A FAIRLY SHORT BIOGRAPHY OF L. B. MILLIGAN

My given name is Larry. 

     My original old world relatives came to the shores of this "New World" starting in the mid to late 1600's.  Both sides of my family line derived from the stock of farmers, traders, poets, playwrights, soldiers, sailors, preachers, and dreamers.  My relatives have served in European and American militaries for over 400 years.  They fought in wars in Europe, the American Revolution (both sides,) and the American Civil War (both sides.)  They tilled fields, preached sermons, made things, sold things, and traveled.  Among them were remarkable people, heroes, plain good folks, and scoundrels.  They risked it all by leaving the shores of Britain, Scotland, Ireland, and the European Continent, on slow ships bound for "America" for reasons known only to them.  Some died at sea and unfortunately never made it to America with their wife, or husband, or family.  I am an eclectic mixture of nationalities and a citizen of America as the result of my immigration heritage.  No matter how many generations my family has lived here, I am the son of the sons and daughters of immigrants.  While living here for three and a half centuries, they have intermarried with just about every race in the northern hemisphere.  Every American family line originated and immigrated from somewhere else to get to this country, including all indigenous people.  So - here I am, and as Minnie Pearl would say, "Ah'm jest as proud ta be hee-ah!" 

    I was born in the great state of Alabama in 1942 but was raised in the great state of Idaho from the age of one and a half years old.   I had an older brother who passed in 2022 and I have a younger sister.  My earliest memories are of life in and around the little mining and ranching town of May in the Pahsimeroi Valley of Idaho.  It was a time without electricity, telephones, or plumbing.  My dad was a machinist and welder and needed steady work so we moved around a bit.  After my sister was born we moved to Salmon where we lived in a little ramshackle log cabin on Water Street and eventually south to Jerome where I started and finished elementary and high school.  I started drawing on old sacks and school paper when I was 4 years old and started painting in oils about age 13.   I did those things but throughout my early life it never occurred to me that I was to be an artist.   My dad was talented and encouraged me to be an artist so naturally I decided to go into electronics and after graduation from high school, I caught a Trailways bus aimed at the bright lights of Southern California.   I started college in Fullerton College that fall, going to school in the evenings and working graveyard shift at Autonetics (eventually  to  become Rockwell International) in Downey. 

    I took some time out to join the Army ahead of the draft and spent a "restful" year on Boca Chica Key near Key West, Florida during the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  I was rotated out and spent the next two years in Germany, honorably discharged as a Specialist 5.

    I returned to my job, got married, had a beautiful daughter, and was still working for Autonetics when a fork in the road sort of popped up.  The bottom was dropping out of the military electronics field and I was laid off.  I searched for a job and found nothing, so I started painting children's portraits for extra money, charging $40.00 each, guaranteed likeness, and sometimes added Fido or the cat for free.  The portraits were well received and cheap so I got fairly busy.  I painted portraits at the rate of about 4 a month and the customer pool made up of friends - and friends-of-friends - and referrals was soon depleted.  Then, my company called me back to work - which obviously was very timely.  By that time, we had made the decision to return to Idaho and I planned to build a log home and become a professional artist who paints scenes from the Old West.  When I decided to do all this crazy thing, I lacked any formal education in either art or the art business.  I had never built a house, used a chain saw, or experienced temperatures so low that ordinary rubber and plastic shattered like glass when you hit it.  I had a lot of catching up to do.

    We purchased two acres in the alpine Sawtooth Valley of Central Idaho 12 miles South of Stanley and moved onto the bare ground, making the last payment just before we moved.  I had already designed a log home while still in California, even building a scale model out of dowels using road  gravel for the rockwork.

