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94-year-old just can’t let go of paintbrush

Eileen JoyceLen Ackeret sitts in front of a display of his work at home.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Len Ackeret doesn’t act his age.

At a time when other 94-year-olds are taking it easy, the spry Grass Valley resident maintains his house and four-acre property; walks, jogs and works out with light weights; and creates abstract paintings on a daily basis.

An avid baseball fan, Ackeret also makes time to watch every televised San Francisco Giants game. This past weekend, he attended the Giants-Atlanta Braves playoff series in San Francisco.



Three or four days a week, Ackeret plays a few hands of gin rummy with friends at the Nevada County Country Club before returning home to work on his art.

“He’s such a wonderful gentleman. He’s always the first one to acknowledge you and say how are you doing?,” said Nevada County Country Club’s Jeff Fish, who’s known Ackeret for 21 years. “He recognizes the fact when I’m here on Friday, my day off. He’ll come up to me and say, ‘You’re not supposed to be here.’ How impressive is that, a 94-year-old tracking the pro shop manager’s schedule?”




While not everyone can be as busy, Ackeret doesn’t think it’s any big deal.

“I’m in good health; there’s nothing wrong with my internal organs. I feel pretty good,” he said.

Part of the reason Ackeret feels good is because he’s working on art.

He even quit playing duplicate bridge at the Grange a few years ago so he could spend more hours in his home studio.

Ackeret is making up for lost time.

Before working as a real estate investor in the Bay Area, he painted and took classes for fun at the College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland.

Once he started dealing with properties, however, Ackeret had no time to paint until he retired 36 years ago to Nevada County and picked up his sable brushes. Since then, he’s never been too far from them.

“If I’m not somewhere else, I’ll paint all day,” Ackeret noted. “I’m so fascinated when I’m doing it. I don’t think of anything else. While I’m doing one painting, I’ve got five more paintings going on in my brain.”

Until three years ago, he worked solely in watercolors. Then he began experimenting with reverse painting (painting on the back of glass).

“Something popped in my brain. I heard about reverse painting, visited a very good Sacramento artist who did this art, and then I taught myself,” said Ackeret, who modified the technique so that each piece features fancy borders depicting water droplets.

His paintings are completed in several steps: Water goes on first, then acrylics go on; both materials have to dry before the following steps.

Ackeret recently took second place in the Pioneer Arts Membership 2002, a show that highlights visual artists of western Nevada County.

Although he has received more than 20 ribbons from Pioneer Arts shows and the Nevada County Fair and his works are shown in area businesses (currently at the Coffee Shop in Rough and Ready), Ackeret considers himself just a mediocre artist.

Pauline Aldridge, who has taught watercolor classes at the Senior Center for 13 years and is a longtime Pioneer Arts member, doesn’t agree.

“He is a creative artist,” Aldridge said. “Len used to come to me at the Senior Center, doing mobiles, mirror work, reverse painting. He likes to fool around, be innovative.

“He’s developed his own style and he does his own thing,” she said. “People like his style.”

Len Ackeret will have two reverse paintings entered in Pioneer Arts’ Northern Mines show on Nov. 3 at Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main St., Grass Valley.


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