Milford Zornes Book Review

This is a book about the life and times of the well known and loved watercolor painter and teacher, Milford Zornes. The book is titled, “Happiness Is Warm Color in the Shade,” co-authored by my friends, Hal and Maria Baker.

Happiness Is Warm Color in the Shade is an enjoyable biographical read for artists and non-artists alike.

Co-authors, Milford’s son-in-law, Hal Baker, and Milford’s daughter, Maria Zornes Baker, have created a well-documented book about the life, times, and path of a dedicated, determined artist of the first degree.

Milford Zornes is among the select group of artists in the 1930s known as, The California Scene Painters. Milford stated, Art is not my profession, it is my way of life. Elsewhere he has also been quoted as saying, All art, if it is art at all, is abstract.

This book provides a rare, and insightful look into the private life of a dedicated artist and family man. We are taken on a tour of his life, from before he was born, through his high school years where. in his “Junior year, he was elected kindest boy in school, then on into professional adulthood, marriage and family.

We learn of Milford’s many early interests prior to settling with dogged determination to be, not just an artist, but a successful full-time artist. In this regard, the book contains, for the careful reader, a simple outline, a road map, for anyone who might seek similar success as an artist.

happiness Is Warm Color in the Shade a book that contains a wealth of information for the person who is interested in art history, and a visual and written narrative of a well known artist’s life from his early years, including work for Walt Disney, his World War II contributions for the army airforce, his induction to the prestigious National Academy, as well as his gradual, but persistent visual deterioration, until his passing at age 100.

Happiness is Warm Color in the Shade, carefully chronicles the good fortune and hardships of a man who could very well be thought of as the last of, to adapt a well-known phrase, the World War II’s Greatest Generation of watercolor painters.

It bears noting that much of Milford’s success came at the expense and support of his wife, Pat, who willingly chose to give up her promising art career for the support of husband and family.

This 133-page book contains numerous images of people and places important to the artist and his life’s’ work.

The reader will recognize Milford’s relationship with artists such as Millard Sheets, Maynard Dixon, Emil Koza, Phil Dike, Ansel Adams, George Post, Henry Fukuhara, Bill Anderson, Joanna Mersereau, Marciano Martinez, Chris Van Winkle, Tom Fong, among many others.

As an example of the importance of great friendships the book notes, “Bill Anderson spent the last 15 years of Milford’s life when Milford was seriously visually impaired, taking him on local painting trips.”

Also included in Happiness Is Warm Color in the Shade are wonderfully simplified little, quickly painted images of people and animals  randomly placed throughout the pages, These skillful, deceptively simple small jewels are guaranteed to make even the Mona Lisa break into a big smile.

Then too, are the more serous seldom and never before seen watercolor images from private and public collections of Milford’s original watercolor paintings. While technically not a “How-To” book, these images are most certainly a joy for collectors, supporters of the arts, and the serious students who can appreciate a lifetime of great watercolor achievements.

Milford was, besides an outstanding painter, an excellent teacher of the art of watercolor painting. The book informs us that, During the 1970s and ‘80s Milford travelled throughout the United States teaching private workshops. Eventually, he developed a relationship with several companies that specialized in watercolor workshops overseas.

Students thought of Milford as a Master Teacher. There are many examples of the lasting impressions he made on his many students. Additionally, Zornes was considered by his peers a, Teacher’s Teacher.

If one were to summarize the book, Happiness is Warm Color in the Shade. perhaps the following few words, would suffice, the artistic success of a man of strong opinions, dogged determination, and perseverance. Ironically, these attributes helped Zornes deal with visual impairment, especially in his later years.

Milford never gave up. He never allowed life’s hurdles to weaken his determination to overcome physical limitations. His work ethic provides a model and inspiration for both his peers and for generations of younger painters who choose to follow the life of an artist

The book includes a Table of Contents, Prologs (My Father, by Maria Zornes Baker; My Experience with Milford Zornes, by Gill Anderson; Recollections of My Uncle, by Ann Tognazzini Wellman, and, and an Introduction. Also included are poems, a Chronology, and a list of Milford’s quotes (worth the price of the book alone).

This is an informative, enjoyable read for most, and a “must read” for any serious student of the arts. I rate this book five stars out of five.

Look for Happiness is Warm Color in the Shade on-line at, or at your favorite local, bookstore.

Review by Woody Hansen


Hal Baker: Author
Maria (Zornes) Baker: Wife & Inspira on Carolyn Wing Greenlee: Publisher
Gene Sasse: Crea ve Director & Photography Fred Hartson: Graphic Design
Ann Wellman: Art Historian & Consultant Nancy Gall: Editor

ISBN-10: 0-9842797-5-X ISBN-13: 978-0-9842797-5-3 LCCN: 2017952497