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The Bus Paintings Story

The Best Ever The Bus Paintings Story KMcElwaine 7 minutes from Kathleen Mcelwaine on Vimeo.

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Learning art from Jay O'Meilia not only taught me -

how to create the paintings I have, but it also taught me how to learn. I was a child in the 1950's with learning disabilities and in those days...teachers passed me by. With out Jay, I might not have ever learned to read.

Jay O'Meilia Kathleens first art instructor taught her from his training he received from the Art Students League in New York (1945-46, 1947-49) and the Chicago Academy of Fine Art (1946-47). He also attended the Cape School of Art in Provincetown, Mass., George Washington University in Washington, DC, and the University of Tulsa. At the Art Students League, O’Meilia studied under Frank J. Reilly and Robert Brackman, and also was a student of Henry Hensche. 
This education was invaluable and foundational to my art career and how I teach.

I have searched high and low and nobody teaches watercolor painting like I do. My students are all successful! 

I wrote about it in my Childhood auto-biography :  This book is available from Children's Bookstore or Amazon.Learning to Keep The White Space as a Child
                          Forgive People
Hurting people Hurt people 
A true story by Kathleen McElwaine


 Moms Geranium

My mom was the most beautiful person in the world and my dad was the most important person in the world. Both of them so full of love that our family was perfect. My older sister was just like my mom and my little sister was little and cute and I was well, I was the middle and still looking for my place in the family. I was often told I was clumsy and needed to learn to sit still and listen. My mom would say I did not apply myself like my older sister did and if I tried harder I could be more like her. 


I stayed busy, always motion. The motion could be as simple as pencil in hand scribbling on a piece of paper or drawing lines and circles with my toe in the dirt. I just needed something to do. If I was with my dad I was happy. We had horses to take care of in our barn at the house and being in the barn with my dad was my happiest of places, but regardless, I could not please him. I think he wanted to teach me things but at this stage of my life, I must have been unteachable, because he would try and quickly I would do something wrong that would cause him to say he was disappointed. He never raised his voice or spanked me…he just ignored me. All of a sudden I would realize he had stopped talking to me, and knew he had given up on me learning what he had been teaching. But still…I would rise early in the morning to be sure I could watch out the back porch door to watch him as he walked through the barn door. Once he was inside the barn, he would not hear me because he was busy feeding the horses and he did not tell me to go to the house, because I was already in the barn. I loved being with my dad, mainly because we had a secret together, a secret that has formed me more than he could have ever known.


My dad was the most important person in my world.


After breakfast I would get ready for school and line up with my 2 sisters to walk the 1/2 mile to school. On cold days we rode a bus, but I remember the walks the most. Walking into the school my sisters had friends, they would walk through the front door and see someone and soon I was walking down the hallway alone. 


I remember one day on the playground, Sheryl was picking her team and for some reason I was standing in her view as her eyes searched who she would pick for her tetherball team. I pictured myself being good at tetherball and since she was my dads good friends daughter we had played in each others backyards lots of times. Our eyes met and she said I could be on her team. I ran to stand beside her and then it was her turn to choose someone else, she chose and the person did not want to be on her team…this continued every time she chose someone they would say no they did not want to play. She looked at me and said she did not want me on her team and for me to go away. I was accustom to the rejection and I did as she asked and then she was able to build a team. I was so hurt. It was wrong for her to ask me then decide she did not want me. I’m certain I kicked everything and tore up my scribbles and frowned all the rest of that day. When I got home I remember lying on my bed crying and being mad at my sisters and wanting to hurt them if they talked to me. 


When daddy came home and I appeared in the barn as he was feeding the horses he spoke to me I must have said something too loud and startled the horse he was feeding. The horse jerked his head up from the feed trough and pushed my dad against the stall gate. He did not get hurt but it made him ignore me.

After dinner and daddy was sitting in his chair I went to him because I thought if I told him about what Sheryl had done to me at school maybe he would tell her dad and she would be in trouble for her meanness. I told daddy about it all, I cried too, so it took a long time, he was patient and listened until he understood and then he said, I will keep your secret because I know “anytime I am hurting as bad as you are hurting right now I  can always be sure I need to forgive someone” and if you will think about our secret you will know who you need to forgive. 


