Village News - Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

By Jack Ragland
Special to Village News 

A bright note in bleak COVID-19 times


Last updated 7/23/2020 at 6:48pm

"Smokie Frederick paints the Salt River" is the work of Jack Ragland.

I imagine many people have been using this down time to clear out clutter, recycle and reorganize if they tend to be savers (hoarders) like we are.

Not long ago, I got a call out of the blue from Bruce Lee, a nephew by marriage to my first master painter teacher, "Smoke Tree George" or "Smokie" Frederick. This call led to a different kind of reorganizing, bringing up old memories.

I met Smokie, when I was 16, in the Grand Canyon where he was showing and selling his paintings. He was the first professional fine artist I had met.

My dad arranged for him to come to El Monte and give me and an artist friend lessons in watercolor landscape and oil painting portraiture. We subsequently moved to Arizona where he lived and we remained friends till his death.

Smokie was a graduate of the Royal Academy in Munich, Germany before World War I and, after WWI, immigrated to the USA. There he had a dual major in psychology and art. He had classes with the giants in psychology in the early 20th century: Freud, Adler and Jung.

In art, he studied under Lovis Corinth and other famous German artists. He was also a very colorful, charismatic man who inspired a lot of other artists and students.

Smokie taught me songs in German, Spanish and Navajo. He said, "A lot of education is about how to make a living, but art teaches you how to live a life."

Lee never met Smokie while he was alive but became fascinated with him when he talked with people whose lives he touched.

Lee is doing research on Smokie for a book featuring his paintings and those of some of his outstanding students. He asked me to do a portrait of Smokie painting plein air from a couple of old photos and as I remembered him. I was happy to accept and he was thrilled.

Joe Hunter poses with a portrait of himself as a child, painted by JackRagland.

I found three watercolor landscapes done when I was 17, under Smokie's guidance. I no longer had the oil portraits I had done in that early period but, curiously enough, two people contacted me through my website,, fairly recently and I was able to photograph their works.

The first was Shirley Dutra, a neighborhood girlfriend who went with me, my parents, Smokie and his wife to the Laguna Pageant of the Masters together. She had asked me to repair something minor on the painting. I was able to photograph the work when she shipped it to me.

Another client, Joe Hunter, I had painted when he was 6 or 8 years old, with his baseball mitt. Lee was able to photo Hunter as an adult with the painting when he tracked him down in Phoenix.

Amazingly, Hunter had reached out to me not very long ago giving me his contact information. I am sharing these pictures since they have given me a break in this tedious time and might be of interest to others.


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