This is artwork from this blog in 2015, a year after I retired from teaching.
This is artwork from this blog in 2015, a year after I retired from teaching.
I told you the other day that my daughter had started her first ever oil painting. So she has… but I failed to show you the picture of the green basketball that she intended to be a cactus. Well, that wasn’t entirely me being forgetful. I wanted to show you what it looks like once it has undergone the full treatment and transformation into a credible cactus. I wasn’t trying to make fun of the Princess, but rather encourage her in learning to paint with oils.
Here is the finished cactus;
She does still have cactus spines to paint to make it look less basketball-like, but you can certainly see the progress here already.
My daughter, seen here in this oil painting of me and her, she’s the one trying to talk to the spirit elk in a previous lifetime, has started painting oil paintings. She started with a picture of a small cactus growing in sand. I have to admit, when she showed it to me for the first time, I thought it was a green basketball. But she has worked out the details since and it is beginning to actually look like a cactus. Now, you might think I was making fun of her in this post, calling her an oil painter who makes cactuses into green basketballs, and using my oil painting of a nude and overly-white Native American girl to illustrate her, but actually, this post is praising her abilities. She is already a much better watercolorist than I will ever be. And she is learning to paint green basketballs… er, cactuses, in oil paint at a much faster rate than I ever did. This semi-competent oil painting of mine took many practice paintings and many years to achieve. Far slower than her mastery of the medium coming into focus before her eighteenth birthday. And besides, she is leading the sacred spirit elk into the safety of the lake and away from the stormy darkness of the background, while I, as my Native American self, can stand hamming it up and looking at the artist as I have my vanity-project portrait done in oil paint.
Okay, so this is not a perfect essay, and it is not 500 words. But painting in oils and trying to be a real artist is hard enough without you criticizing. Be kind in the comments, or I might cry.
After years of being stored away, I discovered that my mother had hidden a hoard of my old artworks in the upstairs closet in Grandma Aldrich’s house (now my parents’ house).
This oil painting was done on an old saw blade at the request of my Grandpa Aldrich. He wanted a farm painting on it, like the one he’d seen in a restaurant during a fishing trip in Minnesota. I chose as the subject Sally the pig. Sally was a hairlip piglet that had to be bottle fed and raised in a box by the stove until later in life she became a favorite pet. Believe it or not, pigs are smarter than the family dog. She became a pig you could ride. And Grandma had taken a precious old photo of my mother and Uncle Larry riding the pig. I used that photo to make this painting. It was also the painting I wanted to find on this trip to Iowa. Searching for it led to finding all the others.
These two are among the earliest paintings I did. They were both done on canvases that I stretched over the frame myself in high school art class. The purple one is a scene from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. The blue one doesn’t have a title, but you can see what it is. It is an ancient shibboleth water monster lurking under a dock, fishing for young boys to eat.
This drawing was done on the front porch in the house in Rowan. It would be years before mom framed it. It is another example of what I could do as a high school kid. In fact, I composed it from art-class sketches I did my senior year in school.
The Boy in the Barn was painted on the remains of an old chalkboard that my sisters, brother, and I had used in grade school.
Grandma Aldrich asked for this picture to hang over the sofa in the farmhouse living room. It stayed there for many years.
Great Grandma Hinckley passed away in 1980. I created this portrait from a combination of photos and memory. It was too good. It was never hung anywhere because it always made her daughter, my Grandma Aldrich, tear up.
This pencil drawing won a blue ribbon at the Wright County Fair in the late 70’s.
This picture is called First Years are Hard Years. It was painted in 1982 after my first year of teaching at the junior high school in Cotulla, Texas. I painted mostly the good kids. The girl on the lower right would later go on to become a teacher for our school district. I can’t claim to be the one who inspired her, but she did make straight A’s in my class.
This is called Beauty. It is done in oil crayon on canvas. I did it for my mother to hang in the hallway in the house in Taylor, Texas.
