A stream runs through it

By From page B2 | February 01, 2013


ARTIST, JIM ESTEY, 73 of Placerville stands in the library at El Dorado High School where his painting, "Gold Country Stream," seen in the background, was recently re-installed. Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene

Nationally recognized artist, Jim Estey of Placerville, was present to celebrate the rehanging of his painting” Gold Country Stream” in the library at El Dorado High School on Jan.30.

Family, friends and colleagues were on hand to acknowledge the testament to the friendship of two former teachers at EDHS and the contributions of each of them.

The painting of river rocks in a flowing stream had been taken down two years ago during the El Dorado library  remodeling  and stored in a vault for safe keeping.

After it was discovered that the frame was damaged, it was reframed and, rehung for personnel and students to enjoy after winter break.

Former El Dorado history teacher and Academic Decathlon coordinator Clare Dusek organized the gathering.


The saga

“This painting is a real highlight in this school. We have such a great legacy here from Gordon and Jim,” Dusek said.

Gordon is the late Gordon Purdy. He was an English teacher and department head at El Dorado from 1969 to 1980. He bought the painting from Estey, one of his favorite artists.

Estey was an art teacher and department head at the high school at the time.

Purdy bought the painting specifically for the students and staff of El Dorado and gave it to the library as his gift when he retired in 1980. He also gave one of Estey’s paintings to the El Dorado County Library in Placerville in recognition of his two most important loves: children and books.


Artist and mentor

Estey, born and raised in El Dorado County, taught art at El Dorado for years before going on to teach in Davis and at Folsom Lake College.

Many well-known artists credit Estey’s mentorship and teaching as inspiration and guidance toward their own success.

World traveler, beloved teacher and well-respected artist, Estey’s works hang in several regional museum collections, including the Crocker Art Museum where he had a show in 1978. The county library and government offices have Estey paintings and the new wing at Marshall Hospital features two of his abstract paintings.

Some of Estey’s first library displays were in the Coon Hollow School, a one-room schoolhouse across the street from the house in Placerville where he was born and where he still lives now.

Marjorie Comer, El Dorado High School librarian from 1967 to 1991, was friends with both Purdy and Estey.

“I have always been a big admirer of Jim Estey’s painting and I own several of them. When he was teaching art in the old building, the west end of the library started cracking. The bricks were crumbling and there wasn’t enough rebar to support them. They repaired the wall and put a big board on it. Jim came into the library and saw the big ugly board and asked me if I would like a picture to cover it up. I was thrilled and he brought in ‘Girl in a Garden,’ which later became one of the Nut Tree’s most famous posters,” Comer said.

“Gordon Purdy was the maestro of the English department, ” said Comer. “His English 4 students had to learn to research British literature and we amassed a collection of British literature that was more extensive than many colleges in the day. He was a great admirer of Jim’s work and a big advocate and supporter of libraries. He was very lavish with gifts to people and institutions.”


It’s back

Estey, now 73, admired the painting in its new pewter colored frame. He  hadn’t seen it in many years and said the painting with its tones of bronze, gray and black was an example of the watercolor landscapes he painted in the 1970s.

“This was about being up close and intimate with the landscape; to get right into it. I don’t paint landscapes anymore because artists change all the time.”

A bronze plaque from 1980 dedicating the painting to all students and faculty both present and past has disappeared from the multiple moves the library has made through the years, but Dusek plans to replace it.

Estey continues to teach, critique and paint. Every Chinese New Year is celebrated with 108 gongs of the temple bell on his property and this year will be no exception. “It’s the Year of the Snake,” said Estey, “and my students are all doing snake paintings.”

Contact Wendy Schultz at 530-344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @WSchultzMtDemo.



Wendy Schultz

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