. Despite his recent loss in the War, the General still stands tall and proud. ” I enjoyed painting this picture of the General tremendously, he was one of the really great men of all times. The painting belongs to one of my sons, he found a mistake, he said “General Lee did not have blue eyes.”
Last summer I had some projects that needed to be done. They took several weeks, the signs were some I carved years ago and the paint was blistering and peeling, the gold leafing was suffering. I also restored the duck house. Here are pictures of that project before and after. The bigger the job, the greater reward! I also added a couple of pictures of Sharon Mittel’s grand kids when they were little to show the duck house back then.
This is a painting I have in my living room. It is a scene of an actual place in Schleicher County and I didn’t have to change a thing. When my little granddaughter wanted to paint a large picture, she copied this one. It took her over a year since she could only work on it when she was visiting. It is easier to copy a painting than a photograph, I showed her painting on an earlier blog. It is a great way to teach a child to paint, they can learn to paint a tree and road and soon be doing their own originals. She never got tired, she stayed with it. Those were sweet days for me.
This is another painting I did years ago while demonstrating. This time at the Kendall Art Gallery in San Angelo, their first membership meeting of the year. There were 60 artist present that evening. This is a scene out of my head, no real place. Someone wanted to see how I painted rocks and then a cactus. Again, I was painting wet on wet paint, not something I like to do. There needs to be a drying time in there so the detail goes on just right. Later at home, when the paint was dry, I went back and was able to finish it up. The gallery has so many beautiful paintings in all mediums. There is unbelievable talent in this part of West Texas. They have several special art shows throughout the year. The gallery is over near the City Auditorium, go by and see it.
It is hard for me to write about this, it was either an accident or just plain luck. I was completely humbled by the whole experience. By 1971, I was painting every day and had started making miniatures (while waiting for the paint to dry) That year I painted 52 pictures~ Jerroll Sanders let me hang many of them in his restaurant in town, and he had a cabinet built to hold the miniature rooms. One evening in July 1972, he came out and brought a nice young man from Dallas who had been passing through and saw all my stuff. His name was Forbes Woods. He bought a small picture and then asked me if I might consider an exhibit at the Texas State Fair in October. (Of course, I was excited but doubted it would happen). A week later, Mrs. Elizabeth Peabody called and asked for some photographs of my work, she was the Director of the Women’s Department for the fair. Things moved fast, she liked what I sent and said I would officially be the ‘Artist in Residence at the Texas State Fair’. One thing she made very clear, if I agreed to do it, I HAD to show up and be committed to 15 days of painting and demonstrating. She called several times in the next few weeks to be sure I would be there. (the only downside was leaving our two boys at home, Uncle Bob and Aunt Lucille offered to keep them so that was settled). In October, Dan and I left in our little Airstream trailer, it was packed from floor to ceiling with paintings, the six miniature rooms, plus a covered wagon I had carved, with over 100 pieces of tiny things that went with it. We got to Dallas in the middle the day and had to move all the things into my space in the Women’s Division Building. What a surprise! There were special cases set up to hold the miniatures and people there to unload and hang the paintings. Everyone was nice and helpful, Dan and I kept looking at each other in awe, this was nothing we had expected. Each day I could hear Big Tex out on the fair grounds, announcing the different attractions, the Dallas Civic Ballet, a man who could pop his eyeballs out of their sockets, Rita McWhorter’s little miniatures and painting demonstrations, etc~) Then for 15 days I painted for wonderful crowds of people, many came back every day to watch and ask questions. ‘How do you paint a cactus or rocks, or water, or a mesquite tree’, I would paint on my pallet or sketch pad and give it to them, it was fast and I did many of those. They would come and bring me gifts, like a small hand painted piece of china they had done, or chocolate éclairs or cookies they had made. They asked about my boys, and told me about theirs. (painters are nice people). There were hundreds who came through each day and ‘looked and liked’, especially the miniatures. They enjoyed Dan, he was an asset when it came to visiting and talking about the art work. Two days before the fair ended, Mother and my sister Tricia brought our boys to Dallas and when I saw them, I wasn’t the only one crying, I had missed them terribly and some of those around were shedding a few tears with me. This was the biggest thrill of all. The boys took off and went to see everything at the fair and had a wonderful time. After we got back home, I had lots of nice letters and notes from people who had come to watch. (even a beautiful poem from Dan Hill which he had written for me). It was hard to get my feet back on the ground again, I was feeling good! A few days later I went to a small get together and someone asked me what I had been doing lately. When I said, ‘painting’, she said, “I am getting my kitchen painted right now, I don’t do these things myself like you younger girls do”~ so in that instant I was back to normal.
I painted these two goats in 1969 down near Camp Wood, some of the roughest country in this part of Texas. Goats do well there, (it might be a problem with predators though). I wonder how they round them up to shear them or doctor them~ not a good place to drive a four-wheeler. I like goats, they are the cutest of all little ranch animals. The kid goats play and climb trees and just can’t stay still. They make good pets but they will get the top of the car.
