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Guest artist says oil paints are to blend and rules are to bend

January 26, 2007|by ALICIA NOTARIANNI

Jeanean Songco Martin stood with her left eye open and her right eye squeezed tightly shut. One of her arms projected straight ahead, her hand wielding a long, skinny paintbrush, as she deemed the size of an onion.

"I'm closing one eye, just like Popeye. I'm choosing the top of the onion as a unit of measurement. It'll be my center of interest and everything else will branch out," Songco Martin said. "Onions are one of my favorite things to paint. They're almost like looking at skin with all those great undertones."

Songco Martin, of Boyds, Md., was the demonstration artist Wednesday evening, Jan. 24, at Valley Art Association's monthly meeting at the Mansion House Art Gallery in Hagerstown's City Park.

Songco Martin, who has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and is a mother of five children, said she paints mainly still lifes, landscapes and figures with an emphasis on realistic interpretation. Her demonstration focused on using oil paints to capture a still life setting of a wine bottle, a pottery bowl, onions and a conch shell on a needlework cloth.

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While Songco Martin demonstrated her approach to composition, gesture, measurement and painstakingly mixing color, she stressed that her methods were her preferences, not rules. In fact, she said she deliberately avoids the term "technique" and that the way she paints merely works for her and might have elements that work or don't work for other people.

"I'm not telling anyone how to paint. I'm just telling you what works for me. There are artists out there who would die doing it this way," she said.

In addition to practicing their craft, Songco Martin encouraged the artists in attendance to read books on painting, to talk to other painters, and to keep a journal of their artistic endeavors.

Donna Mason, president of Valley Art Association, said the club has more than 100 members from throughout the Quad-State area. Member meetings on the fourth Wednesday of each month except July and August include business, refreshments and demonstrations. Members pay an annual fee of $25. The club also hosts workshops, classes and field trips in an effort to promote awareness and appreciation of art throughout the community.

The club has been in existence since 1938, Mason said. Mansion House Art Gallery became its headquarters in 1991 and serves as a venue in which club members exhibit and sell their work. Club membership has grown considerably since she joined in 2002.

"I'm amazed at how the club has grown. There are a lot of good artists in the area," Mason said. "They join not only for the instruction, but for the support of the group too. We are outlets for each other to learn about other exhibits, classes and workshops."

Paul Rhymer, 44, of Point of Rocks, Md., and his wife Carolyn Thome, are employed as model makers at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Rhymer said he and Thome joined Valley Art Association about one month ago and began exhibiting their bronze sculptures and paintings, respectively, at the Mansion House.

"I just wanted to get involved with the local art community. It seemed like a great opportunity to get up here and meet some local folks," Rhymer said.

Anna Hogbin, 60, of Martinsburg, W.Va., a five-year member and current secretary of Valley Art Association, said she thinks the club is the best art group in the area for the "everyday artist."

"I always wanted to do art but I ended up doing something else," Hogbin said. "(The club) has a lot to offer in terms of art education and the gallery where all members can show, plus it's a great place to get to know other people who are pursuing the arts and just learn."

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