    I drew the plans in pencil because I had to erase a lot.  Driving a beat-up 1957 Chevy pickup that burned oil to the tune of a quart every 20 miles, I found and cut right sized logs, gathered stone for the rockwork, and poured concrete piers to support the house.  The first winter came with the the piers, floor joists, and fireplace foundation completed - and a sizeable stack of house logs.  When a snowy winter arrived and the nighttime temperature dropped to well below zero, the work stopped on the new home until spring.  Staying as caretakers for the winter at a neighbors lodge, we set up housekeeping in a tiny three room cabin with an outhouse and a frozen water pipe to the kitchen.  The thermometer dropped  to minus 52 degrees in December and nighttime temperatures of minus 30 and 40 were common that winter.  The only heat came from a small propane stove that never shut off until the propane tank was empty - which happened more often than I had planned.  My first studio consisted of a small corner in the 8 foot wide main room near the outside door.  Anytime anyone needed to go to the outhouse, I was out of business.  From that start I produced my first paintings as a professional and augmented my work in western art with a few portrait commissions I brought with me from California.  My wife waited tables in Stanley to help with my really meager income.  Bill Todd, Jr. of Seattle, who owned and operated Shorey's Bookstore, became my first agent and supplied me with  advice, inspiration, motivation, and sales revenue.  He became my main source for rare books on Western History and Native Americana and fostered a comforting lifelong friendship between a master bookseller and a greenhorn artist laden with some modest dreams and a load of ignorance about the art business.

 

    Life is not easy for beginning artists and their families - especially those without credentials.  But hard work and determination coupled with the unbounded freedom of blissful ignorance provided some fruitful results.  I spent long winters painting and short summers working on our home/studio.  The endless hours of peeling logs, cutting saddle notches, and lifting the heavy logs onto the walls to be fitted and spiked into place eventually paid off.  After three summers of building, we moved into the 3/4 finished home just before the next winter and found it comfortable, warm - and home.  Our second beautiful daughter was born that spring.  Hauling spring water in 10 gallon milk cans could not keep up with demand, so we drilled a well right away.   Hard work at the easel also started paying also and we began traveling to art shows in Montana and the Northwest.   Soon my work  was selling well enough to give us hope.  Within the next 5 years I was making enough to support the family on the "thick and thin" premise.  When the wolf came to the door, we ate him.

    I have been very fortunate.  I was 25 years old when I made the life-altering decision to forsake my job and pursue a career as a full-time artist, eventually sending work to 13 different galleries in the USA, and opening two galleries of my own.  I have always wanted my work to reflect my respect for Native Americans, the rigors and hardships of the frontier life, and the sometimes sweet, sometimes staggering beauty that can overwhelm us almost anywhere in this country we travel.   I have tried to tell the truth in my paintings based on research and experience.  I have a deep empathy and respect for Native American peoples and they are popular and intriguing  subjects.  My paintings are found in collections in most of the United States and several foreign countries.  I have done work on projects for the National Park Service and the U. S. Forest Service.   Articles about my life and art are found in numerous newspapers, periodicals and magazines including the Western Horseman, the Appaloosa News, and Ruralite, among others.  I hope you enjoy my online gallery.

L. B. Milligan

DEDICATION

    This site is dedicated to my beloved Mother, Lucile Milligan.  For 14 years, until the end of 2016, I acted as the principle care provider for her.  She was born in January of 1914 at Bluegrass Settlements, Knox County, Tennessee, raised on a farm and graduated High School as Valedictorian.  She was a kind-hearted and loving mother who was devoted to her family, worked hard all her life, and enjoyed the company of friends and family greatly.  She suffered from Macular Degeneration which gradually became a real hindrance to her starting in 2004.  It gradually curtailed her reading, cooking, and her beloved quilting, as well as other simple little enjoyments and chores we all take for granted in our lives.  Mom was forever a Tennessee girl and never lost her Tennessee accent and charm.  She was an artist at quilting as well as life and one of the nicest human beings it has been the privilege of many to know. 

Mom passed away peacefully on December 30th of 2016, three weeks short of her 103rd birthday.   She is missed - mightily - even to this day.

 

 

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