May 212020

Eleanor Margarite Glover, who became an acclaimed portrait painter, and lived in Ajijic 1961-1963, was born on 1 October 1919 in Big Horn, Wyoming, to a Methodist minister, shortly before the family moved to Compton, Los Angeles, California. Eleanor was the second of five children in the family.

Her father nicknamed her “Tink” at an early age because she was always tinkering with things. Her son Loy recalls that his mother, “had an uncontrollable compulsion to touch things she found interesting. She and I were actually asked to leave the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena once because she couldn’t keep her hands off the Rodin.”

Tink Strother in her Ajijic studio, ca 1962

Tink Strother in her Ajijic studio, ca 1962

After graduating from Compton Junior College, Strother spent two years studying commercial art at Frank Wiggins Trade School.

She married Vane Strother in June 1942, shortly before he was posted overseas. In his absence, Strother worked as a draftsman for Douglas Aircraft. She began to add cheery, fun illustrations to the envelopes she used to mail letters to her husband. Her envelope art was first sketched in pencil, then carefully covered with ink or watercolor.

Wartime envelope decorated by Tink Strother

Wartime envelope decorated by Tink Strother

The New Yorker eventually ran a story about similar envelopes, coincidentally at the same time as a selection of Strother’s own wartime envelopes went on display in a highly successful exhibit at the Santa Paula Society of the Arts. When asked why she had started decorating envelopes, Strother replied, “Just to entertain the guys overseas fighting in the war; I put pretty girls on most of them, some movie stars. We were young and had just gotten married”

At the end of the war, Strother, a fiery, talkative red-head with a larger than life personality, started working as a commercial artist. She took the advice of a gallery owner and enrolled in portraiture classes at Orange Coast College.

Strother first visited Ajijic in 1960, by which time her marriage was in trouble. The following June she left her husband in California and settled with her two children in the lakeside village, renting what her son remembers as, “an incredible place with a guest house,  gardens and fountains, the kitchen was a separate building with a cook, a maid and a gardener for $110 a month.” The children stayed only a year, but Strother remained in Ajijic for the next two years, returning to California in 1964.

In 1962, an exhibition of Tink Strother’s paintings was held at the Alfredo Santos gallery in Guadalajara. (Other artists showing in that exhibition included Carlos López Ruíz, Ernesto Butterlin, Filipino artist Romeo Tabuena, American artist Peter Matosian,  French artist Diane Lane Root, and Mexican artists Jorge González Camarena and A. Galvez Suarez.)

In Ajijic, Tink worked as a portrait artist and taught art. Her son remembers that she,

always had a gaggle of ladies around her (and some serious art students) with their easels trudging around the fields doing landscapes in their sun hats, or in the studio learning portraiture,

While in Ajijic, she met a Colombian artist Carlos López Ruíz (1912-1972). Their relationship continued and he accompanied her to California, where they opened a joint studio and gallery, first in Pico Rivera and then in Whittier. Strother also taught adult education art courses. Her son Loy frequently watched her teach, and describes her as a “a virtuoso teacher of painting”. He recalls her particular “party piece”:

“Tink did many demonstrations of portrait painting to classes and groups”, in which “she would take the same subject she had just done a portrait of, and draw him/her as a baby, and then age the portrait in stages to the age of about 90. People would gasp and say my God that is exactly what she looked like at that age!… And Tink talking nonstop the entire time explaining every move.”

Tink Strother was also an enthusiastic fund-raiser and offered her services as a sketch artist and caricaturist to hundreds of charity events. She would draw rapid charcoal sketches at $15 a head, sign them “Tink”, and donate all the proceeds to the charity. Loy Strother watched in awe:

“She attracted a crowd very time. It was like watching a magic act as Tink produced perfect likenesses with a few masterful strokes holding nothing in her hand but a chunk of charcoal. It would appear as if she was just waving her hand at the easel and an ethereal likeness of the subject would seem to emerge from the blank white paper.”

strother-tinkWhile portrait painting was her great love, Strother also did copper enamel jewelry, sculpture, serigraphs and graphic designs.

When her relationship with Carlos broke down (in about 1968), Strother moved to Europe where she continued to enjoy moderate success, completing a prolific number of fine portraits, living mostly in Rome, Italy.

In 1976 (several years after Carlos’ death) Strother returned to California and became deeply involved in the Santa Paula Society of the Arts and an art columnist for the Santa Paula Times. Strother lived the last few years of her life with her daughter in Barcelona, Spain, and died there on 1 January 2007.

Peggy Kelly, who wrote Strother’s obituary for the Santa Paula News praised her portraits, saying that they reflected “not only the physical likeness of the subject but also their personality and soul.”