So, it turns out, I unearthed art treasures by searching for the one painting.
If you cruise the bargain sections in an old used book store like Half-Price Books, eventually you are going to find something priceless. This book I am showing you is that very thing for me.
It was copyrighted in 1978. The inscription inside the front cover says this was a Father’s Day gift on June 19th, 1988. Someone named Gary gifted it to someone named Claude in Burleson, Texas. It was probably a cherished book until someone passed away and the book changed hands in an estate sale.
The book chronicles the height of the publishing era when being able to print books and reproduce artworks began entertaining the masses. Always before painters and great artists worked for a patron for the purpose of decorating their home in a way that displayed their great wealth. But from the 1880’s to the rise of cinema, magazines and books kept the masses entertained, helped more people to become literate than ever before, and created the stories that made our shared culture and life experiences grow stronger and ever more inventive. The book focuses on the best of the best among a new breed of artist… the illustrators.
These are the ones the book details;
Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Frederick Remington, Maxfield Parrish, J.C. Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell, Charles Dana Gibson, Howard Chandler Christy, James Montgomery Flagg, and John Held Jr.
Wyeth was most famous as a book illustrator for Treasure Island, Kidnapped, other books by Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, and a famous volume of tales about Robin Hood.
Remington is a name you probably know as a maker of Western art. He was a famous painter of cowboys and Indians and the American frontier.
Maxfield Parrish is my all-time favorite painter. His work is something I gushed about in previous posts because I own other books about his fanciful works painted in Maxfield Parrish blue.
You will probably recognize Leyendecker’s work in magazine and advertising illustration as the standard of the Roaring 20’s. His paintings set a style that swept American culture for more than a decade, and still affects how we dress to this very day.
Norman Rockwell and his work for The Saturday Evening Post is still familiar to practically everyone who reads and looks at the illustrations. As you can see he was a master of folksy realism and could do a portrait better than practically anyone.
I have also written about Norman Rockwell before too. I have half a dozen books that include his works. My wife is from the Philippines and she knew about him before I ever said a word to her about him.
As you can plainly see, Gibson was a master of pen and ink. His work for Collier’s and other magazines thrills in simple black and white. More cartoonists than just little ol’ me obsess about how he did what he did.
The work of Held is stylistically different than all the rest in easily noticeable ways. He’s the guy that made all the big-headed Pinocchio-looking people in the 1920’s. You may have seen his work before, though you probably never knew his name.
This bit of someone else’s treasure hoard will now become a part of my own dragon’s treasure, staying by my bedside for quite a while, while I continue to suck the marrow from each of its bones. I love this book. It is mine, and you can’t have it… unless you find your own copy in a used bookstore somewhere.
Remember this picture that I said was unfinished? It was supposed to be a picture called The Stag in Snow. But I was always reluctant to dab the snowflakes on over top of the picture I basically felt was good the way it was. So, I have experimented with art editing programs to the point of putting snow flakes into the picture without risking spoiling the original with blobs of white paint.
I successfully added snowflakes to the blue background. I couldn’t help but feel like it is a starry night in the background rather than snowfall. And so I saved this product separately before continuing to experiment.
The final product faithfully carried out my original plan. And it does look like a rather mechanical snowfall. But I don’t like it as much as I like the starry background step. It makes me truly glad that I did not put white paint on the original. I would be happy to have your opinion in the comments. Of course that is also a tricky way to make you reveal whether you are actually reading the words of this post or just looking at the pictures.
There comes a time when you simply have to put things on the line to protect your family from the predations of the world at large. I am in a struggle now over health insurance. Health insurance companies never complain about receiving premium payments, but you have to go to war at times over claims where you try to activate the services you paid the premiums for. I am having trouble now even though the previous insurance had no problem with paying their part for the very same services I am arguing for now. The new insurance will not accept without a fight. So now my Paffooney picture portrays Daddy going to war instead of Poppa coming home. I will think hard about what is funny in this situation. I mean to come back with a lampoon of these pirates. That’s how you kill a whale, right? Lampoon it with a really sharp lampoon… or was that HARpoon? Whatever… more really bad puns to come later when I have gathered my wits and sharpened my harpoons.
