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January 14, 2012 10:00 PM

Tea Artist Remembers Janklow

Tea, SD


As flags continue to fly at half staff across South Dakota, Bill Janklow's death is resurfacing memories by all who met him.

And that is true for a Tea artist who drew a collage of the former governor in three stages of his political career.

Along his "Wall of Fame," Artist Ray Kelly hangs a picture of the only politician he ever drew, Bill Janklow. Kelly is used to drawing celebrities in the entertainment industry, but he admits there was something special about the former governor.

"He just felt important to me. He was highly visible, first of all," Kelly said. "I am old enough to remember many governors, but this guy was like a rock star, just because of everything he did."

Early in his career, Kelly used colored pencils to sketch Janklow, capturing him during three periods of his political life - attorney general and his two eras as governor.

But nearly 40 hours of labor wouldn't be complete without Janklow's signature. Almost one year after finishing his work, Kelly saw Janklow in the capital rotunda while visiting Pierre.

"He was unbelievable," Kelly said. "To walk up to him, first of all, with no one around him that day and then have him accept my artwork and autograph it, I couldn't believe it."

Artist portraits of Janklow are rare. He didn't even want one of himself next to the other governors at the capital. And when news of Janklow's death reached Kelly, memories came back of the quiet Saturday where the artist met the larger than life politician.

"I went down and found that piece of artwork and I wanted to remember what I had done and why I approached him," Kelly said.

Kelly doesn't work with oil paintings, but says he would like to see the state commission an artist to draw a large portrait of the governor to hang in the capital rotunda with all the other state leaders.
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