Crowne Healthcare of Eufaula recently held an art show for one of their resident artists, Lee Gifford.
Gifford, 74, has been interested in art since he began drawing at the age of four year-old, starting with copying birds that were in an Audubon book about birds of North America that he had as a child.
“It was a pretty thick book because it had every bird in it from the Audubon Society. I used to copy them. It kind of grew on me,” Gifford commented. “I could draw just about anything there was after that - anything I wanted to draw.”
It wasn’t until he got out of high school though that he really started painting. He started off with pictures of houses for people that wanted a picture of their houses. “I painted one for my English teacher once; she was retiring and wanted a picture of her house to remember it by. She knew she wasn’t going to be staying there very long after she retired,” said Gifford.
“Some of the paintings are acrylic, some of it is oil; I use both,” Gifford commented about his use of mediums used for painting. “For backgrounds I like to use oils, it tends to blend better than the acrylics.” He pointed out several pictures of animals, one in particular that was of a buck with a large rack of horns, telling that part of the painting he used to create it is acrylic and the other is oil.
“I can blend it in there and make it look like velvet,” he said of his use of oil paint on the painting. “If you do it with acrylics, it doesn’t look nearly as good as the oils. I came up with my own technique, I don’t worry about what everybody else does...I just do what I do.”
Gifford spoke of several jobs that he has held throughout his life starting with his time in the Army while serving in Vietnam, which included a job painting signs all because General Westmoreland could not find his troop one day when he went looking for them.
“Our Company sign was a piece of cardboard that was laid on the ground outside our tent. He tried to find us, and couldn’t. He came back the second day and finally figured out where we were at through the weeds,” Gifford noted. “The weeds were so high I could only see the top of his hat with the stars coming towards me. He wasn’t happy with what he saw when he found us.
“Before he left he said he wanted the biggest sign in Vietnam; we were over 100 miles from Saigon, but he said he wanted to see it from Saigon,” Gifford laughingly said. “He left a big long list of things he wanted done, and said that he’d be back in two weeks. One of the things the General wanted done was signs to be painted.
“When the Warrant Officer found out that I majored in art, mechanical crafting and technical stuff in high school, he asked if I could make No Smoking signs and I told him yes, I could make him the best No Smoking signs he ever saw. He told me that if I made the signs, I would have myself a job. From then on, I worked only for him,” Gifford recalled about his time in the military.
Gifford worked for a while on a horse ranch, and later working as the chief engineer for Walt Disney World from 1983-2006, retiring after 23 years. He moved to Eufaula to be closer to family that lives here.