Back in about 1968 my Grandma Beyer was seriously scandalized by an artist named Paul Detlefsen. Detlefsen did a lot of covers for the “Ideals Magazine” that Grandma always had on her coffee tables. He scandalized her by putting a painting on the cover that showed a young boy taking his pants off, the rear view only, so he could go skinny dipping with a group of naked boys. Truthfully the picture shown above is by Detelfsen, but it is not the one that offended her. I have discovered that this painter of old-timey things like blacksmith shops and one-room school houses has painted at least four different versions of “the Old Swimmin’ Hole”. And Grandma was easily scandalized when we were kids. She was a very conservative woman who loved Ronald Reagan and his politics most severely and thought that Richard Nixon was a leftist radical. She didn’t like for people to be naked, except for bath time, and maybe not even then. She is one of the main reasons, along with this painter whom she adored, that I came to learn later in life that “naked is funny”. http://www.freeplaypost.com/PaulDetlefsen_VintageArtPrint_A.htm
Grandma Beyer also seriously loved puzzles, and besides “Ideals” covers, Paul Detlefsen did a beaucoup of jigsaw puzzles. (Beaucoup means a lot in Texican, I tend to think in Iowegian and talk in Texican and completely forget about the need to translate for those people who don’t know those two foreign tongues) One of the puzzles we spent hours working on was “Horse and Buggy Days” that I pictured here. They were the kind of puzzle paintings where every boy was Tom Sawyer and every girl was Becky Thatcher. And there were a lot of them. Here is another;
Grandma had this in puzzle form also. We put the puzzle together, glued it to tag board, and framed it. It has hung on the wall in a Grandparent’s house, first Grandma Beyer’s and then Grandma Aldrich’s, since the early 1970’s. My own parents now live in Grandma Aldrich’s house, and that puzzle-painting may be hanging in an upstairs bedroom to this very day. Detlefsen is not known as a great artist. He was a humble painter who painted backdrops for films for over 20 years. In the 1950’s he switched gears and started doing lithographs that were turned into calendars, jigsaw puzzles, laminated table mats, playing cards, and reproductions you could buy in the Ben Franklin Dime Store in Belmond, Iowa and hang on your back porch at home. I believe I saw his paintings in all these forms in one place or another. According to Wikipedia (I know, research, right?) “In 1969, UPI estimated that his artwork had been seen by 80 per cent of all Americans.” That is pretty dang good for a humble painter, better numbers than Pablo Picasso ever saw. Let me share a few more of his works, and see if you recognize any of these;
I honestly have a thing for artists that critics hate and common folk like my parents and grandparents loved. Norman Rockwell is a bit like that. He enjoyed commercial success as a magazine illustrator. That is about as far from avant garde art as you can get. But what can I say? I don’t call myself an artist. I am a cartoonist and all around goofball. I don’t do serious art. So the questions surrounding Thomas Kinkade bounce off my tough old non-critical hide like bullets off the orphan of Krypton. I love his pictures for their gaudy splashes of color, his way with depicting puddles and water of all sorts (splashes of splashes), and his rustic homes and landscapes of another era. This is a man who does lovely calendar art and jigsaw puzzle art. He is roundly criticized for factory production of “original” oil paintings which are actually a base he created and made a print of painted over by an “assistant” artist or apprentice. But I don’t care . I like it. And you used to be able to see his originals without going to museums, in art stores at the shopping mall. He is unfortunately dead now. For most great artists, that makes their work more valuable and more precious. Kinkade’s art hangs in so many homes around the country already that his fame has probably already reached its peak. Look at these works that he did for Hallmark and Disney and various other mass-market retail outlets. I dare you not to like it.