I did not understand who I needed to forgive but he just kept on saying the same thing over and over again, saying each time that he would keep my secret. Then he said I needed to call Sheryl and talk to her, but I should not mention what happened at school, because by now she would have forgotten all about it and I needed to do the same thing. I did as he said and he was right, she never mentioned it, so I did not. 


I spent a lot of time wondering what he meant when he said “anytime you are hurting as bad as you are hurting right now you can always be sure you need to forgive someone” and I wondered what the secret was that he was keeping but I felt special that we had a secret. I pondered our conversation often, trying to understand.


My first day at a new school in 7th grade, a girl with friends standing all together pointed to me and made fun of my clothes. I fought back the tears all day and when I got home I cried on my bed until I decided I should tell my mom about the mean girls at the new school and how they had made fun of me when actually they were the ones  that did not know how to dress or act and I was not like them and did not want to go back to that school. 


I thought my mom would understand because it seemed like “girl talk” like she had with my older sister sometimes. I started to tell her about it and it made my mom unhappy with me. She said I was gossiping and I needed to consider how hurtful what I had said was. She said I was selfish and needed to learn to think about others rather than always thinking about myself. I heard her words, but I did not understand why she had said that to me and I did not know what she was telling me to do. I kept asking her what she meant and after several days she told me she wanted to find volunteer work for me to do, maybe that would teach me to think about others and make me stop being so selfish.


On Saturday she drove me to a place that looked outside like a hospital but it was all single story buildings and it had lots of little houses all around it. We walked through the doors, one at a time. Each time we had to wait for a door to be unlocked. When we finally got in a lady met us and started talking to me about being a volunteer. She said I could learn how to make crochet dolls for some of the children at the hospital. I was not very good at crocheting so I did not know why my mom had thought that could be a good thing for me to volunteer to do. Then the lady asked if I wanted to see some of the children that might get the gifts I made. 

We walked into a large room, it had steel baby beds that had sides and a top that made the bed a cage. The walls were white and hard, the ceiling was low and white, the floor was worn and the noise was loud with echo’s of sounds I did not recognize but I knew the children held inside were making the noises that echoed through the room and bounced off of the walls. I was terrified of what was happening. We walked down a hall with windows in the doors and more sites like I saw in the big room, it seemed endless and I was glad I did not look into any of the children’s face. Because they were not looking at me. Then we followed the women through doors waiting each time for the door to be unlocked and finally we were outside. Then we went to see one of the small houses standing separate from the large hospital like building. She opened the door to the house and I could see a couch with crocheted dolls. She said children lived in this house with one of the workers and that the children were at school right now. She explained that the children that lived here were not as ill as the other children we had seen. 


We got to our car. My mom said she knew crocheting dolls for those children was not a good volunteer job for me, because I did not want to practice and learn how to crochet. All I could do was cover my face and cry. My heart was breaking for the children I saw, I did not understand why my mom kept saying I was selfish because I wanted to help the children we had seen, but I did not understand how if I was good at crocheting dolls for them would help them. 


It was not long before she found an organization that needed volunteers my age to help with field trips with blind or deaf or crippled people my age. I loved doing this volunteer work on Saturday afternoons. The place was called The Recreation Center for the Physically Limited.  My favorite thing to do was to go bowling.  I found that when I worked with the blind people when they were getting ready to drop the bowling ball for it to roll down the floor and knock over then pens that I could get so excited about the possibilities of the ball making its destination that I could have everyone laughing about my description. I would say now throw that ball as hard as you can from between your legs and it will roll right down the middle to the wild blue yonder and knock every pen over so you and I would call the bowler by name will be the best bowler in this whole place. Everybody always clapped when the bowler released the ball so nobody ever heard the ball as it went into the gutters. Everybody was a winner including me.


Each time I got my feelings hurt I thought about my mom and how she said I was a selfish person and how I needed to think about others and how daddy had said “anytime you are hurting as bad as you are hurting right now you can always be sure you need to forgive someone”

Who could know more about binding and loosing than a quilter?

