Other Oil Paintings

Kenneth Parsons
Kenneth's Mother, Kathy, who lived across the street at the time, commissioned me to do portraits of her two sons. Kenneth, being 7 years old, was quite dignified posing, but when I asked him how he would sit around with his friends at school, he immediately went into this pose, which looks very natural.

Michael Parsons
Kenneth's younger brother, Michael was at 4 years old, a real con artist. Almost every day, he'd ring my doorbell, and very charmingly ask for candy (Hershey's miniatures) and in a short while he was back, with even more irresistable charm, asking for just three or four more for "his friends". I always gave in to his requests, after clearing it with his Mother, of course, who was surprised and amused by his visits to my door.

Laura Lancaster Sawyer
This is my daughter, holding my cat. She is an acute observer and excellent writer, who just got her Master's degree. She has a wonderful husband, William, known by everyone as Buz Sawyer, and two bright children, Kendall and Will, ages 4 and 7. They've just returned from Amsterdam, where they've lived for 6 years because of Buz's work and are happily settled in the San Francisco area.

She graduated from William Smith College in three years with a Magna Cum Laude. I knew that, but she also was a National Merit Scholar, which she never mentioned to me!

After college, she was very successful in advertising as an Account Executive at BBDO, where she met and married her terrific husband, who is currently Managing Director of Wieden and Kennedy's New York City office, which has long been recognized as highly creative. They do advertising for ESPN, Nike, Sharp Electronics, ABC and other companies. It is a privately owned company, based in Portland, Oregon where they used to live,but have offiices in Amsterdam, which Buz set up and ran for 6 years. Both their children were born there, and I was Oma, the Dutch equivalent of grandmother. When they moved back to the states, I said, "Well, I am not Oma any more. You need to think of what you'll call me. They selected Gran, but I asked why we needed to drop the d, why not Grand? We still use it humorously sometimes.

Weiden and Kennedy also has offices in NY, England, Japan and China. Buz travels, and recently went to Japan. He is very much a family man, a loving husband and father and is very close to his two sisters. He also loves travel and outdoor activities, like hiking, sailing, dining out and good wine.

Along with being a devoted wife and mother, Laura has earned her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. To Laura, everything is "doable". She totally amazes me. She now teaches half time, (her choice, so she can spend time with her children), at Empire State College, all forms of writing and literature, business communications, creative writing, composition, fiction, drama and poetry. She has published papers, which were used at the 5th International Conference on Transformative Learning, her special interest, New York: Teachers College Columbia University.

As if that weren't enough, she serves as President of The Pelham Education Foundation,and is Chairman and board member of several other educational groups. But, as I said, to Laura, everything is doable, and she handles everything calmly and cheerfully. I'm very happy with our relationship as it has developed. We've become very good friends, who tell each other everything and e-mail constantly.

She and I write very funny e-mails, along with news and she said she's been keeping all my e-mails, and with minor corrections, will make a book of them. She's very sweet and funny. However, when she's here, and I'm, as usual, expounding on something, she listens so well, that it can be a bit unnerving. She has a calm, placid expression on her face, that is impossible to read, and I have no idea what she's thinking, whether she thinks I'm making sense or talking pure gibberish, until I ask her. Then she'll tell me fully what she thinks. That's a rare quality, to be a really good listener. Most people can't resist interrupting.

Their son, Will, now 14, is a level headed, ( I should say so! When I told him I had an enormous gain in a stock when he was 9 yrs old, he said,"If I were you, I'd sell it." I laughed and said,"What would I do with the money, put it in CD's and savings accounts?" Well, the enormous gain has gone down with the rest of the market, though I still hold that stock, but I now have money in CD's, Savings accounts, and bank money market accounts. I should have listened to that level headed little shrimp!) He's always been frightenly logical, yet he's an easy going, funny, warm hearted boy who is growing like a weed. He had grown 7 inches by April this year, and was 5' 10. Now, in June, he's probably added a few more inches He has played trumpet since he was 8, was named Outstanding Jazz Musician in his school last year and currently plays in two bands. He is sharp-minded and politically engaged. He reads the NY Times regularly, watches political commentary shows, and particularly enjoys those with a humorous bent, like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I love Jon Stewart, too. He's very funny, but also extremely intelligent.

