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Pratt Institute of NYC

Elaine Ballou Yates

Born in Duluth, MN

Dec. 5th,1923 -- Aug. 21st, 2017 Age: 93


       Originally from Duluth, Minnesota, from an early age Elaine traveled with her parents as they pursued their careers on the stage, both in music and theatrical productions. In her late teens she attended Pratt Institute in NYC, where her focus in art and illustration was refined while her working career began. Hired in the booming textile industry, her talents to detail provided a job in designing new cloth patterns to be used in the garment and fabric industries.


       After departing the New York scene, she frequently visited St. Petersburg, FL, where her Grandparents and mother resided. Work at the Miami Herald brought her to Miami, her artistry was featured weekly in the newspaper. As a commercial artist she created beautiful renditions of high-end furnishings for major retailers. There she met her husband Sheldon who was a jazz musician whose family lived in Key West. Elaine loved jazz and also played piano. She had only one child, a boy who passed after only a few weeks of life. Later an illness took Sheldon’s life while only in his mid 50's. She continued her work while sketching routinely with a close group of friends in the Miami area. The results include two books “Key West” & “Miami Waterfront”.


       In the early 90’s her mother Thelma became ill. This brought Elaine back to the Euclid/St.Paul area of St.Pete.


       Her first book is “Illustrations of Old San Juan-Puerto Rico” with others following... sketching Miami, Key West, Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands, St. Augustine, FL & other wonderful surroundings. In addition, her unique use and artistic style of creating large drawn scrolls makes her a pioneer in mixed media expressions. Her unique ability to “sketch on the fly” produced truly remarkable results. Most times you would see Elaine out and about, she would be actively sketching her surroundings, or had her sketch pad and pens at the ready. Highlighted work includes illustrations on a scroll featuring “Ancient Egypt Exhibition”, which was an exhibit featured in St.Petersburg.


       After a friends encouragement she eventually approved of the idea of creating coffee table style hard cover books. In 2013 The Zoo Studios came to be. Supporting Warehouse Arts District, Grand Central Business District, St.Pete Jazz Festival, Academy Prep, Creative Clay, WUSF Radio, Humane Society, SPCA and others.


       In her later years, Elaine still sketched routinely such as the old Ringside Cafe building on 4th St. North, before it’s demise. She collected local artists work such as Jack Barrett, former St.Pete Times artist/illustrator. She often visited the Lynn Merhige Gallery and created the logo. She would still pick up “pen and pencil” to amaze those in her company, all with fine attention to detail. Whether using canvas, sketch pad, or available “cocktail napkins”, Elaine's spirit and artistic talents always created a very special time for all. Elaine is survived by her dear friend and companion, James McNeely, long time friend Billy Scarborough and many other close friends.


       Elaine loved the moon and took many photos of it, how appropriate she departed this world the evening of the 2017 total solar eclipse. Her smile and warm presence will be missed by all.

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