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Kathleen McElwaine Texas Standard Radio Story

‘Keep the White Space’ And Other Life Lessons From This Watercolor Painter
https://www.texasstandard.org/stories/an-artist-with-a-long-commute-finds-a-way-to-paint-on-the-bus/

Kathleen McElwaine paints iconic images of Texas: longhorns, old trucks, cowboy boots. Her art studio in Georgetown is covered in watercolor paintings of bluebonnets and cows, even cows in fields of bluebonnets. She’s known for her whimsical longhorns, rendered in splashes of color with loose black pen outlines.

The story about the original Texas longhorn started with a bit of artistic desperation. McElwaine had been painting since childhood, but it wasn’t her career. As a girl, she copied drawings and paintings of Rembrandt and Russell and would sketch sitting on the front seat of her daddy’s ’54 Chevy truck on their quarter horse ranch in Tulsa.

By 2007, at age 56, she had put away the paintbrushes. She never had creative time. Then she had a revelation on her long bus ride to work.

“I’d given it up until I got on the bus with that kind of time,” she says.

She figured out a system to paint on the bus. The key was a water brush she’d bought at an art supply store in London. It had a plastic tube you fill with water and a screw-on top with bristles. With that you didn’t need a container of water to paint. She made a portable laptop easel from a canvas board, velcro, watercolor paper, and a tray of pigment.

“So an hour and a half there and an hour and a half back I would paint every day,” she says.

For two years, she filled drawers with her bus paintings. These years of painting in her unconventional “found time” led to her bestselling, trademark longhorn paintings. She painted everywhere she went. One day on a train she created the picture that would change her life.

“This is a longhorn that I figured out one day with a big Texan sitting across from me,” she says. “I sat under a beautiful shade tree and painted an oil of a field full of longhorns and realized that when they look at me they all look the same. So when I got on the train that day I was trying to remember what that look was.”

A fellow passenger watched her work on it.

“And he was so trying to figure out what I was painting. And when he figured it out I have never heard anybody laugh like that man laughed,” she says. “And I thought I am going to paint this thing for the rest of my life.”

McElwaine took that painting to the campus bookstore at the University of Texas at Austin and asked if they’d be interested in selling greeting cards of the cow. They were, along with T-shirts. That day she sold her first licensing, and she was off.

Finding the time to be creative – and rewarded – was satisfying, but more and more she wanted to help others overcome the same hurdle. People who came to her as she was painting out in public.

“They would stop and they’d say ‘Oh I love watching you do that. I always wish I’d learned how,’” she says, “as if their life was over and they’d ever get another chance.”

She wanted to teach. She developed a kit so anyone could learn to paint a watercolor step by step, anywhere. She created templates to copy so you don’t have to be able to draw, and the kits include a water brush, paper, pigment and layer-by-layer instructions. Think Bob Ross, but with watercolors instead of oils.

McElwaine sees her art as a calling, driven in large part by her faith. In her classes, she loves to guide beginners.

“In no time at all you could just see the stress leave their face and about then I’d tell a story and it just grabs ’em and they’re crying, not talk talk talk talkin’ , they’re listening,” she says. “They are still and I know it’s the Lord doing the work. And that’s when – sorry for the tears – that’s when ‘Keep the White Space,’ in your watercolor paintings and your day – the name of my books – came to me.”

“Keep the White Space” isn’t just the name of her books – it’s also her philosophy. A reminder to be still and listen: to find, and make, time for creative opportunities. Kathleen McElwaine’s art is currently on display at the Bullock State History Museum.

 


What do I need to buy to start watercolor?

