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"EVERY MAN A REMBRANDT"
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THE UNFINISHED WORK OF PAINT BY NUMBER, 1960-2001
POSTED COMMENTS/"POST A REMINISCENCE"
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Post a Reminiscence

 

I remember REALLY wanting to do a paint by number when I was about 8 years old but my mother wouldnít buy it for me because of the clean up mess and she didnít want me to ruin my clothes. Paint-By -Numbers were always oil paints.

Now I am an Art Teacher and I constantly ruin my clothes. I have done several projects using Paint By Numbers. The best one was The Last Supper. I blew up the image to about 5'x12'. I divided it into a grid, cut the grid apart, and then gave each of my 90 freshman students at least 1 section of the grid. They then colored the image with colored pencils using the color chart. It was a good lesson on cooperation, everybody doing his/her part and how to put this huge work together! We entered it into an art show at "the other" private high school. It was a show stopper. We were not invited back to that show again.

Robyn Slakey
May 1, 2001

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After my fatherís heart attacks in the fall of 1971, he started to do paint by numbers to relieve stress. Over the next several years he finished several of them for friends and for family. After his and my Momís death in1981, I received his last one which he made my Mom. It still hangs lovingly in my bedroom wall.

Bill
May 1, 2001

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I loved those things! It was the only way I could paint a "real" picture. My mom used to buy them for birthdays and as a treat when I was home sick from school. I still donít have the talent to paint, though I love art, and I wouldnít mind using one of the kits again. Interesting that they are so valuable now. I antique a lot, but I donít think Iíve ever seen one of the old kits anywhere.

Sara Peth
Ann Arbor, MI
May 3, 2001

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Just thinking about it, made me smile. Thanks so much for the exhibit. Hope I can get to see it. I never have thought about it since the 50's when we all "did" it!..I canít remember how many I did, but it was quite a few. We really thought they were great! (canít imagine that, now!)

Thanks again for all you do to make our world a better place.

Sincerely,

Jean M. Schmidt
May 3, 2001

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The paint by number story in the website brought back many memories to me. I did a lot of them in the 50's. One of my favorites was of two ballet dancers. I remember one large painting of a wooded stream flowing under an arched stone bridge, which I kept on my wall for years. I have faded old snapshots of these two in my album of memories.

I did many childrenís fairy tale characters for my nieces and for friends children. I did landscapes to give as gifts to friends. I kept a few for myself, but when I left NY for IL I gave them all away. I was a frustrated artist who couldnít draw, so I loved working on the paint by number pieces.

Beverly Bruce
May 4, 2001

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I am a paint by numbers fan and I remember working on them as a child. But alas, none of my own work has survived. I do have a small personal collection of paint by numbers paintings some of which I feature in my online gallery at the following link. I hope you enjoy them.

http://www.dreamscape.com/dbporter/paintby.htm

Best Regards,

Dave Porter (aka Del Parker)
May 4, 2001

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This leading edge Baby Boomer still has the Paint-by-number pictures we worked on in the 50's. My mother was the one who brought the sets home and enjoyed them the most. She painted three pictures with a Mexican theme, and I did two collie dogs (in the days of Tommy Retig and Lassie). We were not rich, and this was a fun way to spend some time and also decorate the house. As I kid, I thought they were great, and still do. The pictures bring back lots of those childhood memories that we appreciate more as we age.

Muriel Button
May 4, 2001

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1962, I was 13
Broken Ankle
Confined to bed for 2 weeks
No school for 8 weeks
Mom worried about boredom
Brings Paint by Numbers kit

Three panels -
all Asian Ladies in Costume

10 days later I am
Bored by painting them
Finished 2 of the three, somehow
Hanging in our guest room now

Could never part with them
Memories of Mom and a broken ankle
and a more innocent time.

Juli Lederhaus
Salem, MA, formerly S.F. CA
May 4, 2001

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When I was in 3rd or fourth grade, (c. 1963) I wanted a paint-by-numbers set because I loved to draw. Santa brought me one with 2 panels portraying dogsí heads. But when I opened the box and brought out the "canvases," I couldnít see a dog in either of them. I decided that there had been some mix-up, and Iíd been sent topographical maps instead. So there was only one thing to do - make my own paintings.

Now Iím an artist and art teacher, and this is one of my favorite stories to tell my students who are struggling to do that in reverse - to see the small patches of value or color that build up the illusion of form.

Julie Hulvey
May 5, 2001

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Enjoyed your presentation. I have 2 paint by number pictures that my mother painted in the early 1950's. I was about to dispose of them. Now I will keep them for others to enjoy.

May 6, 2001

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Itís true as you say that we all become Rembrandts with paint by numbers. The beautiful sceneís were things that many of us could not possibly ever do free hand. My biggest and fondest memories was receiving paint by numbers every Christmas. To my sister and I Christmas just wasnít complete unless we received a paint by number. Staying inside the lines was not one of my good points but I still had fun. My Grandmother and Grandfather enjoyed them also. I still have their paintings and a couple of them are framed and hanging on the wall.

Thank you so much for letting us share our thoughts.