Sewing with a memoryI spend a lot of time thinking about scriptures that bother me and I will be honest Matthew 18:18 is a bothersome scripture. It goes like this: Truly I tell you whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Giving time to consider this scripture, I thought about the good laugh I have when I see a cute saying about making peace with a seam ripper. Terry with Lone Star Quiltworks has some of the best blogs I have ever read, this is one about seam rippers, titled It is All About the Point

What if you had a the ability to undo your words and thoughts like you do stitches with a seam ripper? I continued the thought around this. I call it mulling it over in my mind. For a thought to become a blog it needs to hold true through a lot of mulling and when I was able to make this connection, between a seam ripper and remorse or conviction to right a wrong, it stayed all together!
I'm here to tell you it is possible to undo your words by speaking the release of those very words in prayer. Pray about it, tell Jesus that you do not want the (fill in the blank)__________________________, to be bound in heaven.

A small yet true story - Just yesterday my sweet pastor hubby overheard a conversation I was having on the phone with a friend. She had asked me if a new business acquaintance, might be interested in a product she carries. Instead of encouraging her to step out and ask, which is all she really wanted to do, I began to describe the person she asked about as being a bit know it all. Is it possible this is the sort of thing we do that binds in heaven? I realized it could very well be so I quickly repented and asked for forgiveness...

I got the seam ripper out and removed those stitches. 

Kathleen McElwaineA Big Dream for a Local Artist


The Artist Behind QuiltBlockArt

When my husband and I moved to Texas, I had to reinvent my art career, so I began painting primarily with watercolor paint. Over time, I had a portfolio of Texas art with my signature style.

I beamed with joy and pride when people saw my work and they recognized it!

I offered prints of my iconic Texas Art to Bob Bullock Museum and became the local artist in gift shops across the state.

As my art gained popularity, I was contacted by an event planner/designer asking if she could license my images. 

To my delight, she was talking about printing my art on fabric table cloths and dinner napkins. This opportunity led to more licenses. Tote bags with my art and special orders encouraged me to write a business plan for what is now 

When I am in a quilt shop I find myself with kindred spirits with the love of the fabric and art, lighting me up with joy when I see new ways people frame and enjoy my art.

I couldn’t ask for more! 

A Patron of The Arts

Re-publish from my artist website:
What is a Patron? A person choosing to be a supporter of the Arts.
… the unspoken between artist, KMcElwaine, and You, the patron.

Patreon is becoming a typical way for an artist to raise money, But, nobody had it over Rembrandt van Rijn July 15, 1606 – October 4, 1669

This is the way Rembrandt managed to put dinner on the table and brew in his goblet. Rembrandt being the creative person he is, painted constantly, and he was a public servant, recording history and providing beauty all around in his community. Needing to have enough to eat and wanting to hobnob with his collectors, the 1% of his time, he painted lots of different art. Commissions, studies, studio works paintings for the community, and his own response to inspirations…. sounds like me.

Most of his paintings include people.

He had to find ways to create an income…again, this sounds like me. Rembrandt found a way to tap into the ego of the leaders in his small Dutch community.

My imagination can be pretty vivid and I conjured up a picture in my mind of Rembrandt standing in the presence of Mayor Cornelis de Graeff , and telling Mayor Graeff all about how he pictured The Night Watchman to look once he painted it. Then Rembrandt would ask, “Will you pay me X# of guilders to paint your face on the most prominent person in my painting?” Of course, the mayor was willing, so the mayor would become a patron. Then Rembrandt would be off to the banker with the same offer and the banker would become a patron. With each offer, the most prominent figure would move according to the highest bidder. I’m certain Rembrandt found important spots in his painting for each person willing to pay. And then his paintings had much less desirable figures, such as the cadaver in The Anatomy Lesson painting. But Rembrandt still needed a model so he had a name for these people in his paintings.

Rembrandt, Kathleen McElwaine Blog, KMcElwaine Blog

Rembrandt called these individuals and later the face painting studies, Tronies because they were patrons without the pay, Tronies.

