PSST! – Coloring History

Janice Kleinschmidt. History 0 Comments

While Don and Dayle McKinney appreciate the pioneering roots of their families in the desert and the old black-and-white photographs that Don’s grandmother took, they think history “translates better” for young people when it’s depicted in color.

That’s why they have begun re-creating Rose McKinney’s images in watercolor paintings and exhibiting them at community events and at Cabot’s Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs. The McKinneys are accomplished artists whose work also includes illustration, leather carving, gilding, and leaded glass.

Their Yucca Valley business, McKinney Construction Co., subsidizes their artistic pursuits, including the purchase of a $5,000 fine art printer to make giclées and framing equipment.

“We won’t be here forever, and we want to share these [historic images] with the community,” Don says, noting that they welcome guests to view paintings by appointment in their home studio.

Don’s grandfather, Oliver McKinney, ran the Coachella Valley’s first nursery and a trailer court at what is now the location of a Motel 6 at Palm Canyon and Indian Canyon drives and moved the first palms to the famed Desert Inn (now site of Desert Fashion Plaza) in the late 1930s. He also dug wells (including Key’s Well in Joshua Tree) and grew crops in Deep Well. He moved to a two-story house at the site of what is now Bank of America on South Palm Canyon Drive and eventually homesteaded 160 acres in Yucca Valley (Don and Dayle now live on that property).

Both Don and Dayle grew up in the desert, but didn’t meet until high school. Their fathers started the Palm Springs Dune Buggy Association, of which they are now president (Don) and secretary/treasurer (Dayle).

In addition to selling watercolors of their family photographs, the McKinneys invite people to bring them their own photographs for a watercolor painting. According to Don, “It takes a week to paint one image.” Dayle also illustrates custom books for children. Call (760) 363-9110 or e-mail

— Janice Kleinschmidt

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