We raised Hank from a baby, he was an angora goat and ag project at school. He was smart and sweet, the boys even brought him in the house a few times when I was not home. He took up with our neighbor’s horse Polk, and from then on, they were always together. The first time Hank got sheared, he disappeared for three days. Polk ran circles around our fence looking for him and was terribly upset. We looked all over the place and thought maybe Hank had been stolen. We finally found him hiding in the barn behind a pile of boards, he was ashamed that he was naked. Someone told us that happens sometimes. Anyway when he got back with Polk and was happy again~ Polk didn’t even recognize him for a couple of days~ those two were together for years~I like goats, I loved Hank.
These are a pair of landscapes that worked well together, just right for a small space. The paintings are 9×12’s and I painted them in a few hours, with drying time in between. First coat is to pretty well to finish the sky and hill, then put in the dark green where the trees will go, and the calache colored ground, road, and brush. No details at this point. After the canvas is covered and it is time to let it dry, I pull my pallet knife over the wet paint to make it smooth. That way when I come back to do the finishing work, the canvas is nice and easy to paint on. (If it is rough, it is like trying to paint on a cinder block). After it is completely dry, it’s time to paint in all the details, the heads on the grass, the gnarly limbs coming out of the tree, hit it with highlights, and don’t forget to sign your name~
I was required to take a life drawing course in college where you sketched life sized models on a big 4 foot pad with charcoal. It was fun but I couldn’t see any practical need for this in my future. Several years later, I saw an old world painting of a nice nude and wanted to paint it on canvas. When I was finished, there was the problem of what to do with her. She stayed in the garage closet, in the attic, under the bed, always out of sight. Dan was trading on the market at Uhlman Grain in San Angelo and had friends he ‘shot the breeze with’ every day. Jimmy Gouras (Jimmy the Greek) was one of his best friends. Jimmy knew I painted and was always sending someone down to buy a picture. One day a guy came (I will call him Duncan) to buy a painting for his wife. Dan showed him the nude and he decided that is what he wanted. They struck a deal and the deed was done! I was a happy girl that day. A long time coming but at last the nude was out of my house and out of my life. The next day Dan and Jimmy were visiting and he told Jimmy about Duncan buying the painting and said he thought he “sold it too cheap, how he REALLY hated to see it go” etc. etc. etc. A couple of days later, here comes Jimmy into Uhman Grain carrying the nude, he had bought it back from Duncan! So Dan had to come home with that picture and face me, I was shocked, I was stunned and I was mad! Yep, she’s back~
Good end to this story, it now has a place in a stunning home in San Antonio, showcased by a couple who recognized it’s beauty.
This is one of several of Dan’s paintings while he was taking art lessons. He liked bight colors~
In the summer of 1953, I was home from UT, and working at Blake’s Electric. Not much happening. Mother kept books for my daddy’s business and gave art lessons twice a week. She said ‘Dan’ came in the station one day and sat around for a while then asked her if she would teach him to paint. She was surprised, most of her students were women but she agreed to give him lessons in the evenings. After a few weeks, she couldn’t meet with him for a couple of sessions but told him that I might help him instead. He was serious about learning to paint and he was doing a good job. That was the start of a whirlwind courtship.
First real date was going to San Angelo to play miniature golf one afternoon, then to Garner State Park for a Sunday afternoon, every evening we painted or went to a movie. It was a fun summer. When it was getting time for me to go back to school he started trying to talk me out of leaving. I had pre-registered, my room at SRD was reserved and it was all set. I thought maybe he would come to Austin once in a while and we could see each other. One afternoon we went out to the farm on Rudd Road to shoot his new pistol. No shooting that day, instead he proposed to me. He went to meet with Daddy and ask for ‘my hand’. Oh my goodness how very proper. Daddy told him all the reasons it would never work, too much age difference, (12 years), I was not going to be easy to live with, (a silly girl) and I wasn’t finished with college. (Daddy, will you please be quite!) But the stars were right and it happened and Daddy was wrong, ( a few times I had some doubts though)
We were married for 57 years and had two wonderful little boys. Dan quit painting after a few years and just helped me haul my paintings to shows. He liked art just as much as I did. (he also liked music, food and cigars)
Dan and I used to go to Johnson City often where he visited with Harold Wood who was in charge of the LBJ Park . One day we finished early and Dan asked Harold where was a good place to eat. He told us he liked a cafe that had pretty good old German food in Fredericksburg. We stopped there and ordered our lunch. Dan was eating his salad and found some shrimp shells in it. I said, “Don’t Eat It and Just Don’t Make a Scene!” In a little while a kid was cleaning off the table next to us and held up a bowl of half eaten jello, he yelled to the back, ‘Hey Erna, Do We Save This?’