Stroke of Luck

Chaparral grandfather painting murals, portraits around campus
bwstroke-of-luck-schools

 By WVUSD 

DIAMOND BAR-School volunteers enrich the lives of Walnut Valley students in countless ways – by giving of their time in classrooms, organizing fundraisers and events, and through financial contributions that provide enrichment opportunities on every campus.

Cornelis Greive, an 84-year-old grandfather, is leaving a lasting legacy through the gift of his artwork.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, the talented painter arrives at Chaparral Middle School with his tools of the trade: sable brushes and tubes of acrylic paint.

Greive is transforming the school by creating a gallery of cougar murals, national and state awards logos, and portraits of inspirational authors, presidents, scientists, scholars, and more.

Since August, the amiable octogenarian has logged more than 1,000 hours around the Diamond Bar campus, according to Principal Ron Thibodeaux.

“Cor has added a lot of color and really brightened up our campus. He’s a gem!”

Greive has produced about 20 stellar portraits including Leonardo De Vinci, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Jane Austen, Albert Einstein, and Amelia Earhart.

His canvas is typically indoor hallway walls, but also extends to ball walls and school signage.

Chaparral teachers choose the artwork to be featured outside their classroom.

“Whatever they pick, I’ll paint it!” he said.

With a digital printout in hand, he sets out to replicate the masterpiece, using grids to transfer images onto the walls.

The magic happens when Greive mixes up the colors on his artist palette and gently grips a wood-handled brush.

He works quickly, beginning with the eyes, and often completes an entire portrait in one session – just two hours.

“It excites me because I see it come to life!” the Holland-born native admits.

He is a welcome presence on campus, receiving warm greetings by students and staff members.

“I like your artwork!” chimes one boy passing by the artist on his way to class.

Greive quickly offers warm smile and humbly replies, “Thank you!”

The resident artist recently completed the portrait of Anne Frank inside the classroom of humanities teacher Sherry Robertson, who describes him a “priceless member of the Cougar family.”

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for my students to witness a stunning piece of artwork blossom from a blank canvas. His quiet, lovable demeanor captivated all our hearts,” Robertson said.

The black and white painting in her class bears a quote penned by the young girl who went into hiding during the Holocaust: “I can shake off anything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”

“It’s a gift to be able to paint. Anne Frank’s gift was her writing,” Greive reflected. “It helped her get through those dark days.”

Robertson described her students as being “in awe as they watched every brush stroke.”

Sixth grader Elim Jiang said it was “amazing” to observe the sketching and painting process.

“I had a hard time focusing on my work because I was mesmerized by the art!” commented Edward Delano.

Greive said his goal is for the artwork to help make students, staff, and parents proud of the campus.

“I’m happy they appreciate it!”

To date, his favorite paintings at Chaparral are Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman.

“They have a lot in common. Both were denied higher education, but they stayed grounded. They never had any money, but were always giving to others.” Greive says he is looking forward to decorating the school’s new music building with portraits of composers. During the previous two years, Greive painted several murals at Maple Hill Elementary when his grandchildren, Grace and Louis Ramirez, attended the school. Grace, who is probably his biggest fans, now attends Chaparral. “I am very proud of my Opa!” the 6th grader beamed. “His art makes our school prettier!” Greive has pledged to continue painting at Chaparral for two more years, and then plans to “graduate” to Diamond Bar High. “I enjoy it here at school – I’m painting the walls and they let me get away with it!”