Simple answer: Watercolor Paint, Watercolor Brush, Watercolor paper. Right now, all you  want is to learn to paint.
The specifics, brand, size and quantity -
I will start with Watercolor Paint - Prang Watercolor paint the 8 color set. 
Reason - Because this paint gives you lots of pigment in each pan of color. When you learn how to load a brush with color, you will have lots of color to work with. And, the 8 set holds the colors needed to learn, Red Yellow Blue, the primary Colors, Green, Purple, Orange and then they add Brown and Black. These are the colors to use when learning how to paint. Prang has been around since I was a child and the paint in the 8 color set is the same paint I painted with when I was a child. Prang paint is created with integrity!
The best Watercolor Brush to learn to watercolor paint - a Pentel water brush.
Reason: In my experience, once I teach a student how to use a water brush, they are capable of using any watercolor brush. The filter in the Pentel water brush makes it the best water brush on the market.
The best watercolor paper for a beginner, you have lots of options. Best: is to start painting and learn how, Fluid 100, 100% cotton paper. Next Best: 1264 Fabriano. And 3rd Next Best: Canson XL Watercolor Paper. Best Watercolor paper in a journal Fabriano's Red and white journal, a bound book. I love this journal because I can paint on both sides of the same sheet and not have any bleed through.  
Reason: As a teacher, I think paper is the most important part of watercolor painting, but a student can learn a lot on lots of different quality brands of student quality paper. 
Find a great selection of these supplies when you visit my ETSY Store at texasartshop.com
 Professional Quality

Learning art from Jay O'Meilia not only taught me -

how to create the paintings I have, but it also taught me how to learn. I was a child in the 1950's with learning disabilities and in those days...teachers passed me by. With out Jay, I might not have ever learned to read.

Jay O'Meilia Kathleens first art instructor taught her from his training he received from the Art Students League in New York (1945-46, 1947-49) and the Chicago Academy of Fine Art (1946-47). He also attended the Cape School of Art in Provincetown, Mass., George Washington University in Washington, DC, and the University of Tulsa. At the Art Students League, O’Meilia studied under Frank J. Reilly and Robert Brackman, and also was a student of Henry Hensche. 
This education was invaluable and foundational to my art career and how I teach.

I have searched high and low and nobody teaches watercolor painting like I do. My students are all successful! 

I wrote about it in my Childhood auto-biography :  This book is available from Children's Bookstore or Amazon.

 

                          Forgive People
    Because Hurting people Hurt people 
     A true story by Kathleen McElwaine

My mom was the most beautiful person in the world and my dad was the most important person in the world. Both of them so full of love that our family was perfect. My older sister was just like my mom and my little sister was little and cute and I was well, I was the middle and still looking for my place in the family. I was often told I was clumsy and needed to learn to sit still and listen. My mom would say I did not apply myself like my older sister did and if I tried harder I could be more like her. 

 

I stayed busy, always motion. The motion could be as simple as pencil in hand scribbling on a piece of paper or drawing lines and circles with my toe in the dirt. I just needed something to do. If I was with my dad I was happy. We had horses to take care of in our barn at the house and being in the barn with my dad was my happiest of places, but regardless, I could not please him. I think he wanted to teach me things but at this stage of my life, I must have been unteachable, because he would try and quickly I would do something wrong that would cause him to say he was disappointed. He never raised his voice or spanked me…he just ignored me. All of a sudden I would realize he had stopped talking to me, and knew he had given up on me learning what he had been teaching. But still…I would rise early in the morning to be sure I could watch out the back porch door to watch him as he walked through the barn door. Once he was inside the barn, he would not hear me because he was busy feeding the horses and he did not tell me to go to the house, because I was already in the barn. I loved being with my dad, mainly because we had a secret together, a secret that has formed me more than he could have ever known.

 

My dad was the most important person in my world.

 

After breakfast I would get ready for school and line up with my 2 sisters to walk the 1/2 mile to school. On cold days we rode a bus, but I remember the walks the most. Walking into the school my sisters had friends, they would walk through the front door and see someone and soon I was walking down the hallway alone. 