Frances Hubbard
Battle Creek, MI
May 6, 2001

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Ah, yes. Those paint-by-number sets. My sister and I even painted tole trays which my mother proudly displayed in the dining room. Unfortunately these works of art are gone and we would love to have them back again - to show off our talent to our grandchildren.

Paula Hougen
May 6, 2001

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In 1953 my brother did a paint by number canvas - he was newly back from serving in both World War II and the Korean War. It was a Mediterranean scene with the color and light that could have been Etruscan. He presented the canvas to our parents. That picture hung in our living room in a place of honor - in our brand new house. It was there past the time our father died in 1971. It was there past the time our mother died in 1993. That picture witnessed the changes in our family for 40 years. It was one of the prized family possessions that my brother inherited. And one of the very few he wanted.

Roger
May 9, 2001

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My father was a manufacturers rep in the bottle and cap industry. Friends and neighbors of ours were the Sanders family who owned Craftint. One of their big product lines was paint by number kits. My father sold them the bottles and caps in which they put the paint. We always had kits around the house for years. Craftint was sold and moved out of Cleveland. A friend of mineís father bought the Craftint factory and I worked there one summer. My first job was scraping the paint off the floor of the mixing room. In 1985 I was looking to buy a business and a former employee of Craftint had gone into a similar business manufacturing commercial art supplies. He purchased a number of the Craftint lines and incorporated them into his business which I purchased. We still manufacture some of these lines today but not paint by number kits!

Larry Katz, President
Grafix, Inc.
Cleveland, OH
May 9, 2001

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I recently have come across a pair of french looking women that I vividly remembering hanging in our home as I grew up. They are in excellent condition. My mother passed away a few years ago and most of her things were put into storage. Last year I purchased a home of my own and took the things from storage. I found the painting, which were signed by my mom and dated 1959! I was so happy to hear you were exhibiting this vintage art form. I have decided to hang the paintings in my living room.

Sincerely,

Nancy Schindler
Vienna, VA
May 10, 2001

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I saw an article in the local paper about the paint by number project and it reminded me that I had written a poem about my picture. Here it is.

Ronale Anson
Anchorage, AK
May 12, 2001

When I was twelve
By Ronale Anson

I painted a peacock.

Each day a different color and number
First, a titty pink in little shapes
that made no sense. Then

cardinal, a royal brilliance to
off-set the blandness.
Aqua-marine or turquoise, both
q-colors to fill more spaces,

a little structure begins.
A shade a day filled dreary winter
keeping a pre-pubescent mind occupied.

Finally, the deep jade green, the
Ubiquitous eyes ever open

My mother hung the painting
in a place of honor, no less important
than the *Ross Hall photo of the Lake.

*Ross Hall was a photographer in Sandpoint, Idaho. Many of his pictures were of Lake Pend Oreille and hung in a lot of Sandpoint homes. These pictures have become a collectorís item.

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In my bedroom, there was a painting of Degasí ballerinas that was done by my mother. If I remember correctly, she was very precise in her painting, not deviating in the slightest from the colors and outlines. You had to stand back and sort of squint to get the best effect. My mother also made some ceramic ballet slippers and my chenille bedspread had a ballerina in the design.

I find the idea of this exhibit intriguing, and hope I get to Washington to see it.

Carol Wisner
May 12, 2001

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I havenít seen a paint by number painting since I was a kid in the 50's. I did my share of painting by number, so when I heard the story about your exhibit on NPR, I had to come to the web site and take a look. What a powerful image. When I looked at the first painting, all that came to mind was the smell of the paint in those little plastic holders. Whew! I am by no means an artist, but I definitely had fun painting my number.

Thanks for the memories!

Cynthia L. Shamel
Poway, CA
May 12, 2001

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In the early 50s I had a school chum who was from a poor family. She saw me doing the paint by number ballet figures--one a ballerina and the other a male dancer. I added my own touches to the ballerina to make it look more "artistic", and my chum begged to have it. I gave it to her for her birthday, and she was thrilled, saying that she knew this was the only real oil painting she would ever have. Many years later after she married, I visited her and she had the picture hanging in their little apartment. I was surprised that she still had it after all those years. But she still took pleasure in it, and it made me happy that I had given it to her. I did some others--a pair of horse heads and some dogs that I never finished.

But the ballerina was my favorite.

Rosemary
California
May 12, 2001

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In my early twenties I lived In a caravan (Trailer) park outside the rapidly expanding but remote iron ore town of Mt. Newman. I was a keen motorcyclist and an enterprising sales lady sold me a paint by number kit of a motorcycle that I owned. The kit depicted a Ducati motorcycle sweeping through bend. The kit had paint pens (rollerball tips) instead of brushes and it was hard to get even textures and colour spread. I still have it somewhere.

Regards,

Colin Morton
Perth, Western Australia.
May 14, 2001

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This is a great idea for an exhibit. Reading through the other postings brought back so many memories. Iím a child of the 50's too and I loved those kits. My father painstakingly painted a large Emmett Kelly portrait. It was our only "art" and hung in the dining room for many years. I can still see the sad clown face and the great colors of red and green.

