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I read about your web site in the NEA Today magazine and was in hopes of seeing a large sample of photos of those kits of yore. Do you have such a page?

My father, a rancher in Wyoming, did some oil painting of horses, mountain views, etc. but I just observed. After we moved to Tucson, AZ because of my twin sister's asthma, the two of us often received a paint-by-number kit for Christmas. Mom wanted something to keep us occupied over Winter Vacation. Our big challenge was who got what picture to paint, as many kits had a set of 2 pictures. As a young artist, I sometimes wanted more freedom than allowed in the kit, but I did learn about the wide variety of hues involved in painting---moving from flat to 3-D which opened my eyes as I continued to develop my artistic talents.

I was hoping to see a large gallery of such paintings, possibly finding samples of ones we had done over the years. Any help would be appreciated.

September 1, 2001

Dear Janice, You might try Ed Derwent's (listed on the links page). The exhibit catalog, Paint by Number: The How-To Craze That Swept the Nation (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2001) has upwards of 200 figures.



Thanks for the show at the Smithsonian and the web site!!!! I too was a "numberer" back when I was a kid . . . 7-14 year old . . . and it did inspire me to "do my own thing" in art, both in high school classes, a minor at UMASS, and now as an adult who DOES art as well as being a certified N-12 art teacher.

I have many fond memories of sitting with a tray table in front of me (certainly a 50s THING), with the TV on (the beginning of my multitasking abilities!), painting those small spots that demanded certain numbered paints. After realizing that this wasn't challenging enough (even with some of those TINY spots!), my interest in art grew. The very fact that some of the choices were from the great masters of art gave me the chance to have those paintings in my room when mass-produced copies at affordable prices were just beginning to come to the consumers' reach.

My dear great Aunt Lila was the epitome of the avid paint-by-number artist. She voraciously finished one after another, anxious to begin the next one she had obtained. I have such warm fuzzy memories of visiting "the farm" knowing there would be another piece of HER great art on yet another space on the wall. She spent MANY hours of her widowhood, with her three sons grown, families of their own, sitting at her old sewing table painting away, and yes, with her TV on too. When she passed (at age 90) to join those OTHER great masters in heaven, her many, many "canvases" were lovingly passed on to the next generations who appreciated the fact that SHE had done them so lovingly. They truly were a sign of the times but for all of us, they were HER.

What kind of art do I do now? Not 2-D painting actually, but baskets, quilts, pottery, wire/bead and polymer jewelry mostly. Most of my painting now seems to include the actual walls of a house, not framed pieces. Hopefully, I have encouraged many students to do 2-D work even though I don't use the paint-by-numbers style any more!!!!

Thanks again for taking this proletarian introduction to the arts and feeling it worthy enough to exhibit as both "art" and a sign of popular culture in the 50s and 60s!!!!!

Ah, the memories!

Marcia Carpenter 
September 3, 2001


Didn't know if you were still accepting paint-by number memories, but here is mine. (Great exhibit, by the way!)

When I was 5, I watched my aunt, Lilly, working on a paint-by-number kit--a picture of Jesus. Little by little, rich colors filled the tiny, intricate spaces. A few years later, she decided to work on a set called "The Four Seasons." My favorite, "Spring," showed a swan on a lake, nearby trees showing bright pink blossoms. "Summer" depicted a boy fishing. "Autumn" had all the traditional and seasonal colors, with turkeys in a farmyard. "Winter" was a forest scene, with snow, and a solitary deer. After Lilly finished, she framed them. For years, they had a place on the dining room wall. The colors have faded now . . .

My own paint-by-number creations were much less dramatic--collie puppies, a Siamese cat. I really didn't have the patience for it. It was hard to stay within the lines, and I kept smudging things.

Years later, I ran across a paint-by-number autumn scene, complete with vibrant oranges, yellows, reds, and browns. My uncle, who lived in another state, would surely enjoy this picture of a mill, I thought. I plunged in, determined not to give up this time. It was actually relaxing--a way of leaving the office behind. Lilly helped out when my hands tired. I finished it well before Christmas, put it in a frame, and included it in his holiday package. I made mistakes with this one, too.

But they were well hidden.

My uncle placed it over his favorite chair in his living room, where he could admire it best.

Carrie Smoot 
Falls Church, VA 
September 3, 2001


How well I remember getting my first paint set for my birthday at age 10. That was the year 1970. It was something I had wanted for a long time. My parents got me the dog set. After I finished it, I convinced them to get me the horse set. I then proceeded to the more difficult ones that had more colors and smaller spaces. I even remember trying to be careful because some of the spaces were so small the numbers were in different sections with an arrow pointing to space that needed that color. I enjoyed them very much and decided to take Art in school and continue to enjoy "creative" endeavors because of those paint sets.

