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South Valley Journal

Herriman Painter Perseveres Despite Challenges

Aug 04, 2016 10:33AM ● By Tori La Rue

Elaine Wilcox’s paintings hang on the walls of her Herriman home. Wilcox continues to paint despite the trembling in her hands that comes as a result of Parkinson’s disease. –Tori La Rue

By Tori La Rue | [email protected] 

Herriman, Utah - Elaine Wilcox’s Herriman home transformed into an art gallery of her own paintings over the years. 

Images of diverse terrains deck the hall leading to the front room where Wilcox’s seascape paintings are displayed. Beyond the kitchen, a side room houses a desk filled with paint, brushes paper and other supplies. The kitchen and walls to the TV room are covered by framed depictions of trees, mountains and animals. 

“I would have to get more walls if I wanted to hang more paintings up,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox started painting in the late ’70s, but she quit the hobby while she was raising her children. In 2013, she decided to pick up a paintbrush again and since that time has created more than 100 pieces. Her recent paintings have been somewhat more challenging to create, she said, noting that in 2006 she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a chronic and progressive movement disorder that sometimes causes her hands to tremble.

“The detail work is the hardest,” she said. “I keep shaking, but I keep working. Painting has helped in a sense because it’s helped me create something and be relatively satisfied with it, so I forget about the disease when I paint.”

To keep her skills fresh, Wilcox attends a painting class each week in Sandy. She said it helps her to come up with ideas of what to paint. The instructor is aware of her disease and will sometimes help her with her artwork when she can’t get a stroke right because of the tremors in her hands.

This year, Wilcox’s A Snowy Day was one of the 13 pieces of art featured within the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation's Creativity and Parkinson’s Calendar. The same painting was printed on the cover of the Official Journal of the International Association of Parkinsonism and Related Disorders. A Snowy Day is a landscape painting of a frosted stream surrounded by pines and other trees. 

Wilcox tries to get her landscapes to look as real as Peter Ellenshaw, a landscape artist who worked for Walt Disney, she said. Along with her own paintings, Wilcox has a framed Ellenshaw piece in her TV room.

“He makes everything look so real. Look at how he paints his water and rocks,” she said, motioning to the one of his works mounted on her wall.

Wilcox’s favorite paintings she’s created are those where the water looks realistic, she said. One seascape she created shows a wave crashing against a rock on the beach. It’s one of her favorites because she got the lighting and color of the water “just so,” she said. It hangs in her house next to her favorite Ellenshaw piece.

Two of Wilcox’s paintings have taken first place in art shows in Arizona and Utah. One is the picture of a coyote. The other is of a sunset over a river.

Speaking of these accolades, Wilcox said she doesn’t paint to be recognized but because it is fun and it provides something she can give to her relatives. Wilcox’s five siblings, three children and five grandchildren each own a picture that Wilcox painted. Wilcox’s brother is in possession of A Snowy Day.

“Usually, I let my relatives choose what paintings they want of mine,” Wilcox said.

Currently, Wilcox is working on a painting of some birch trees for her daughter. Wilcox started the painting but messed up and is in the process of redoing it, she said. She doesn’t mind starting over, because it’s all part of the process, she said.  

Wilcox isn’t sure what project she will start after the she finishes her daughter’s birch trees, but she’s not short of ideas. Her daughter sends her ideas via email; she’s inspired from pins on Pinterest, and her instructor at her paint class assigns painters to try recreating certain photographs. Whatever it is, Wilcox said she’s sure the next project will be a valuable addition to her portfolio.

“I’ll keep on painting,” Wilcox said. “It is full of personal satisfaction and fun.”