I remember working so hard to paint cocker spaniels - only to have my younger brothers ruin the whole thing by using the "wrong" colors and going "outside" the lines. These days I love coming across this wonderful art form in the antique and junk shops I love to haunt. And, yes I too can still smell the paint.

Carol Belland
Seattle, Washington
May 15, 2001

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Painting by the numbers was my one great accomplishment as a kid in the Ď50's. I painted many but the best, of course, was The Last Supper. It hung in my mom and dadís house until last year when I brought it to mine. Thanks for the memories!

Laura Biegger
Iowa
May 15, 2001

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This web exhibit is brilliant! Your selection of images, your interpretation, and the construction of the site are all first-rate. The proof is in the interesting contributions evoked from visitors to the site.

I have a lot in common with Robert Gants. I remember doing a paint-by-number painting, but I preferred plastic models to paint-by-number kits. Like him, I preferred the Revell and Monogram kits to the others. Plastic model kits were a close cousin to paint-by-number. You followed the instructions and ended up with a 3-D scale model; of a ship, automobile, or of some engine of war. My models of the Cord Roadster and the Panzerkampfwagen IV tank survive on the bookshelf in my office. Having glued the thing together, the rest was very much "paint-by-number." Of course, you had to decide whether to mount your aircraft on the special stand that let it appear to be flying, or to build it parked, with the wheels down.

But there came a point, (somewhere around puberty), where it began to feel like a pointless exercise. I mean, someone had clearly started with a model of the thing, and then sliced it up into pieces so that it could be sold as a kit for me to put back together.

Thank you for a wonderful trip.

Brett Castleberry
Adult Reference Services
LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library
Tallahassee, FL
May 17, 2001

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I was an artistic child not allowed to do much art, so in 1968 when Grandma bought my sister and me PBN sets for Christmas when I was 10. I was overjoyed. Grandma with her great insight chose for me ballerinas after Degas, my other unrequited passion. I carefully filled in every spot under the watchful eye of my mother - color blending was not allowed. Mom then sprang for frames (how extravagant)! I gave my beautiful ballerinas to my dear Grandma who treasured them until she died, and now they hang in my sweet daughters room. She will also enjoy PBN because I found such kits on-line after a simple search!...She can start next Tuesday after ballet.

Teri Keith
Great Falls, MT
May 18, 2001

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In 1962, I was a new single parent and bought the kit and painted the same painting, which I believe is titled "Indian Summer" that was featured in a recent USA Today newspaper article. I bought it to relax after putting my son to bed but with over 90 colors and my compulsive nature, I became obsessed and sometimes painted all night!! A few years ago, I had it professionally framed (which partially covered my signature and date) and now it has a prominent place in my office.

What memories!

Floyd Percy
Williamsburg, VA
May 20, 2001

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I'd like to share with you my memory of a paint by number set my mother did for me.

It was in the mid 1950's when a poor mother bought a paint-by-number set to paint and hang in her only child's bedroom.

She chose a Japanese scene of two geisha girls (one alone to a board). Painted and framed they hung in her daughter's room every where they lived for many years. And then they were put in the attic.

As a child, the daughter would look at the pictures for long periods of time, thinking how very beautiful they were. So colorful! So nicely painted! How proud she was of her "artist" mother!

I still have these paint by number pictures my mother painted over 40 years ago. They still reside in their same frames and hang on a wall above a collection of Occupied Japan articles my father brought back with him from Japan in 1951.

Thank you,

Cheryl J. Caswell
May 24, 2001

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Born in 1947, I sure do have warm memories of "paint by number." I was the third of 5 children and suffered from acute shyness and a lack of confidence. I did not have any artistic talent to speak of but, lo and behold, I could turn out paintings that actually looked like something.

Never mind all I had to do was follow some pretty simple instructions. I could PAINT! I spent many a hour over the years between the time I was 12 or so and about 17. I was so proud of my finished art. The last painting I did was "The Last Supper". I finished a simple frame myself

to go with it and today I still have this painting. This simple art form helped me overcome my lack of confidence and shyness and no matter what others have to say about it I will always be grateful for it.

KED
May 26, 2001

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Your wonderful exhibition inspired me to attempt a different kind of paint-by-number (ish) art. Here is the link: http://www.deskdreams.com/Picasso.html

When I served this cake at last night's party, I distributed a page from your web site and encouraged the guests to stop by. Many of them are "serious" artists, and I felt that your gentle, respectful, and honest exhibit pointed out the distance between the typical art world and Mr. and Mrs. Flyover. Your exhibition didn't camp it up too much or laugh at the people (like my mom, or me as a child) who took this form seriously. I really thought it was perfect, and quite charming.

Thank you for devoting space to this lovely bit of Americana.

Yours faithfully,

Carole Fungaroli Sargent, Ph.D.
Department of English
Georgetown University
P.O. Box 571131
Washington, DC 20057-1131
May 28, 2001

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NMAH
Introduction | Every Man A Rembrandt | The New Leisure | The Picture's Place
The Unfinished Work | Post-a-Reminiscence | Bibliography, Links & Credits