My dad often referred to his rodeo buddies as Tronies, so this was great fun to read when I learned about Rembrandt in my own research.

I wonder? What would the response be if I try to raise money the way Rembrandt did? Mayor Ross, are you interested in paying me to paint you into a prominent place in one of my paintings?

These are a few of my own Tronies, painted during my Bus Painting Days. I loved painting people and working to make sure they never knew they were a model for a quick fun study. I call the collection of these painting My Very Cantankerous Rich Ladies . I learned so much from those wonderful people about my own character and the character of people that loved me because of the art painted during the commutes to and from my job at University of Texas, 2007 –2011.

A Pattern For Quilt Block Art?

Talking to new store owners while arranging to make their first purchase to stock Quilt Block Art in their store, eventually they ask this question.

Do you have a pattern to use with your blocks?

In the past I have invited them to look at the page of Samples, items made by others, explaining I don’t sew and I am still relying on others to tell me about patterns.

Yesterday spoke I with Saundra at Fiberworx Fabric Studio in McQueeney Texas Fiberworx recently purchased Cactus Queen Quilt Shop. This quilt is on display in the store – All That Sparkles, X-Blocks Basix Pattern is the pattern used: 

SampleDE004 All SA Blocks

Kathleen McElwaine Art printed as a Quilt block is purchased as a 10 x 9 inch block. The art itself is no larger than 7.5 x 7.5 and fits nicely in a 8 x 8 inch opening. I suspect some adjustments are made to use the pattern “All That Sparkles“. Knowing I would not understand well enough to explain the changes, I did not ask. I can see how the blocks will fit using this pattern when I looked at the image on the pattern front. The Quilt is on display at Fiberworx Fabric Studio in McQueeney Texas.

Then I started wondering if I could recognize other patterns a quilter could use and I found Jenny Doan at Missouri Quilt teaching how to make this quilt and she recommended it for beginners. Make a Building Blocks Quilt.

And I remembered the volunteers with Quilts Inc, while preparing for the 2019 National Quilt Market and Festival, packaging 12 of the quilt blocks in one package with the instructions that all the buyer needed to make a quilt was to add the sashing.

Cutting Quiltblocks Quilts IncCutting Quilt Block Art for Quilts Inc

I love to receive a message or an email or text from someone showing me something they have made with the blocks and what they plan to do with it. This sweet quilt, made by Shirley, will be donated to The Linus Connection: The Linus Connection is a Central Texas 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to make and deliver handmade security blankets for children in crisis situations in our area. The blankets go to children in hospital emergency rooms, in crisis centers, in foster care, battered women’s shelters, to any child who is in need of a little extra security in their lives. I could not ask for more than to be a part of a Quilter’s World. Quilters are the kindest people you will ever know. Need a friend? Learn to quilt and be a friend, you will find you have more friends than you could have ever imagined!

To make friends with a quilter, all you need to do is follow the thread with no strings attached!

Going to Work with Daddy

Over thinking a bit, I am sure. When I was 4, maybe 5 I was a big problem to have around. I was a very troubled child. A memory I have is going to work with my daddy. I wanted to be with him so much, I worked every minute to understand what he expected of me. My daddy worked at Dick Bardon’s Sporting Goods and Pawn Shop, our family owned business. When we arrived at Dick Bardon’s,  I would go directly to a tall chair in the office. From this high perch I could see the front door, I could see customers at the window separated by fancy bars. Our family business was a pawn shop. Sitting in my chair I could hear the customers story. The need for money, and the hope to be able to redeem the property in the near future…

I understood, the story was what had brought them to this window and they needed to be heard, as much as they needed money.

Often the item to be pawned was a diamond wedding ring.

I listened. The stories were all different. Sometimes it was a woman, sometimes a man. The story was always why the need for money and how the hope for later redemption had brought them to this window. 

Later, after the story was told and the transaction was completed, the diamond ring would end up on the desk in-front of where I was sitting. At some point, my daddy would come to record the transaction in the journal. 

