Florence Bauman of Kerkhoven has been painting since she was quite young, and has literally filled her entire home with the works of art she’s created. In fact when you look at her work you might think she was born with an artist’s brush in her hand. Her family has certainly benefited from Florence’s talent as well, and a couple of them have inherited her artistic ability and are now doing some painting of their own. Florence just loves to paint, something that’s quite obvious as you listen to her talk about the art and the many things she’s painted, from plates, to vases, platters, canvas and more. She recalled how from the time she was in grade school her mother would sit down to do water color and ask Florence to join her. “If she saw a sunset it was ‘Florence, you’ve got to paint that.’” Florence uses a number of different mediums and surfaces. She started with watercolor, and as the years passed she dabbled in acrylics and then on to her forte. “Oils” she said, “are much more forgiving. You can create something, change it over and over until you finally have just the picture you want.” A whole new world of art opened up to her when she began to use her creativity on porcelain. Florence said she really got excited after attending a porcelain painting club meeting in Grove City. She had been at the Kandiyohi County Fair and met some of the club women who were giving a demonstration. She thought it looked interesting, and was invited to one of their meetings. Over a period of years she has enjoyed making many interesting pieces. She has a large vase that can probably be called one of her most precious pieces. The vase came from Germany, and on it she painted pastel roses. It took three, eight-hour days of painting, plus four firings to get a finished product. “Each day it had to be fired before it could be painted again.” Another of her favorites is a tea set that’s complete with the coffee and/or tea server, and cream and sugar servers on a large porcelain tray. These pieces are done in Dresden painting. This technique started in Dresden, Germany. The bright colors of the flowers have no shadowing, and there is always either a lady bug or a dragonfly on the flowers. The whole tea set is edged in shiny gold. “You order the gold from a catalog, you can’t just go out and buy it locally. The price of gold on the market that day is what you pay for that little vial. It’s expensive.” Florence did a set of 15 plates using their house on several of them. Each plate is a little different, but all with the same snow theme. One plate is of her home with the Model T sitting out front with the lights on. “Ma and Pa are going for a ride,” she said, in describing the plate. “It’s just kind of a homey scene. One of our boys saw it and wanted one. Another one saw it and he wanted one……that’s the way it goes with my plates.” On other plates she’s painted portraits of her grandchildren, and on others the paintings are from photographs of special occasions. Wintering in Texas gave more time and opportunities to do oils on canvas. She said a neighborly man in the park she and her husband stayed at, with his “grandpa” glasses down on his nose, provided a delightful subject and is one of her favorite portraits. She said he would come into the recreation hall in the morning singing ‘Oh What a Beautiful Morning.’ “He had a wonderful personality…..he looked so much like a grandpa I just had to paint him. His family was delighted with the final portrait and wanted more.” Being she gave him the original, Florence suggested he have prints made for his family. One day while up in the attic, Florence came across an old photograph of a panoramic view of the old Bauman homestead. She said this was Julius Bauman who came from Germany. The photograph was all rolled up and somewhat deteriorated and Florence decided to try paint the scene. She packed that picture with their belongings and they again headed for Texas. A canvas and framing expert agreed to build two canvasses just the right size for this huge project. The scene is the farm house where her late husband, Russell, was born years later. The picture was taken by an uncle, Cal Watkins, who was a professional photographer at the time. The scene portrays Russell’s grandparents standing on the porch with his father, Edward, and Uncle John as the children sit nearby with their bat and ball. “There are 16 people here but the only ones we could recognize by looking through a magnifying glass were eight of them.” And looking through that magnifying glass was how she was able to paint the panoramic scene with such detail. “I looked and drew and then painted,” said the 86 year old artist. “People have to learn to write their names on the backs of pictures for their grandchildren’s sake,” she said. “I would have liked to have known who the other eight people in the picture were.” Another scene she painted of the same family farm shows a threshing machine called the “Red River Special.” In order to get the details of the machine, they took pictures of Lindquist’s Red River Special. “The gears, pulleys, belts and chute all became life-sized and exciting to reproduce on canvass.” The library in Kerkhoven was also very helpful in finding a number of pictures for Florence so she could see all the intricate details of that threshing machine. Florence said the Bauman relatives were so pleased that she chose to paint this informative heirloom. Several of Florence’s grandchildren have wanted to take painting lessons, so she has taught them. “They do a terrific job,” she said. Admittedly, Florence said, she doesn’t do too much painting anymore, but she does touch-ups and enjoys teaches her grandchildren the art of painting.
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