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“CAN You Draw a Texas Longhorn?”

My mother with older brother, Reese Kennedy

My mother with older brother, Reese Kennedy

 

Yesterday I was reminded that January 4 would have been my Uncle Reese’s 90th birthday.  He was my mother’s older brother and she loved him very much.  As a child, I was in awe of him because he was an artist.  As an adult, I was in awe of him because of his adventurous spirit, his open questioning mind, and his talent.

When I was 5-years old we were visiting Uncle Reese and his family in Dallas.  For reasons I can’t recall, I was obsessed with Texas Longhorns.  Shortly after we arrived I approached Uncle Reese as the adults were visiting and asked if he would draw me a picture of a Texas Longhorn.  He said he’d do this later and continued to visit with my parents.

I approached my uncle several more times over the next day or two and each time he was polite but probably assumed his five-year-old nephew would become obsessed with something else if he delayed.

My mother tells me that I finally approached my uncle and asked clearly, “Uncle Reese, CAN you draw a Texas Longhorn?”  He quietly got up and led me to his art studio where I watched in amazement as he made a Texas Longhorn appear before my eyes with ink and chalk.  He then signed it “TEXAS LONGHORN drawn for Jim Warnock, Thanksgiving 1960, Reese Kennedy.”

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This hangs on the wall of my living room today and I treasure the memory of that one-on-one time with my uncle as I watched him produce this drawing.

I’m not sure that this early success at getting my Uncle Reese to do what I wanted him to do predicted my future work in education or administration but he and his family definitely shaped my thoughts about the place of Fine Arts in education.  I view the arts as central to learning.  They are not optional but an essential part of any effective curriculum.

I’m thankful for my Uncle Reese and only regret that we were not able to spend more time with him and his family.

Additional historical note: Four years after this event, Reese Kennedy founded, and was the first president of, the Southwest Watercolor Society.  This association of artists continues to this day.

Reese Kennedy

Reese Kennedy in front of his home in Nacogdoches, Texas a number of years ago.

Reese painting in Mexico.

Reese painting in Mexico.

April, 2016: Thank you to one of Reese’s former students for sharing the following newspaper clippings. He also shared the following comments about his memory of Reese.

Reese was one of my heroes. I only have three heroes so this is a sincere complement. The other two heroes are my dad and my high school football coach, the two heroes that sent me to SFA on a football scholarship in 1965. On arrival to SFA, I visited the art department and had a short conversation with Reese. I was sold immediately on signing up in his classes, not sure of which ones, but that is not important as I sooner or later took all of them. I was hooked on his personality and charm, not to mention his love for the arts and water coloring quest for excellence. – Mike Mikulenka

Reese Kennedy Showing 1973 1Reese Kennedy Showing 1973 2Reese Kennedy Showing 1973 3Reese Kennedy Showing 1973 4


10 Comments

  1. Bob Shelton says:

    Love the story

    Sent from my iPad

  2. SevenAcreSky says:

    Jim, wasn’t sure if the “CAN” part of the question in your blog post title meant “ABLE TO” or “ALLOWED TO!” (Being an Arkansan) Great post and great story. Fine arts matter tremendously, loved the story.

  3. […] written the story of convincing Uncle Reese to draw a Texas Longhorn for me when I was five.  What I didn’t tell […]

  4. […] written the story of convincing Uncle Reese to draw a Texas Longhorn for me when I was five.  What I didn’t tell […]

  5. LDickinson says:

    Loved finding Professor Kennedy online! I was blessed to be one of his students. I took two classes with him and they were fabulous!

    • Carol Kennedy says:

      I’m Reese’s daughter; it is always a pleasure to hear from one of his students. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with my cousin Jim!

  6. He was a wonderful person! Thankful that he was my mother’s brother. Thanks for reading.

  7. Mike Mikulenka says:

    Hi Jim & Carol,
    I am Michael Mikulenka.
    Your uncle and father inspired me to follow my dreams of being an artist. I have spent my last 40 years in the commercial art and marketing field. I was one of his many students in the late 60’s and early 70’s, and enjoyed every moment of his time and instruction. His unique style of teaching commercial art techniques, Calligraphy and most importantly, watercolor have stayed in my life and mind for decades.
    The reason for this message is that I was going through some old files and found this newspaper article of one of you dad’s showings. I often think of Mr. Reese Kennedy as he was one of my favorite people and influences in my life. Seems that I can not attach the article. I will send it to you if you respond with an email address.
    Best Regards,
    Michael Mikulenka
    SFA Class 1973 – Commercial Art Major
    Director Marketing Communications, Cameron International Corp., Retired

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I'm Jim Warnock, Principal at Alma Intermediate School. I enjoy learning and sharing with others. If you like the outdoors, check out my other blog: ozarkmountainhiker.com

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