A Family Palette

Take a look inside their beautiful home, one that’s been transformed by a canvas of love.


Step aside, Monet. There’s a new artist in town who’s attracting the support of Ocala residents like Gail Elkes, who smiles when she says she’s on a first-name basis with Sawyer Branson.

And why not? She’s his grandmother after all.

“I know I might be a bit biased, but when I looked at Sawyer’s first work, I knew he had a real talent,” says Gail, whose southeast Ocala home boasts Sawyer’s acrylics and watercolors as a vivid focal attraction.

The Elkes’ residence has become an informal art gallery for Sawyer’s growing collection, beautifully accessorizing the home’s public and private spaces. A playful crab and fish in subtle matted frames welcome guests in the blue and white guestroom. Vibrant splashes of red dot the custom bedding and Sawyer’s sea-inspired art.

Walk into the kitchen and you’ll find Sawyer’s still life pieces of vegetables hung beside his pastoral landscapes. Miniature easels are plenty on the countertops showcasing Sawyer’s latest works, including a colorful rooster holding command of the coffee center.

Adjoining the kitchen is the traditional dining room decorated by Michael Koontz and lovingly accessorized by Sawyer’s framed portrait of a lark displayed on the buffet with twin pewter birds sitting nearby. Even the foyer boasts a Branson piece hung above the marble-top side table.

It’s hard to believe this extensive collection only began three years ago when Sawyer, at age 12, took his first art lesson with local artist Marnie Starbuck who has since become a close friend to Sawyer and his family. Sawyer’s mom and Gail’s daughter, Page Branson, says one lesson was all it took for Sawyer to know he’d found his passion.

“Art has positively changed his personal and academic confidence,” says Page. “It has made a true difference in his life which is why I hate to see us losing art programs in the public school system.”

Sawyer agrees.

“From the first time I met Marnie, I really enjoyed working with her,” says Sawyer, who meets with Marnie each week to paint before school.

Page says an “instant bond” was formed between her son and Marnie with incredible results. So much, in fact, that Gail hosted Sawyer’s first art show last fall.

“I invited my friends to come over and see Sawyer’s paintings, many of which were bought that day,” adds Gail.

Sawyer’s work also attracted the attention of his school, Osceola Middle. He donated a print of his crab painting to the school’s visiting New England young adult author Priscilla Cummings.

“It’s so good to see Sawyer doing something he really enjoys and that I can use to decorate my home,” smiles Gail, who spies a blank wall just waiting for another Sawyer Branson addition.

Posted in Ocala Style Features

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