Resident Artist Sees What Many of Us Overlook
By Michael E. McRae
President & CEO, St. Ann’s Community
June 19, 2018
Ralph Stephens has always paid attention to the details.
From repairing radio transmitters during the Korean War to designing machine parts for IBM, he has a talent for seeing the details that many of us don’t.
That talent is evident today in Ralph’s favorite hobby: coloring. He approaches it with the same meticulous care he gave those transmitters and machine parts—and the 1931 Model A pickup he restored back in the ’90s.
“It’s got to look real,” he says.
A resident of St. Ann’s Home, Ralph, 84, is among the resident artists whose work will be on display in our lobby from June 20-23.
Look closely at the pictures Ralph has colored and you’ll quickly realize the effort he puts in. Whether he’s referencing actual photos to get the colors just right, or deciding which sharpness of pencil to use for a certain effect, he puts thought into every touch of pencil to paper.
That must require tremendous patience, he’s asked. His reply: “It does.”
Ralph shares his passion by teaching art classes to other St. Ann’s residents. He’s even written his own guidelines for coloring, such as, “Look at real life for colors. Don’t do what you think, do what you see.”
In a sense, he’s teaching a philosophy not just for coloring pictures but for looking at life. When we take time to see the details in the world around us—the individual leaves of a tree, the patterns in an animal’s fur—we can appreciate our surroundings instead of simply hurrying through them.
An intricate mandala colored by Ralph.
Finished picture of anthropologist Jane Goodall and mountain gorillas next to Ralph’s source material.
Mike. I enjoyed the article on Ralph. I make it a point to see him everyday when I am on the floor, I talk to him about his drawing and the detail that he puts in them every picture that he draws. I have watched him color and he is truly amazing, looking for the perfect shade of colors and then blending them together to make it so real looking. He is truly one of a kind.