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Farming traded for fine art

June 08, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

BOONSBORO - Born on a farm to a working farm family, Esther Gross always found time for her art, no matter how early she had to get up to milk the cows or work in the fields.

Now, Gross no longer is tied to a farming schedule so she has a lot more time to devote to her muse.

"I was always scribbling and drawing as a child," Gross said. "I remember people asking me to draw horses for them. I do good horses."

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As proof, Gross produced a sketch of two horses that she drew more than 30 years ago. The detail and lines of the horses' heads were lifelike even after the passage of so much time.

When Gross recently painted her first mural, the Mapleville, Md., native didn't start small. She painted the entire wall of a child's bedroom.

Gross was contacted by Dr. Matt Iager, a local veterinarian, who saw her work at a silent auction. He and his wife, Laura, commissioned Gross to paint a train scene on the wall of their son's bedroom in a home they were building near Boonsboro.

"They had planned to do a train border in their son Noah's bedroom because he loved trains, but I suggested a full mural," Gross said.

Over a two-week period, Gross worked on the project for about 30 hours total. She did her painting while the builder was finishing the rest of the house, showing up for part of each day.

"First I sketched it out on paper," Gross said.

The train was to have Noah's name on the engine and there were to be cows, tractors and a barn in the scene.

When she got to the one door on that wall, Gross came up with the idea to wrap a tree around the door jamb.

Born in the house where she still lives, Gross, 56, attended Boonsboro schools while working on the farm.

"We used to have 54 acres and the house, but now it is just 16 acres and house," Gross said. "I quit farming in 2000."

For a while she worked for the Dairy Herd Improvement Association in the lab and part time on farms. She gave all that up in March 2003 to devote her time solely to her art.

"Now I can say I'm a lady painter," Gross said.

She lost her father when she was 11 so the work of the farm was spread between Gross, her mother and her older sister, who recently died. Even so, Gross' mother always supported her love of art and bought her supplies.

A sketchbook containing pencil drawings of horses, birds, wildlife and other subjects has been kept through the years. More recent works, including oil paintings of farm scenes, Antietam National Battlefield and her beloved cows also grace the walls and other surfaces of her home.

Many of those have ribbons indicating the work took top prizes at area art exhibits.

In addition to the mural, Gross has done a lot of other commissioned work and hopes to do more. She paints on milk cans, wooden basket tops, plaques, mailboxes, birdhouses and even rocking chairs.

For more information, call Gross at 301-739-7585.

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