Do you see the drawing in blue ink inside of the rectangle box? That was the drawing of the diamond setting. I remember daddy letting me draw the ring on a separate paper. He would would say to me…Maybe someday you will work at Dick Bardon and it will be your job to draw inside of this little box. The book will be beautiful with your drawings.  I don’t have the journals from those years, but I believed my daddy…that my pictures were beautiful. I kept working at my drawings and paintings and at some point I stopped being so difficult to be around. 

Doc Brown and The Gas Meter

A short story by Kathleen McElwaine

An important memory, a very early memory, growing up on a small quarter-horse ranch in Tulsa Oklahoma: I woke up to my dad’s voice telling mother about something…very strange to hear.

Now for what I was hearing, I need to tell you a bit about Doc Brown. Doc Brown was the best vet in my world. He came to our house anytime we asked him and the animals always got well, babies were always finally born, kittens were always sewn up and getting better, even our dog Cinders loved Doc Brown. The picture is a painting of Cinders.

I had never heard my dad tell a story. It sounded like a story book story of excitement, adventure and now happily ever after.

It seems I had awakened to the end of the story, the happily ever after part, when my mom said, Is everything okay now? And my dad said: Yes, it is all fixed and Doc Brown is safe. All I knew was that it had something to do with the gas meter at the end of our driveway and Doc King.

The gas meter was important to me because each evening I would balance myself on top of it and watch for my daddy’s blue 1954 Chevy truck turn the corner coming off of Memorial, coming home from work to take me with him to feed the animals in the barn.

I need to leave you right where I was left that morning, because now the story has to be told as I discovered it. I’m not sure if I know the truth, because imagination and listening on the sly is how I found out EXACTLY what happened that night. I will tell you the big sister in the house was old enough to know the rest and the little sister in the house was not old enough to be interested and for some reason, I was going to be left out. I had to find out by looking for clues. No one was going to tell me what had happened during the night while I slept that involved my much loved Veterinary, Doc Brown and my favorite roosting spot.

Today was Sunday. I knew the routine, daddy stays home and the girls in the family dress up and walk to church.To get to church we walk on a path next to a barbed wire fence that runs along the side of our yard.

As we got to the barn I could hear my dads voice, then I looked behind me and saw Doc Browns old brown Ford next to our driveway with front of the car dipping down into the ditch and the back of the car up in the air.

I’m trying to figure it out, while I am still walking and the next thing I know my skirt is tangled in the barbed wire. Quickly I got it unhooked without being noticed.

Off to church. It was the longest 1 hour Sunday school and 1 hour church service in history.

As soon as the preacher stood in the front middle with his hands in the air, I could not wait anymore. I was off! Running the long hall from the sanctuary to the front door of the church, to stop at the barn.

I entered the barn so fast I startled Junior our biggest horse, I stopped holding my breath hoping he would settle down. I could see his nose flaring opening closing, I could hear his breath and his eyes were so big it was almost as if they had turned all white, his pupils looked like beams shooting right into my eyes. I stood very still – very quiet for a moment until his breath settled.

I saw the cats scatter when I came in and now I could see the other 2 stalls, the horses standing and looking at me. Now up the ladder to the hay loft I climbed, then worked my way through the bales of hay in my skirt and Sunday school shoes until I got to the window to see outside.

I could see Doc Browns car was gone, then I turned and noticed a bed of hay…someone had pulled a bale of hay apart and made a bed to sleep.

I climbed back down the ladder and left the barn. Now down the side of the house to the driveway and front yard. I could see ruts Doc Browns car had left practically on top of the gas meter. I had run out of places to look and went into the house in time to sit down at the table for Sunday dinner.

Later that day, standing right outside of the kitchen, I heard my mom pick up the phone, she picked it up and realized someone on party line was talking, she started to hang up when even I could hear someone say

Paaat see, is that you? “yes it is me but I can wait until you are off.

Then I heard my mom say Yes, yes


I don’t think he slept in our barn.


I don’t know anything about him running over our gas meter.


I don’t think he was drunk

Nobody was blown up

We are all fine.

Then I heard her hang up the phone.

I never heard mention of that morning again and the next time Doc Brown was called to our house I was very happy to know for sure he was still our veterinary.. Because at our house, on our country road we needed our favorite veterinarian to be a hero!