This summer Will is going to participate in an Outward Bound outdoor program, a 15 day rafting excursion in Utah,and travel on his own to visit relatives and friends in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Their daughter, Kendall, now 11, is an imaginative child, who loves to draw and write. In fact at 9 years old she wrote a children's book that is so unusual, that adults would enjoy it and be amazed at her creative skill and knowledge. It certainly ought to be published. I was astounded by it. They came to see me in April and after they left, I found a raft of drawings she'd done here and two very interesting stories. She has always had a BIG personality and a keen sense of humor. She is an original thinker and is very quick to express herself. We have that in common. She is outgoing, happy, makes new friends easily and gets good grades.. She has done this, no matter how many moves they've made.

Next year, she'll be in middle school. She also is my biggest fan, loves my work, so when they were here, I gave her a book by a famous author, who had written a thank you note to me for doing so many of her covers, on the preface of a copy of the book, so I gave it to Kendall. She thought that was wonderful and said she would take it to school to show everyone, so I asked, "How would you like the painting I did for that cover. She could hardly believe it, so we took it off the wall and her response was "awesome!". It was more generous than she knew, because it was one of the best I've ever done and I wouldn't have given it to anyone but her. This summer, she will travel on her own to the Midlands of England to stay with relatives on a dairy farm and then to the London area where she will visit other relatives and engage in more urban, cultural activities. Well, well, I guess I was over protective of my children. I would never have dreamed of allowing an 11 year old travel abroad! I thought I was super brave to go to Paris alone at 22! But, Kendall will handle it all with perfect aplomb, just like her mother would.

Will Sawyer
This is a portrait of my frist grandchild, Will, son of Laura, my daughter and her husband Bus Sawyer. I took photographs when they were visiting seven years ago and finally got around to do oil paintings from the photos. Of course, they've come back many times since, so I've gotten to know them well. The three of them were here recently and were delighted that I'd actually finished the portraits.

Will was then 8 and perfectly confident posing in his little blazer. He's now 15 and has grown into a fine young man, polite, affectionate, and very bright. He makes all As and Bs in school quite easily. He also plays football. When I say he's grown, it's factual, in that he's over 6 feet tall and still growing! One thing has not changed. He is still frighteningly logical, just as he was when he was 4 years old. Laura says he often says to her and his younger sister while they are talking, "But, what you're saying is illogical." He's thinking about colleges to decide where he'd like to go. He says he wants to be a businessman in advertising like his father, who's done very well and is a top executive in advertising. Well, maybe, but I think he's a born lawyer. I couldn't be prouder of him.

Kendall Sawyer
This is Kendall, my second grandchild at age 5. Her mother and I tired her out posing, by rearranging the skirt of her little dress, reminding her to cross her ankles, so the little Maryjane shoes would be just right, fixing her hair a little, etc. Then I decided to not even show the ankles and shoes in order to make the paintings life size. She's harder to describe. First, she's a beautiful blond with big blue eyes, and very smart. She is also talented, highly imaginative as a writer, who wrote an amazing book at age 9 that would astound adults. She also draws constantly, so I don't know which way she'll go but I'm sure she'll be successful in anything. She has always had a very strong, confident, and happy personality and is quick to make friends and expresses her honest opinion on whatever topic. She certainly thinks for herself, and has a quick sense of humor. Like her brother, she also makes all As and Bs in school. She's now 12 and her mother thinks she'll be a handful as a teen. I think she'll be just fine. Kendall is my greatest fan about my paintings, so I gave her a book with a very nice written tribute to me on the overleaf from the famous author. That made her very happy, so I asked if she'd like the original painting done for that book and took it off the wall and handed it to her. She was thrilled and for the very first time in her life she was speechless!

