You Gotta Have Art. The Legacy of Elizabeth
You Gotta Have Art. The Legacy of Elizabeth "Grandma" Layton

This project has already launched.

Since Elizabeth Layton's death in 1993, her powerful message of hope and healing has faded through the passage of time. Our purpose for this funding venture is to rekindle interest in the art and life story of this remarkable woman, our grandmother.

Fearing the truth might be disconcerting for many people, Grandma Layton left many of her life stories unsaid. However, not unwritten. She left hundreds of notes, poems, short stories, journal entries, letters, and pictures to sort through and record. Our mother, Kay (Nichols) Russell, was tapped to write Grandma's biography, but she died before the actual writing commenced. However, mom spent many years researching our ancestors; she organized all of the boxes, and filled our heads and hearts with family legendry.

Through this project, we have learned so much about our Grandmother, our family, and ourselves, and are convinced this is a story that must be told. Many newspaper and magazine articles have been written about the drawings and Grandma Layton’s impact on our society. However, her art was simply the reflection of her life lived. This story, titled "Signs Along The Way", is about the life and personality of the woman who holds the looking glass.

We will explain why this book has already been printed and published, without going through the typical channels of using an agent and/or publisher. After months of research and over 30 rejection letters (e-mails), we decided to do all the work ourselves. In this day and age authors are expected to do most of the promoting, and even have to pay for their own books for book signings (at a discount, of course!). In addition, the three of us have been in the printing business most of our lives, and know how to do the prepress work.

"Signs Along the Way" is designed in the style that Elizabeth read her books, beginning at the end. We feel it prudent to include snippets of the Prologue at this point, as it explains the colorful text, special features, and the unconventional format: In order to simplify both the writing and reading of her story, we have colored all of Grandma’s words green, the color of her beautiful eyes. That way we didn’t have to keep saying ‘She said’ or ‘She thought’ or ‘She wrote’… Also, we have integrated excerpts from The Wellsville Globe’s “Convers-ation” column that was written by Grandma’s mother, May Frink Converse. These Convers-ation passages are purple. Finally, we have colored sister Carolyn Maude’s letters blue. The sisters were very close, and her correspondence gives valuable insight into Grandma Layton’s life and character. The completed manuscript contains 360 pages, 97 photographs, 13 themed drawings, 13 sketches, and a Richard Crowson editorial cartoon. Since it obviously had to be offset printed, and had so many color photographs and colored text, we felt that a typical publisher would find the printing cost too high to risk taking on unknown authors. And we couldn't bear the thought of being asked to edit out any part of Grandma Layton's story. She never sold a drawing, “I’m afraid if I put a price on them, the miracle might disappear”, she said. But she donated many of them to certain charities, benefits, and causes. After her husband Glenn's death, the collection of contour drawings was donated to the Lawrence Art Center in Kansas. Therefore, we have no inheritance to draw from, and our personal funds have been pretty much depleted by printing costs, website development and maintenance, and correspondence to and from Grandma Layton's incredible fan base. What a treasure it is to be able to read what Grandma was thinking as she went through her amazing life. Not everyone is privy to that. And she wanted to share it. She wrote her words, and drew her pictures, for all of us to see, and Carla, Kathy, and Judy feel compelled to share her story.

"Signs Along The Way" was a true labor of love for us. With your help, we will be stronger advocates for Elizabeth “Grandma” Layton and her message by promoting her biography/memoir, assisting Don Lambert with reviving tours of her artwork, and sharing her other works that encompass her powerful legacy.

Other Works by Elizabeth

Her story became her art - her art became her story.

Desperate to fend off the recurring depression, Elizabeth spent most of her fifties and early sixties writing short stories and poems, often illustrated with pen or pencil sketches. Due to the mountains of papers she left behind, we estimate she must have spent hours each day writing, rewriting, and sketching. However, no matter how many stories, sketches, greeting card ideas, and poems Elizabeth sent to magazines and other publishers, people were still not listening. Hundreds of rejection slips followed her submissions. Ironically, many of these story themes and early sketches would appear years later in the drawings that changed her world.

Several of these stories and sketches have been included in "Signs Along the Way", along with one of Elizabeth's profound poems titled, "Transverse Shadows", where she describes her experiences with electroshock treatments (not an easy read). Following are some of her other works:

Postpartum Lullaby

A poem and drawing by Elizabeth Layton. A powerful piece, this poem expresses the grief and hopes of motherhood, describing events and mothers both unsung and renowned. Elizabeth began this poem in the 1950's and continued to revise and expand it for twenty-five years.

My Foal's Tale

A baby book for horses! Sometime in the spring of 1990, Carla and her daughter Shannon were looking at her brother's baby book when Shannon said, "Why don't we make a baby book for horses?" We did! When we asked Grandma Layton if she would illustrate it for us, she gave this response... "Dear Carla, Good to hear from you - my you are all busy! Yes, I would like to try that. But first off, why don't you do it yourself? Your horses are super. Mine look like dogs or cats or hippopotamuses."

Long-legged, lovely innocence - Grandma Layton has captured the very essence of foalhood in these delightful drawings. Shannon recently worked her digital magic and added color, the booklet is playfully beautiful, whether you are horse crazy or not! 


Because Elizabeth's drawings are composed of poster board and colored pencils, several tours of the art have been discontinued, as continual exposure to the elements - particularly light - is harmful to works on paper. Copies of the original drawings will keep the originals safe from the rigors of travel and possible theft. We intend to make digital, full-sized copies of at least seven original drawings, reproducing more as funds allow.

 The $10,000 Reward:

 A set of 2 framed and matted original "Grandma" Layton Drawings titled "Grandpa and Grandma All Dressed up for CHAUTAUQUA Days"

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