He was an optimistic and hopeful young artist with buckets and buckets of promise. But at age 24 an ancient Roman elephant fell on him, breaking his only left leg and radically altering the remaining seventy-six years of his artistic career.
From that day forward the focus of his paintings was the depiction of Evil and aggressive Elephants. Between 1971 and 1980 the elephant paintings were all limited to shades of blue. Art critics and historians suggested a link to Picasso’s “Blue Period.” However, the said truth is he never really fancied and therefore did not want to emulate Pablo Picasso. Instead, the leg broken by the elephant event caused him to limp so severely that he veered toward the left.
In the art supply store, where he purchased his supplies, colors were arranged with reds on the right side of the display and blues on the extreme left. No matter how much he might have wanted to buy a tube of cadmium red or yellow ochre, his leg forced him toward the blue. This all changed in 1980 when the art supply store ran out of blue paint and rearranged the display with yellow pigments on the left.
The art reviews of his next exhibition noted a major shift, but pined for the abandoned color blue, lamenting: “yellow elephants do not send chills down our spines and raise the tiny hairs on the back of our necks. They instead evoke a feeling of warmth and overt hospitality, rather than hostility.” He ignored the criticism and continued to paint using whatever color he could hobble to in the art supply store.
Then, in mid-1981, sales of his paintings by his supportive art dealer allowed him to purchase a cane. This cane did not correct his leftward list, but permitted him to knock any color tube of paint, within three feet, off the art supply store shelf. He was thus given access to a wide range of new colors. Elephants could now rage in red or be violent in violet. Catastrophes were no longer limited to custard yellow and bellicose pachyderms to navy blue. This wider, richer palette did not lead to more sales. So what? He continued to paint his elephant theme. He was compelled by his deformed leg.The Boy Who Painted Elephants