Webster Lancaster
Webb has worked for his beloved Boston University since 1993. He was an Assistant Director in the Office of Housing where he was in charge of the Assignments Office. As such, he was responsible for the 11,000 undergraduate students who lived on campus housing. In 2001 he became Director of Parking and Transportation. In addition to overseeing the University's parking and public transportation needs, he also oversees special event parking for the University's Agannis Arena and a significant portion of the Boston Red Sox games held at Fenway Park. All this keeps him very busy, but he hasn't lost his marvelous sense of humor and honesty that makes everyone love him.

But, that's not the big news. After taking his time about marrying, he finally picked exactly the perfect girl, Yvette. She is of French Canadian heritage, sweet, beautiful and bright, and they adore each other. In fact, after several years of marriage, Webb said, he treasures every moment he spends with her. I think that's pretty rare. He at first was bewildered by her large and close family. She has a twin sister and many cousins who often get together. Webb has only a sister and his cousins live far away, so he isn't in touch with them often. But, of course, he adapted and they all love him.

Yvette has worked for Boston University since 1996. She is an Area Director in the University's Office of Residence Life. She is currently the Director of South Campus where she is responsible for over 2,000 students and 78 residences. In addition to her full time staff, Yvette has 44 Resident Assistants that report to her.

They have a lovely apartment right on campus and walk to work, no commuting! Webb refers to her as "The Midget" because she is a petite 5' 11/2" Webb's 6' 5"

An older woman who worked in the same office with them years ago , predicted Webb would marry Yvette. The women later moved to California, and would call now and then and ask if he'd married Yvette yet, when Webb said no, she'd say, "That's all right, It's only a matter of time, you will." I guess she could see they were a perfect match long before they did.They were married in 2000.

Webb was a natural athlete in all sports in school, football, baseball, and basket ball, and always captain of the teams. He loved sports so much that he didn't apply himself to his studies as much as he should have. I was called in by the headmaster of his school to discuss this matter. I told the headmaster that I thought maybe Webb was afraid he'd fail if he really tried to get top grades. I asked him which he'd rather do, study hard and get all A's and B's, or take it easy and get C's. Without hesitation, he said he'd rather take it easy and get C's. The headmaster said, "Well, he is an intelligent boy." But, when his grades slipped too far, they'd take him off all sports for two weeks, during which he knew he had to apply himself and was a brilliant student all of a sudden.

Now he's taken up golf and loves it. Though he only plays a handful of times a year, he is already an accomplished golfer. He just plays for the enjoyment of the game. He and Yvette are going to Europe next year and he especially wants to go to Scotland, so he can play the St. Andrew's course. He also wants to go to Paris and everyone says Italy is a must. It certainly is. I loved London, too.

He reminded me of what happened when Clem, owner of Clem's Flower Closet in Marietta called me. I thought she was selling something, so I said I wasn't interested and hung up. She had to call back to say she wanted to deliver flowers from my son. She and Webb still laugh about that when they talk on the phone. He says she's such a nice lady that he wants to print out the painting from my site and send it to her with the new copy. She'll be thrilled.

He asked me for advice, because I've gone to Europe and other countries several times, and worked in Paris for four months when I was 22, even had a French press card because I was sketching the clothes being shown at the magnificent couture houses for a full page column I did for The Atlanta Journal. To tell you how vague I was at that age, I chose to go to Paris in April, because of the lovely song, April in Paris. I thought surely that it would be the time to go. Not so, It was bitterly cold and I came down with Bronchial Pneumonia.

I was better informed on trips after that, so I told them about all the countries I'd visited and finally said the best thing to do was to get a copy of Fodor's Europe and select what appealed to them most before going, which is what I did. On planes and trains, I go over the things I'd selected and give them a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, indicating what interested me most. But, whatever they choose, they'll love it.

