In memoriam

Video created for a Celebration of Life, May 6, 2022, offering a view of Frank Sanje Elliott as an artist and the key moments that shaped his life.

On March 4, 2022, Frank Sanje Elliott passed away peacefully just fifteen days after his 89th birthday.

Born Frank Lee Elliott on February 17, 1933 in Centralia Washington, Sanje grew up in Portland, Oregon. He attended Laurelhurst Grade School, Grant High School and Lewis & Clark College. Artistically inspired by his mother, an art and music teacher, Sanje was destined for a creative life. He made art and played music throughout high school, and in his junior year, formed his own eight-piece band.

While at Lewis & Clark, he considered a career in commercial art. But among the tall firs on the campus, Sanje had an epiphany, as he describes it, questioning all his assumptions and even the basis of his faith. At that moment, he pledged to follow his true path and to direct his creative energies toward giving to the world. Rather than going into commercial art, he would continue playing music and become a fine arts painter. He set off for Italy to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence.

Two years later he was living in Munich Germany, painting and supporting himself by playing saxophone with small jazz ensembles. From Germany he went to Australia and lived there for several years. On his return home, he experienced his first encounter with Buddhism at Daitoku-ji Monastery in Kyoto, Japan.

During the 1960s, Sanje painted large semi-abstract paintings, some as large as 8 x 12 feet, and found that his work was becoming more spiritual in content. In 1971, he left Portland and traveled around the world again, this time in search of a teacher in the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. After a year in India, he returned to America and settled in the Bay Area of California where he began to paint thangkas in the style of Tibetan Buddhism.

To continue his study of thangka painting and to practice Buddhism, he lived in Kathmandu Nepal for two years from 1980 to 1982. After returning to San Francisco he moved to Boulder, Colorado in 1984 to teach at the Naropa Institute founded by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. In 1991, he returned to Portland and settled into a life of painting, teaching and playing music. Sanje was instrumental in the founding of the Kagyu Changchub Chuling (KCC) Tibetan Buddhist Center in Portland.

Frank Sanje Elliott is preceded in death by his older sister Pat in 2011; and brother-in-law, Jack Wood in 2013 and is survived by many loving friends.

A celebration of Sanje’s life was held on May 6, 2022 at the KCC Portland Center. In lieu of flowers you may send donations to KCC.

Frank and Pat Elliott, 1936

19-year-old Frank Elliott on saxophone, 1952

Siena, Italy, 1956