A Splash of Red

Author:  Jen Bryant
Illustrator:  Melissa Sweet (winner of Caldecott Honor)

13642622Horace Pippin once said, “Pictures just come to my mind. . . and I tell my heart to go ahead.” Perhaps that is why people always liked his drawings and paintings-because he drew from his heart.  Before he reached for a brush or a pencil, Horace planned each new scene in his head.  But how did this grandson of a slave get started?

Even as a young boy Horace had a lot of chores.  But at night, after he’d piled wood for the stove, he would find a scrap of paper and a piece of charcoal, and draw pictures of what he’d seen during the day. Horace just loved to draw. He loved the feel of the charcoal as it slid across his paper on the floor.  “Paint a picture for us, Horace!” his sisters cried. And Horace did. He painted everyday scenes in natural colors; then he added a splash of red.


When Horace grew up he joined the Army and fought in WWI.  Even then, if the fighting stopped for awhile, Horace would put down his gun and pick up a pencil and draw for his soldier friends.  But one day a bullet badly damaged his right arm.  When it healed, he couldn’t lift or move it like he used to. Now when someone said, “Make a picture for us, Horace!” . . . Horace could not.

After the war, Horace returned home, but because of his injured arm, he couldn’t find a job.  He longed to paint all the pictures in his mind.  But how could he . . .?

Remember when I said that Horace loved to draw? Horace also once said, “If a man knows nothing but hard times he will paint them, for he must be true to himself. . .”

You might be surprised at how Horace began to paint again and how long the journey took for him to complete his first painting.  He had no thoughts of becoming famous, but he certainly did!  Perhaps it was those little splashes of red, or more certainly because people could see he painted from his heart.


Mary Kline

1.  Can you list three examples that show how Horace persevered in his life?

2.  What is meant by the phrase, “A man must be true to himself?”

3.  How did the president of the local artists’ club help Horace become famous?


A look at the artwork of Horace Pippin to the music of Art Tatum (piano) and Ben Webster (tenor saxophone) with Red Callender; bass, Bill Douglass; drums; Jerome Kern; composer. Recorder September 11. 1956



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