Carole Gignilliat Jackson
This is a portrait of my younger sister, Carole, which I painted shortly after I moved back "home" to Georgia from New York. She has the light hair and eyes typical of the Gignilliats. I have dark hair and eyes like my mother's family, the Sinclairs. I had two sisters, no brothers, so Daddy named our dachshund, "Jr." because he was the only boy in the family.

I was much closer to Carole than I was to my other sister. One day, when I was 13 and she was 7, after Mother screamed at her, I decided I could do a better job of bringing her up, so I sort of adopted her. I played with her and taught her whatever I knew about art and music, and tried to be a protective fairy godmother to her.

Mother would never would never let me have a dog, the one thing I ever wanted other than a paint set. Someone gave a puppy to Daddy, who was always very kind to me, and he brought him home. He was a funny little mixed breed, white with black and brown spots, tail and ears that stuck straight up, and a long body with short legs. He had to have some dachshund in him. I loved him dearly and when I took him for a walk, was hurt by the people who laughed and said "What's that thing you've got on a string?

The greatest tragedy I had ever suffered at 13, happened the day I came home from school to find my little dog dead, lying on the grass next to the street. He'd been run over. No one else was home, so I picked him up in a towel and carried him around crying for two hours. My little sister, Carole was inconsolable, couldn't stop crying, so to comfort her, I invented a little voice pretending he was talking to her and saying funny little things. She'd laugh at what he said, and It probably helped me, too.

With my first earnings, I bought Madame Alexander dolls for herand when she was older, teen age designer dresses. When she was 17, my role as fairy godmother came to an end. She told me she didn't want to be like me anymore, which naturally hurt my feelings, but I understood, that of course, she was right, she had to be herself, and she turned out pretty well without my further help!

She was highly intelligent, and excelled in everything she tried. She graduated first in her class, as a nurse, married a handsome young doctor, who was devoted to her, and had two very bright daughters, Marianne and Jennifer. She was a gifted painter, who studied painting at the University of Georgia and later taught a class there. She won a tennis championship, had her own one woman show of her paintings, loved all animals, but especially dachshunds, which she showed, and won a "Best in Show" blue ribbon., and donated her time and money to her local Humane Society shelter.

Here she is holding her all time favorite, Rudolf, (Rudi). We loved to talk about our dachsies on the phone. I called her one day after I'd gotten my new mini-dachshund puppy. He's still small, but then really small, to tell her he was so ridiculously sure of himself, that he barked at jets flying over his backyard. Her instant response was "Well, they go away, don't they?" That is the thing I'll miss most about her. She was the one I always called to share anything I found amusing, knowing I could count on her sense of humor and quick wit.

Carole died tragically in 2005 from a fall, while trying to regain her strength, after still another operation on her spine. I still can't quite believe I can't call her anymore.

Floral - Flowers from Webb

These are flowers my son Webb ordered for me on Mother's day. He didn't do it the easy way. He went to the Internet and found a Marietta flower shop and called. Clem, the owner asked if he wanted two dozen roses. He said, "Oh no, I want a mixture of various flowers, tiger lilies, all kinds of roses, carnations and others." Clem certainly arranged just what he thought I'd like and delivered them herself. I thought they were so beautiful that I wanted to do a portrait of each flower. Knowing that sadly they would start drooping the next day or two, I photographed them, in order to do the painting. The painting is so accurate, that it looks like a photograph, but it is an oil painting that hangs in my bedroom.

Kitsy Kitsy
When my vet told me Kitsy couldn't live much longer, and nothing could be done, I decided to paint life size-portraits of both my pets to remember them by. I managed to keep him alive for another six months, feeding him anything he'd eat. The last day, he was lying in his favorite spot on a warm vent in the sunroom, which I can see from my breakfast table. He mewed once, and I went out, to see about him. He raised his head and looked at me with those big green eyes, but I knew, stretched out on the floor in front of him and sang the song he'd always loved, "Amazing Grace" while he closed his eyes and went peacefully.

