Uncovering Hidden Talent
Ind., resident Elburg
rekindles his artistic touch
quickly has become
art gallerys top selling painter
Lela Jane Bradshaw
(October 2012) When 74-year-old Harry Elburg brought
in a half finished painting to the Madison Art Club gallery last December,
neither he nor club president Elle Smith could predict that his landscapes
would make him one of the breakout artists of 2012. Smith saw potential
in the partially painted canvas but explained that she would need to
see several completed pieces before she could say whether or not his
work would be a good fit for the gallery.
by Lela Jane Bradshaw
Elburg in his studio
with a landscape in progress.
When Elburg left, Smith was not sure if he would be back.
But in just a matter of weeks he returned with a stack of paintings
and Smith says, I liked what I saw.
Madison, Ind., buyers and judges have liked what they saw as well. After
having not painted for what he estimates to be 45 years or more, the
Kent, Ind., resident has not only become one of the fastest selling
artists at the Art on Main Gallery, but he also took reserve best of
show in the Madison Art Clubs prestigious fall show with his depiction
of Hensley Creek.
I was so surprised when I got that award. Weve got so many
fine artists at the club, he says. Id never entered
He was debating which of his pieces to enter. He had been leaning toward
another painting but was convinced by club members to go with what became
a winning piece. Smith explains the power of the entry saying, Whenever
he has water in his work it is like you could reach out and touch it.
I was kind of hesitant when I first started, Elburg admits
of his return to art. However, he was pleased to see that his pieces
were finding a receptive audience, noting that, Some of the first
ones I made sold.
He is mainly self-taught as an oil painter, having had only a bit of
childhood art instruction. In the old country in Holland, we had
a teacher. He was a painter, Elburg says. However, the students
didnt have paints at the time, so they worked in pen and ink.
While Elburg had been busy with his construction work and raising his
children, painting had remained in the back of his mind. He and his
wife, Eva, moved to southern Indiana from Canada in 1978, and Elburg
was immediately captured by the landscape.
When I first came here, I used to hunt quite a bit. I got totally
lost, he explains. As he was making his way through the woods
he said to himself, Im going to paint this when I get old.
Elburg often paints from photographs explaining that many of the locations
that he finds most inspiring are difficult to work at on location. At
74 to get a plein air painting is rough, he says.
He explains that the insects will eat you up, and that it
might take an hour or so to hike back to the place he wants to capture.
He will sometimes do an under painting on site and then return to his
studio to finish the piece. As Elburg works in oils, it is important
for him to allow the layers of paint time to dry between applications
in order not to muddy the colors. He also finds that photographs allow
him to more easily paint animals that are constantly in motion and may
be curious about what he is doing. He describes his attempts to get
a side view photograph of a horse in a field who kept following him
It was like stalking prey, he said, laughing.
Elburg has no trouble finding subjects for his landscapes saying, Were
blessed here. I think we live in the prettiest part of the state.
He is particularly drawn to the rivers and creeks of the area, saying
I like painting the watersheds. There is so much about the water
the reflective qualities, the peacefulness, the growth around
Elburgs appreciation for the peacefulness of the area was one
of the aspects that drew him to Kent in the first place. He and his
wife liked the remoteness and the slower pace that the small
town offered. Elburg laughs that soon after moving to southern Indiana,
he found himself stopped behind two trucks whose drivers were simply
I thought, Im going to blow my horn, he recalls, but
then his mind quickly changed to, no, Im going to enjoy
this. This appreciation for the quiet and calm comes through in
his interpretation of the landscapes.
Smith believes that his view of the land resonates strongly with viewers,
saying his work holds particular appeal for nature lovers and
hunters or someone who tromps around in the woods.
She describes his naturalistic pieces saying, The colors are very
true to what you see here. She finds that this realism attracts
buyers who are familiar with the places Elburg paints.
Elburg does not see his success after a long break from art as unique,
saying that he expects there are many other people in the area who could
rediscover long dormant talents. He encourages those who enjoy art to
come out to the Madison Art Club and stresses that no one should be
Dont underestimate yourself. If you are interested in art
go out and try it.
Back to October 2012