How My Art Became Quilt Block Art

Cowgirls and Lace in Dripping Springs, Texas had been sewing with my art on linen for resale to Designers and I wanted so much to have more customers in this beautiful world of  fabrics.  I had been learning all those years and I desperately needed to learn more, I needed a professional in the business.

I met Tina and enjoyed browsing her beautiful shop and I purchased a fat corner even though I had no idea what it was. I had found new hope in thinking Tina, owner of Sew Crazy, just might be the person willing to teach me. I organized a stack of my art on different fabrics, some images dating back to 2008 and boldly carried it into the store to show Tina. 

Tina made me feel special with her comments as she seemed to admire each piece of art as she looked through the stack of fabric. 

She said I could leave all the fabric with her! I felt  invigorated about my art again. 

Tina and I worked diligently perfecting the blocks, the type of fabric, the image quality, which images, and on, and on. When I tell you that my quilt blocks and methods are tested, it is because Tina and I tested them. Repeatedly.

I am grateful for my friendship with Tina Cordia Korn of Sew Crazy Austin in Cedar Park, TX.  I hope if you find yourself in Cedar Park, Texas you will stop in and see where my quilt blocks were developed and tested.

Quilt Blocks: Why I’m Still Painting Today

I painted everyday on the bus during my commute to and from my job at University of Texas. A few of the things I learned because people watched me paint each day are:

My paintings, or the surprise of seeing me paint made people smile. Most people wanted to tell me about their aunt, neighbor or grandmother that had been or is an artist. I had no idea what I was going to do with the 1-4 small paintings I was painting 5 days a week. 

And I learned I did not paint if I was taking myself too seriously on that particular day and everyone on the bus noticed. I started realizing how much better painter I was when I found time to stand in front of my easel and painted with oil paint. Practice with watercolors each day, creative time with watercolors each day was making me the best painter I could be.

I have never stopped watercolor painting each day.

Now that I own a successful Quilt Block Art business and sell my art on Kona Cotton Ultra wonderful fabric for quilters all over the world to make beautiful quilts, I understand why I spent all the time I did painting 1-4 small paintings each day.

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Comments made by Kathleen's Watercolor Students:

  • I have painted professionally for many years. I decided I needed a new challenge and I took a beginners watercolor class from Kathleen. She not only taught me how to master a medium I did not think was possible to master, she also taught me to find inspiration in my everyday world. I have not fought white canvas syndrome since. I will return to her introductory class over and over again to stay fresh with my career.
  • I started painting for the first time in a How to paint with a water brush class with Kathleen. The whole class painted bluebonnets. At the end of that first class I was so empowered that I still spend some time painting each week.
  • I am mom to 3 children, 2 of them special needs. I was given a class with Kathleen as a gift from my husband. What I remember most from the first class was hearing her telling, If the oxygen mask drops in front of you when you are flying, you need to put it on yourself before you can help your children. I immediately saw how much taking the class, learning to paint with watercolor the way only she could teach it... was in fact, my putting my oxygen mask on...after that first class I know the importance of taking care of myself. I return to Kathleen's classes to time and time again.
  • I admit, my life is so busy I do not have time to paint. Being able to return to Kathleen's classes for time set apart for me to paint, knowing I will finish a painting and breath and enjoy the moment is a great treasure.
  • Kathleen teaches the basics. Once I heard her say, "the only difference between a beginner watercolor painter and an experienced one is; deciding on your own what to do next." after the 4th painting I painted with Kathleen I found myself making decisions through out the painting. It was an empowering feeling to make decisions and see the results, good or bad. Somehow, now I make decisions, even life decisions with confidence because I know I want to move forward, I need to keep moving and learn.
  • Kathleen says, "When I become timid when I am painting, I know I am taking myself much too seriously" This statement has become my motivation to live life to its fullest. I want to be the best me I can be. To do that, being timid or fearful had to go. 
  • I practice good life habits with each painting I paint because I learned from Kathleen. The life habit I learned first from Kathleen is to have patience with myself. You will need to learn t watercolor from her to know how this happens.