That sound is strangely calming. The one thing Schatzie is terrified of is thunder and lightning. I used to try to help him by holding him close on my lap, covered with his towel, but he stayed frantic and would jump down. One night, during a big thunderstorm, I happened to sing "Amazing Grace" to him and he not only calmed down but went to sleep on my lap. Of course, I had to sing louder when the thunder was louder, amazing grace.

Kitsy became my beloved cat and was named that, because I've found cats all over the world respond, for some reason, to the sound of "Kitsy". Shortly after I moved back to Georgia from New York, I saw a large cat hiding under the shubbery, and spoke to him in my usual way, "Hello, Kitsy". Every day he'd retreat and hide.I finally decided he was a homeless stray and was probably starving, so I gave him a bowl of milk. With that, he decided to live with me. Two other cats have decided to live with me. Cats do choose.

I took him to the vet to be sure he was healthy, and a few days later, discovered a tag on his collar with a phone number on it. I called the vet to say the number was incorrect, and was told they didn't put the tag on him. I called the owner, who lived right up the street, who was so kind that she adopted 5 dogs and 4 cats from a shelter to save them. She said Nick, (because of the nick in one ear from some previous injury) was the nicest cat they had, and had slept on her bed or her daughter's bed every night. They had been wondering where he was, and told me that he'd come back several times, visited a short time, then looked over his shoulder, saying "Bye". She offered to take him back anytime I wanted and would keep him if I went on vacation. (Some stray cat, indeed!) I think he didn't like to be one of the crowd.

About three years later, I brought a mini-dachshund home, who likes cats very much and of course, tried to play with him. Kitsy almost took his eye out on their first introduction, but decided the next day to tolerate the silly little fool and even allowed Schatzie to knock him over and drag him around on the kitchen floor. However, when he'd had enough, all he had to do stand up, and turn, facing Schatzie, who'd hastily back off. He'd never forgotten those sharp claws. They became the greatest of friends. They often curled up together and Kitsy, an older male cat, would "groom" him, licking Schatzie's head and back like a mother cat with her kittens.

I'd hadn't quite finished Kitsy's portrait, when he died. I had shown Schatzie his portrait, it failed to interest him. When I finished Kitsy's, I stood it up on a big chest in my studio, waiting to have it framed. Of course, Schatzie didn't understand where his best friend had gone and missed him. One day, he was following me, as he always does, into the studio, but stopped dead still in the doorway. I looked back and saw what he was staring at, he was transfixed by the portrait of Kitsy, so I put it down on the floor. He walked over and pushed it once with his nose, to try to make it move, but then knew it was not real.

It was touching, and the very best compliment I've ever gotten on my work.

Schatzie Schatzie
This is my portrait of Schatzie, my mini-dachshund. He is my 5th dachshund, my first mini. What he lacks in size is amply made up for with his little brain and a lot of attitude.

Dachshunds are a very special breed. They are a poor choice for a disciplinarian who expects a dog to OBEY! That, they find goes against their nature, which makes them much more interesting and entertaining. They have a sense of humor and invent games to play, like hide and seek, which I didn't teach him. His version is he hides and I seek. I call out "Where is Schatzie?" and after enough suspense, he jumps out, "Here I am!" A little trick he likes to play on me is to respond with great enthusiasm, when I ask him if he wants to wear his leash, to go to the mailbox with Mommy. (I don't trust him near the street, because if he saw a chipmunk, his hunting nature would take over and he'd be gone).He assures me he really wants to wear it, and leads me to the kitchen where I keep the leash, then dashes out his little dog door in the back, as I know perfectly well he's going to do.