 

I remember one day on the playground, Sheryl was picking her team and for some reason I was standing in her view as her eyes searched who she would pick for her tetherball team. I pictured myself being good at tetherball and since she was my dads good friends daughter we had played in each others backyards lots of times. Our eyes met and she said I could be on her team. I ran to stand beside her and then it was her turn to choose someone else, she chose and the person did not want to be on her team…this continued every time she chose someone they would say no they did not want to play. She looked at me and said she did not want me on her team and for me to go away. I was accustom to the rejection and I did as she asked and then she was able to build a team. I was so hurt. It was wrong for her to ask me then decide she did not want me. I’m certain I kicked everything and tore up my scribbles and frowned all the rest of that day. When I got home I remember lying on my bed crying and being mad at my sisters and wanting to hurt them if they talked to me. 

 

When daddy came home and I appeared in the barn as he was feeding the horses he spoke to me I must have said something too loud and startled the horse he was feeding. The horse jerked his head up from the feed trough and pushed my dad against the stall gate. He did not get hurt but it made him ignore me.

After dinner and daddy was sitting in his chair I went to him because I thought if I told him about what Sheryl had done to me at school maybe he would tell her dad and she would be in trouble for her meanness. I told daddy about it all, I cried too, so it took a long time, he was patient and listened until he understood and then he said, I will keep your secret because I know “anytime I am hurting as bad as you are hurting right now I  can always be sure I need to forgive someone” and if you will think about our secret you will know who you need to forgive. 

 

I did not understand who I needed to forgive but he just kept on saying the same thing over and over again, saying each time that he would keep my secret. Then he said I needed to call Sheryl and talk to her, but I should not mention what happened at school, because by now she would have forgotten all about it and I needed to do the same thing. I did as he said and he was right, she never mentioned it, so I did not. 

 

I spent a lot of time wondering what he meant when he said “anytime you are hurting as bad as you are hurting right now you can always be sure you need to forgive someone” and I wondered what the secret was that he was keeping but I felt special that we had a secret. I pondered our conversation often, trying to understand.

 

My first day at a new school in 7th grade, a girl with friends standing all together pointed to me and made fun of my clothes. I fought back the tears all day and when I got home I cried on my bed until I decided I should tell my mom about the mean girls at the new school and how they had made fun of me when actually they were the ones  that did not know how to dress or act and I was not like them and did not want to go back to that school. 

 

I thought my mom would understand because it seemed like “girl talk” like she had with my older sister sometimes. I started to tell her about it and it made my mom unhappy with me. She said I was gossiping and I needed to consider how hurtful what I had said was. She said I was selfish and needed to learn to think about others rather than always thinking about myself. I heard her words, but I did not understand why she had said that to me and I did not know what she was telling me to do. I kept asking her what she meant and after several days she told me she wanted to find volunteer work for me to do, maybe that would teach me to think about others and make me stop being so selfish.

 

On Saturday she drove me to a place that looked outside like a hospital but it was all single story buildings and it had lots of little houses all around it. We walked through the doors, one at a time. Each time we had to wait for a door to be unlocked. When we finally got in a lady met us and started talking to me about being a volunteer. She said I could learn how to make crochet dolls for some of the children at the hospital. I was not very good at crocheting so I did not know why my mom had thought that could be a good thing for me to volunteer to do. Then the lady asked if I wanted to see some of the children that might get the gifts I made. 

We walked into a large room, it had steel baby beds that had sides and a top that made the bed a cage. The walls were white and hard, the ceiling was low and white, the floor was worn and the noise was loud with echo’s of sounds I did not recognize but I knew the children held inside were making the noises that echoed through the room and bounced off of the walls. I was terrified of what was happening. We walked down a hall with windows in the doors and more sites like I saw in the big room, it seemed endless and I was glad I did not look into any of the children’s face. Because they were not looking at me. Then we followed the women through doors waiting each time for the door to be unlocked and finally we were outside. Then we went to see one of the small houses standing separate from the large hospital like building. She opened the door to the house and I could see a couch with crocheted dolls. She said children lived in this house with one of the workers and that the children were at school right now. She explained that the children that lived here were not as ill as the other children we had seen. 

