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December 16, 2013

I was hunting for an interesting illustration to post for Peculiar Pictures when these two paintings fell out of an old portfolio. They aren’t much, but they do bring back memories. These little pictures were painted in oil on scraps of canvas. They are small enough for me to place in my scanner without resorting to photography. Both are dated on the reverse—1966—back when I was fourteen years old. For better or worse, they are my oldest surviving paintings.


I remember receiving a box of oil paints for Christmas in 1965. I didn’t know how to use them properly. Oil paint dries slowly and my first efforts were little more than muddy colors and mushy drawing. I wanted to learn how to paint people and required models, but no one in my family was interested in sitting motionless for hours while I stared at them. Like Cezanne, I turned to still lifes, in this instance my dad’s old slippers and the turpentine jar where I cleaned my brushes.


It’s a curious feeling looking at work I can barely remember painting. In many ways it’s like wandering through the rooms of the house where you grew up, familiar yet foreign. These pictures aren’t good but I’m not ashamed of them; the act of creation must start somewhere and for me it all started with these two paintings.


Mrs. Chatterbox has a box of poems she wrote in grade school, poems about riding a stallion on the beach. Every now and then she pulls one out and reads it, a wistful look on her face as she’s transported back to a happy childhood place full of wonder and possibility. When I study these paintings it’s 1966 and I’m fourteen again, back in time to a magical realm where all things were possible.


The coming years would bring excursions into fantasy art and conceptual illustration, but it all began with these two depictions of objects unable to escape my attention. They might be awkwardly drawn and poorly conceived, but within them is hidden the magic prompting my drive to become an artist.








I'm sure those are better than anything I could have painted at 14. The brushes made me think of Star Wars lightsabers I think because the blue one seemed to have kind of a glow around the edges.
By: PT Dilloway on December 16, 2013
How cool! Sort of like "From the tiny acorn springs the mighty oak".
By: Scott Cody Park on December 16, 2013
I like how you signed the slippers. Obviously a budding talent.
By: Cranky on December 16, 2013
how awesome. i love this - the seed of your talent coming to life.
By: TexWisGirl on December 16, 2013
You are fortunate to have these still, great reminders of beginnings.
By: Oma Linda on December 16, 2013
You're tremendously fortunate to have saved these two masterpieces. You are even fortunate to be earning a career doing something you love. Bravo!
By: Daniel LaFrance on December 16, 2013
The glow around the paintbrush is really more pronounced on Blogger, which seems to have some weird thing about lightening pictures recently. I'm not sure what the deal is with that but it's annoying.
By: PT Dilloway on December 16, 2013
You were good even back then. Remember the cow you drew for me for our class play? Those were the days!
By: Linda on December 16, 2013
You were certainly a natural from day one but learned an incredible amount from there on in. Very cool that you kept your early pieces. Thank you for sharing them out here.
By: Hilary on December 16, 2013
These pictures aren't good??? These pictures are wonderful. AND you were 14. I would love to be able to transport myself back to a magical realm, but I can't think of an age that's magical even from this distance. I'll travel through yours.
By: Mitchell is Moving on December 16, 2013
These were painted when you were 14? They show quite a budding talent!!
By: fishducky on December 16, 2013
You had no choice but to become an artist. Fourteen??? Very impressive. How wonderful to have had such an intense desire at a young age.
By: Akansas Patti on December 16, 2013
I'm impressed! I especially like the worn and comfy slippers-in a way they evoke a warm and comfy father. Merry Christmas!
By: Kathe W. on December 16, 2013
It shows that you had an innate eye and hand, and just needed the practice that years and training gave you. Well done, 14-year-old you.
By: mimi on December 16, 2013
Well, I'm amazed ! This kid's going somewhere. And he did.
By: red on December 16, 2013
Stephen: You are an amazing and unique artist! I enjoyed this post.
By: Michael Manning on December 16, 2013
You demonstrated a wonderful talent early. It is so nice you have those early works. Thanks for sharing them.
By: Tom Cochrun on December 16, 2013
I think it is so cool that you still have something you created when you were fourteen - and a nice piece of art it is! I don't have ANYTHING from when I was fourteen. I used to write a lot at that age - it would be fun to read something I wrote back then, even if it were to make fun of it.
By: Pixel Peeper on December 16, 2013
Those paintings are beautiful–especially for a 14 year old. Of course, they're not quite as good as The Hurricane's work, but she's not your competition now that she's a mathematician. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on December 16, 2013
I think they're great. I especially like the colors of the brushes in the jar one. I tried to paint with oils when I was about 14 too. Your works are FAR superior to my feeble attempts! Great post! :-)
By: Lexa Cain on December 16, 2013
I am quite impressed with your use of color. All I could ever master was a passable pencil sketch good enough for my Pictionary teammates to recognize the object.
By: Val on December 16, 2013
Oh my gosh, you are a pure natural at painting. It's brilliant for someone to do this at such a young age. Only a few days ago I found some of my old school books from when I was 11 years old. I couldn't believe how clever I was back then because I had so many tick marks from the teacher. The thing is, what happened to my brain between then and now? I've lost a heck of a lot of clever brain cells since then. Time flies by so quickly. Seasonal greetings and make sure you have lots of fun too.
By: Rum Punch Drunk on December 16, 2013
It is weird looking back at work we completed many years ago. There are cues within the material that return us to our previous way of viewing the world. With me it's about reading old stories and essays. By the way, 1966 was an outstanding year for the English: the one (and only) time we won the World Cup - soccer for you guys. Thanks for re-kindling such terrific memories.
By: Bryan Jones on December 17, 2013
As you've proved ... talent will out. I esp. like the jar.
By: tom sighting on December 17, 2013
This post opens on my screen with just the handles of the brushes showing at the bottom of the monitor and I really thought that when I scrolled down I would see Obi wan kenobi and Darth Vader holding their blue and red light sabers aloft in an epic battle to the death. But I suppose if you painted this in 1966 then George Lucas would have some explaining to do. And to my very unartistic eye, these are amazing! As always, I am very grateful for the insights and appreciation for art that I gain on your blog!
By: Nancy Felt on December 17, 2013
You were already an artist at a very young age. Such old pieces are priceless. I'm really glad that, as a kid, I treasured a handful of my work. Blessings to you and yours. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on December 17, 2013
I love that you've kept these all these years. I look at the slippers and smile. My Dad had those very ones! You're so talented, even at the beginning.
By: Bouncin Barb on December 17, 2013
Fascinating, those two images reflecting not only your talent but what was important to you at that age, the established love being what the slippers represented, and the jar being the potential future with your love for art!
By: John on December 18, 2013
Interestingly even though you painted them as a young man I would still have recognised them as your work.
By: LL Cool Joe on December 19, 2013
Oh, Chatterbox, you are really so clueless about what "bad" looks like, Those paintings done by an amateur 14 year old far surpasses what most of us poor schlubs out here will EVER be able to paint. What a gift you have.
By: Cheryl P. on December 20, 2013

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