Thanks for letting me share my memories with you,

September 9, 2001


I always enjoyed doing the paint by number projects. I took on a very big one, the four seasons (set of 4). My mother, who suffered from Huntington's Disease, wanted to help me, and I let her. I was a little upset at the time, because when she finished, it wasn't as "perfect" as I wanted the picture to be. But now, since my mother has passed away, every time I looked at the one she worked on, I would think of her, and of how petty I was at the time. Fortunately, I never mentioned anything to her about her work on my picture. I could never forgive myself if I had.

Thanks - 

September 14, 2001


I enjoyed the article about paint-by-number in the Smithsonian Magazine and now this . . . I received several kits when a child. Doing the paintings was fun until you had to do the tiny spots; too difficult to do.....on the other hand my father and my grandmother had a good time doing the paint by numbers. It was a good form of relaxation for my father. In the 1970's when he had health problems, paint-by-numbers painting provided him with a diversion. My father, Jim, died of cancer in 1975....his paintings hang proudly in my den. I sit and look at those wonderful landscapes enjoying a temporary escape to a quiet spot and remember him fondly.

My grandmother took the paint-by-number projects to a new level to create her "dot" pictures. Using the paint-by-number canvas she would search through magazine pictures to find the desired colors. Then painstakingly use a hole punch and make "dots." The dots of color would be attached to the canvas one at a time. To attach the dots, my Grandmother Elizabeth would use a tooth pick, dip it in household glue and pick up her dots of color. As a result of the dots, the paint-by-numbers would have more depth and texture. I am the proud owner of one of those "dot" pictures. It hangs in my den along with my father's pictures.

Thank you for a nice trip down memory lane.

Elizabeth Hill 
Taylors, South Carolina 
October 12, 2001



I am a fifty-something wife, mother and customer services representative with Amtrak. I have been doing paint by numbers since early childhood. I also remember doing colored pencil by number and even string, stones, glitter and glue. I find this to be very relaxing. I went through a particularly bad time when I lost my mother and my husband in the same month. I don't think I slept unless I painted first. I couldn't concentrate on books or TV. I was a mess. I was able to relax only when painting. The neighbor's young son of 10 would join me and sit quietly (something he rarely does) and paint with me.

I noticed the paint by numbers these days are mostly acrylics. Do you know how I can get more of a selection of oils? Is it possible to have a print converted to paint by numbers?

Thank you

Marlene Picone 
Riverside, CA 
October 24, 2001

Dear Marlene,

I do not know of any manufacturers making paint kits in oils. Several outfits on the Web will generate a paint kit from a photograph, for a fee.




I am writing a piece on the Paint by Number exhibit and phenomenon for Bark, the magazine of modern dog culture -- with, as you might guess, a special emphasis on dog images. I'm not able to get to Washington at present, but have enjoyed William Bird's book tremendously, and have found it fun and nostalgia-twinging to learn more about the world of pbn.

Is any info available about pbn dog images-- how many different designs may have been produced? (a local collector says he has seen at least 100); artists who may have specialized in dog pictures? Anyone care to venture an opinion on the reason for the popularity of painting dogs?

Also, can you tell me whether the exhibit is scheduled to move on anywhere after the Smithsonian, and exactly when it closes?

Thank you for your help!

Alice Jurow 
Bark Magazine 
October 24, 2001

Dear Alice,

No one knows for sure, so your friend may be correct--there probably are about 100 different dog images, as animals and pets make up a significant portion of the paint by number oeuvre.

We are considering taking the present exhibition on the road, and will soon make a decision.



In the late 1960's I was Sales Promotion Manager for Foster & Kleiser Outdoor Advertising in Ohio. Our Toledo Ohio manager, Joe Conway worked with Dan Robbins to have an outdoor "Painted Bulletin" (Billboard) Paint By Number erected as an advertising promotion. A sign painter worked on the board, painting some every day for several days until the project was complete.

Phil Pendleton 
October 28, 2001

Dear Phil,

Dan writes about the billboard in his book, Whatever Happened to Paint-By-Numbers?



When I was in elementary school in the late 1950s, I wanted very badly to draw horses as well as some of my friends could. I tried and tried, but my lopsided renditions just didn't communicate the grace and beauty of the real thing. So my first paint by number, and my second, and probably even more, was the head of a horse--chestnut, with a white patch and a flowing mane. I didn't exactly stay within the lines, but that didn't matter at all.

Ellen Hirzy 
Washington, DC 
October 31, 2001



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