The staid Wall Street Journal sent a reporter to cover the annual event in New York's Washington Square Park, where Dachshunds and their owners meet, not to compete, just to meet others of their kind. Many dogs and owners wear costumes for the event. One expert on the breed was there, and explained why dachshunds think for themselves and do not readily obey. She said, "They were bred to hunt badgers, which are very dangerous animals, with huge teeth and claws, which burrow into tunnels underground. The dogs must be fearless, intelligent, and able to think for themselves underground. No owner can tell them which dark branch of a tunnel to take. The dog must decide. In other words, they must think like humans, because no owner can tell them what to do underground, in those dark tunnels, which branch off in different directions. The breed is still hard wired to think for themselves, and be reluctant to obey. Schatzie goes after chipmunks exactly the same way, with no regard for the rocks, roots and mud he digs through. That was very interesting, but really, Schatzie would not care about going to the event. He is not interested in meeting other dogs. He much prefers the company of humans like himself.

He is stubborn, but will listen to reason, and we do have certain rules. I never feed him bits during a meal. If I did, he'd keep barking though the whole meal. He gets a little of everything I eat because he "waits nicely" and "Mommy won't forget."and I don't. At the cocktail hour I make my martini (now watered down) and get "our" peanuts out. He gets four half peanuts, counted out loud, 1- 2- 3- 4 on the table, and thrown, one at a time, as far as possible in every direction, so he can "find" them. He loves the game even more than the peanuts. He hunts them with the same determination he has in hunting chipmunks, and will not give up until he finds one, pushing anything aside that's in his way, to find it, then trots back for another. (He has also learned to count.)

He loves going to our favorite store, Home Depot, where he rides in the cart, standing up in front, leaning forward like a mermaid on the prow of a ship. Everyone passing smiles or stops to pet him and tell about a dachshund they grew up with, or own, or a relative owned. The children all squeal, "Oh, look there's a weiner dog" and asks if it's O.K. to pet him. He allows all this like the Pope handing out a blessing.

The New Kitsy

About a month ago, I went to Petsmart to buy another Beta, a Siamese fighting fish, to replace one that tragically died, and my life has not been the same since. On the way to the fish department, I saw a cat in a cage, which looked exactly like the former dear friend of my mini-Dachshund, Schatzie. So, of course I had to adopt him. I couldn't wait to get home, thinking Schatzie would be thrilled to have Kitsy back, but things didn't work out that way. I opened the carrier and Schatzie just stayed across the room, with hurt feelings. At first I couldn't understand it, but then realized, I'd had the former Kitsy first and brought Schatzie home as the new baby. This was the reverse, so naturally he didn't like a new baby coming in. I felt the same way when my younger sister was born. So, I keep telling him he's the baby and Kitsy is not.

But, though the new Kitsy looks exactly the same, (That's why the same painting fits both) he is altogether a totally different kind of cat. He has not one iota of the dignity, reserve, and independence that cats are supposed to have. He is extremely affectionate and extremely playful. He jumps up in front of me, whether I'm sitting at the table or standing at a counter. Everything is skidding this way and that, while I'm trying to grab what I can. All he wants is to express his love and affection for me and to be petted and stroked, but as I say to Schatzie, he's a real problem. He loves playing with toys, but best of all, lying in wait, tail twitching, for Schatzie to walk past so he can jump him and chase him. I told Schatzie to bark at him, but he's too bewildered by it all, and just looks at me beseeching me to do something about it. Well, I have. I've put a breakaway collar on him with my address and phone, so he can go out the dog door and maybe work off some of that energy. That helps, and I'm happy to say he is actually starting to learn how to be a good kitsy lately. He didn't insist on being in front of the computer as I wrote, and slept on the sofa nearby, and he's learned he can't stretch out on each stair to be stroked, just where I'm trying to put my foot. So, he is learning, and maybe things will be a lot calmer in time. Schatzie just ignores him now, but maybe later, he'll start to play with Kitsy, who desperately wants to be friends and play with him.

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Biographies of Elaine Gignilliat
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