 

We got to our car. My mom said she knew crocheting dolls for those children was not a good volunteer job for me, because I did not want to practice and learn how to crochet. All I could do was cover my face and cry. My heart was breaking for the children I saw, I did not understand why my mom kept saying I was selfish because I wanted to help the children we had seen, but I did not understand how if I was good at crocheting dolls for them would help them. 

 

It was not long before she found an organization that needed volunteers my age to help with field trips with blind or deaf or crippled people my age. I loved doing this volunteer work on Saturday afternoons. The place was called The Recreation Center for the Physically Limited.  My favorite thing to do was to go bowling.  I found that when I worked with the blind people when they were getting ready to drop the bowling ball for it to roll down the floor and knock over then pens that I could get so excited about the possibilities of the ball making its destination that I could have everyone laughing about my description. I would say now throw that ball as hard as you can from between your legs and it will roll right down the middle to the wild blue yonder and knock every pen over so you and I would call the bowler by name will be the best bowler in this whole place. Everybody always clapped when the bowler released the ball so nobody ever heard the ball as it went into the gutters. Everybody was a winner including me.

 

Each time I got my feelings hurt I thought about my mom and how she said I was a selfish person and how I needed to think about others and how daddy had said “anytime you are hurting as bad as you are hurting right now you can always be sure you need to forgive someone”

A Big Dream for a Local Artist


 

Re-publish from my artist website:
What is a Patron? A person choosing to be a supporter of the Arts.
… the unspoken between artist, KMcElwaine, and You, the patron.

Patreon is becoming a typical way for an artist to raise money, But, nobody had it over Rembrandt van Rijn July 15, 1606 – October 4, 1669

This is the way Rembrandt managed to put dinner on the table and brew in his goblet. Rembrandt being the creative person he is, painted constantly, and he was a public servant, recording history and providing beauty all around in his community. Needing to have enough to eat and wanting to hobnob with his collectors, the 1% of his time, he painted lots of different art. Commissions, studies, studio works paintings for the community, and his own response to inspirations…. sounds like me.

Most of his paintings include people.


Rembrandt
He had to find ways to create an income…again, this sounds like me. Rembrandt found a way to tap into the ego of the leaders in his small Dutch community.

My imagination can be pretty vivid and I conjured up a picture in my mind of Rembrandt standing in the presence of Mayor Cornelis de Graeff , and telling Mayor Graeff all about how he pictured The Night Watchman to look once he painted it. Then Rembrandt would ask, “Will you pay me X# of guilders to paint your face on the most prominent person in my painting?” Of course, the mayor was willing, so the mayor would become a patron. Then Rembrandt would be off to the banker with the same offer and the banker would become a patron. With each offer, the most prominent figure would move according to the highest bidder. I’m certain Rembrandt found important spots in his painting for each person willing to pay. And then his paintings had much less desirable figures, such as the cadaver in The Anatomy Lesson painting. But Rembrandt still needed a model so he had a name for these people in his paintings.

Tronies
Rembrandt, Kathleen McElwaine Blog, KMcElwaine Blog

Rembrandt called these individuals and later the face painting studies, Tronies because they were patrons without the pay, Tronies.

My dad often referred to his rodeo buddies as Tronies, so this was great fun to read when I learned about Rembrandt in my own research.

I wonder? What would the response be if I try to raise money the way Rembrandt did? Mayor Ross, are you interested in paying me to paint you into a prominent place in one of my paintings?

These are a few of my own Tronies, painted during my Bus Painting Days. I loved painting people and working to make sure they never knew they were a model for a quick fun study. I call the collection of these painting My Very Cantankerous Rich Ladies . I learned so much from those wonderful people about my own character and the character of people that loved me because of the art painted during the commutes to and from my job at University of Texas, 2007 –2011.

What watercolor paint should I buy?
Which watercolors are best for beginners
What is the best watercolor brand
What is the best Watercolour paper for beginners?
Can I use sketch paper for watercolor?
-How do you use watercolors step by step?
-Should I sketch before watercolor?
Story behind-Longhorn family - together we stand
Story behind-bluebonnets painting
Story behind-Bessie in the Bluebonnets