Clementine Was An Artist

Do you like to draw pictures? Do you like to color your pictures with crayons or markers or paint? If you like to draw, color or paint, then you are an artist. You have a special talent. An artist is someone who creates a picture without words. The pictures in the piece of artwork you create tell others what you are trying to say.

Back in the 1800’s, there was once a girl named Clementine Hunter who lived with her family at Melrose plantation located near Natchitoches, Louisiana. A plantation is a large farm where crops are grown, like cotton, corn or other vegetables. Clementine spent her entire life living and working on a plantation. It was not always an easy life for Clementine – it was sometimes hard and harsh.

When she grew up and got married, she had five children. She would take her children to the fields to work with her so that she could check on them while picking cotton. Even though it was hard work, she enjoyed picking cotton.

Clementine was promoted from the fields to the house. She became the gardener and took care of the laundry. She made clothes for the plantation owner’s children and their dolls. Designing clothes was another of her many hidden talents. Clementine was an artist in many ways, and loved to create quilts in beautiful rich colors in addition to the clothes she made.

She was very poor as a young girl and could not afford crayons, markers or paints like students have today. She didn’t attend school in her younger days very often but she had many artistic talents that she kept hidden. And she never learned to read or write.

Throughout the years, Melrose Plantation where Clementine lived became a haven for many artists and writers. They came from all over to paint or write in the quiet relaxing atmosphere at Melrose. Clementine would receive small amounts of paint from visiting artists. Sometimes, she’d find paint she found left over after they’d leave. Clementine started painting pictures at night. For forty years, she painted over four thousand pictures, each one telling a story of life as she saw it in a simple way. By this time, Clementine was in her fifties.

Because she couldn’t afford a canvas for her paintings, she would use things like bottles, pieces of cardboard or brown paper bags to paint pictures on. She painted things about her life on the plantation – the daily things she did, what she saw, and what others about her were doing. Without using words, she used her paintings to tell the story of her life and work on the plantation. She used pictures to tell whatever story she wanted to tell. These paintings were simple but told vivid stories of her life on the plantation. They were the storybook of her life.

Clementine Hunter became known as the first African-American woman to exhibit in the New Orleans Museum of Art and Louisiana’s Most Famous Folk Artist.

After all Clementine’s hard work, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts by Northwestern State University of Natchitoches and her name is preserved in the famous ‘walk of stars’ in the city of Natchitoches.

If you’d like to create a storybook picture of your own, you will need the following:
large manila art paper, or any thing you can draw on, crayons, colored pencils or markers, and a little imagination.

Let’s name the picture. ‘What I did today… ‘

Take a look at the paintings by Clementine. She starts from one side of the paper and works across the page with her pictures until there is a story to be told.

In your picture, you want to draw some main things you did today. What did you do this morning? You got out of bed. Capture that scene in one corner of a large sheet of paper. What color were your pajamas?

What did you do after that? Did you eat breakfast? Draw a picture of you and your family having breakfast.

Then what? Time for the school bus? Draw a picture of the school bus coming down your street.

After that, you came to school – draw the school and children getting off the bus going into the building.

Remember the day as it unfolded and draw some eventful highlights that others can relate to. What if you had a birthday party? Here’s an opportunity to express how you saw the cake, and how delicious it may have looked.

Maybe you went to the mall or went grocery shopping. Maybe you saw a snake slithering in the grass. Or maybe there was a terrible thunderstorm with streaks of lightning everywhere.

Maybe you rode a horse or bathed your puppy. These are fun things to draw and others would like to see them.

Create a different picture storybook each day. Keep your artwork in a safe place. If you went fishing or camping over the weekend, this is a magnificent story to tell with your pictures. Drawing a picture of your family vacation is another good storybook idea. Or when your new baby sister or brother came home from the hospital.