Note This post was first published 24 December 2014.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcome. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

  27 Responses to “Eleanor Margarite “Tink” Strother (1919-2007), portrait painter extraordinaire”

  1. I was curious about a portrait that I have of my grandma signed by the artist “Tink” I’m so pleased to find out the information regarding her. My grandma was also “larger than life” so I’m sure they got along famously

  2. Do you know if Tink ever dabbled in landscape watercolors? I just purchased a painting at an estate sale that is signed Tink. I wondered if it might be her.

    • Yes, I know for a fact that she did indeed do some landscape watercolors. The one I’ve seen is about 7″ x 5″ with pale pinks, blues and greens. I’d love to see a photo of your painting if that’s possible. Please use the email of info@sombrerobooks.

  3. Tink painted a picture of children playing marbles, do you know where that picture is. Last I saw it was in a doctors office in Norwalk California in the 60’S

    • No, sorry, absolutely no idea. Tink was a really prolific painter so there are several thousand paintings by her out there!

  4. When I was a child, my family lived in Naples. Tink came and painted portraits of myself and my brother. She also painted two landscapes, one by day, one by night, of t he bay of Naples with Vesuvius. It was very interesting to read about her life. I remember she was very cool and kind to us. I’m trying to estimate the value of her work. I would love to send you photos of the Vesuvius paintings. Feel free to contact me if you would like.

    • Thanks for the photos of your paintings. What super portraits!! Sorry, but I am unqualified (and unable) to offer any suggestions about valuation. Your best bet is to check if any have been sold via online auction sites such as Ebay and are listed on

    • Our family lived in Bella Napoli 72-76′ & “Tink” did a self portrait of each of us 3 ‘kids’. With your comment ^, I’m almost certain this is her 😀 .

    • That’s great! Glad you now know more about her.

  5. Tink did a portrait of me around 1961-62 when I was about 4 years old. It still hangs proudly on my wall.

    • Thanks for your comment, David. Glad that you found the profile of Tink and that you still cherish her painting of you. Best wishes, TB.

  6. I have a landscape watercolor named Toward Fillmore. It is 15 x 23. Has a partial painting on the back. Purchase cards on back with her signature from the Santa Paula Society of the Arts. It was purchased by my inlaws in 1984.

    • Thanks for getting in touch. Always good to hear that Tink’s art is still appreciated! Happy New Year! TB.

  7. I discovered a box of 4×4 tiles in Paso Robles California printed with two Tink paintings. “COUNTING SHEEP” and “I SEE EWE”. Colorful reds and sheep.Any info on the paintings?
    Thanks! , Donna

    • Sorry, I know nothing about these tiles but it sounds like a typical Tink take on an age-old problem! I would love to see images of the tiles if that is possible? My mail is

  8. I have a painting by Tink of a boy with a fish on a fishing pole. It was my mother in law’s and she always told me it was saved from the fire that burned down the William Penn Hotel in Whittier, where my MIL’s family lived. Just sharing. It is a treasure.

  9. I have a photograph dated 1948 of my mother Ruth (Tuttle) Franson sitting on the steps of the Weston Playhouse in Vermont with a woman named “Tink” and am wondering if Tink Strother ever came east. My mother was an artist/illustrator who worked and taught in Manhattan and the Boston area. My father graduated from Norwich University in VT, was assigned to the Navy through GE during the war and was most likely visiting his alma mater when the image was taken. I know little else except the Tink in the BW image was known to have red hair. Curious if the Tink in the photo is Tink Strother.

  10. Did Tink ever paint any still lifes I have one signed TINK no date that features wine bottles and fruit?

    • I don’t recall ever seeing a still life by Tink, but she was a very versatile and prolific artist, so your still life could well be by her.

  11. I have a painting of a dock and water, signed (I think) Tink Strother. Could you affirm it is hers (by giving me a way to send you a photo of it? Thanks

  12. This was an interesting article……My friend sent it to me today……she and I went to school with Tinks daughter Audery……we spent time at their house in Norwalk… friend has one of Tinks paintings that resembles one of her brothers….which they still have and hanging in the childhood home which one of my friends owns now.

    My Friend whose name is Lorraine Rojo Her (name in school)…..and mine was Patti Kline…..the reason I’m telling this is to see if anyone has information on Tinks daughter Audrey that lives in Barcelona Spin (that’s where she was living when her mom Tink lived with her when Tink past away… we could possibly get in contact with her… let her know about a reunion that we would love to have her at in September if possible.

  13. Lynn and Loy are my cousins. Tink was my aunt. I too spent many a day and night at their home in Norwalk. My brother and I have watercolor portraits of us given to us by our aunt Tink She was a very Nice lady

  14. I was Given a beautiful Tink portrait of a young, dark skin, dark hair girl in a red dress that reminds me of me! I love my painting!

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