Arts Council show features works from grandfather, grandson

Some grandfathers keep grandchildren entertained with false teeth. Jake Wells inspired his grandson to take up art and make the world more colorful. The byproduct and the inspiration can be seen together in one gallery until Aug. 30.

The late Wells was known to have a passion for the outdoors. The things he could find in nature and within himself were always the focus of his life and artistic work. Wells didn't care how broken down a mill was — if something jumped out at him, he painted it anyway. He originally planned to paint seven mills, but Wells was inspired by Southeast Missouri State University history professor Dr. George Suggs' study of mills and ended up painting 27.

Although Wells died in 1999 at the age of 81 — after 34 years of teaching art at the high school and university level — his grandson, also named Jake, said Wells inspired him to follow artistic path. Jake remembers his grandfather taking him to see the many mills and lakes of the area as a child, and says seeing all his grandfather's artwork at his childhood home gave him confidence in his own abilities.

"Indeed, my grandfather did inspire me to choose an art major," said Jake, a Southeast Missouri State graduate. "I finished my first semester in undergrad at SEMO, and was somewhat distraught about choosing a major. My first semester I had taken a drawing class, and that was the only class I really enjoyed. Eventually I chose art, mostly because my grandfather's artistic influence gave me confidence, even though he was deceased at that point."

Jake said the gallery display at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri is special because it lets the viewer experience that artistic bond he has with his grandfather.

"All the paintings in the show at the Arts Council were ones that I had grown up seeing on the walls in my parent's house," he said. "Being surrounded by those landscape paintings has probably influenced my current interest in landscapes."

Although both Wellses are artists in the community, Jake said both he and his grandfather have always been humble, and the elder Wells probably wouldn't have thought much of the attention. However, he said, it's still nice just to spread it around to the community.

"A couple of years ago, I suggested doing a show like this to the previous arts council director, Margaret Randall-Dement. She thought it was a great idea, because she was a big fan of my grandfather's and she owns quite a few of his paintings," Jake said. "Eventually, the show came to fruition."