Painting the Colors of the Season

November 13, 2007|By DAVE THOMPSON

Thanks to artists such as Hagerstown's Marie McCafferty, holiday seasons are a little more colorful in the Tri-State area.

Her classes in decorative painting at the A.C. Moore store in The Centre at Hagerstown help anyone from artists to aspiring painters learn the basics of that craft.

A long-time artist and art director, McCafferty said she started teaching the courses a few years ago after moving to the area with her husband in 1994.

"I started after the A.C. Moore store opened," she said. "It (decorative painting) was a good place to start because it is easier to teach than fine arts painting."


McCafferty's teaching doesn't stop there. She also instructs continuing education classes in fine arts painting at Hagerstown Community College and an occasional fine arts section at A.C. Moore.

Decorative painting is often used to beautify ornaments, plaques, furnishings and other objects. Traditional styles such as tole are often used. In this style, also commonly called one-stroke, brushes are sometimes loaded with more than one color so that highlights, primary colors and shadows can be applied with one stroke.

When she's teaching a decorative class, McCafferty will usually complete a sample and lead the class step by step through the painting techniques needed to finish the project.

"We'll cover the highlights such as shading and how to use different brushes," she said. "We might start with the base and then, for example, do shading of the face."

Fine arts classes start with a sketch as students bring in a picture of what they want to paint. McCafferty said she usually has two sections of fine arts students during the fall semester and two or three in the spring at HCC. Usually, there are from seven to 10 students in each of the sections, which meet weekly over a six-week period.

Beginning students are welcome in many of the classes. Sometimes they become success stories.

"One of the students I had at the college, Alla Maier, had never painted before," McCafferty said. "She recently had a show at which she sold six paintings and now is being featured in some galleries."

McCafferty herself gained an extra measure of recognition in 2004 when her hand-painted holiday ornament was one of more than 300 to adorn the official White House Christmas tree.

She is a member of the Society of Decorative Painters, which was chosen by first lady Laura Bush to provide ornaments for the tree that year.

"The theme that year was musical instruments. The society purchased them and sent them to participating painters for shipping costs," McCafferty said. "We were to stick with deep colors and gold accent strokes."

Painters received whatever instrument the society sent them. McCafferty received a small wooden harp. She didn't like the harp's plastic-looking strings and replaced them with strings of thin golden metal, which meshed nicely with the gold paint accents.

As one of the winning artists, McCafferty was invited to a reception at the White House hosted by the first lady.

"You get so nervous that you're shaking when you see that big envelope with 'White House' at the top. It was a thrill to be there and meet Mrs. Bush, who was very gracious," she said. "It was quite an honor to be selected."

McCafferty displayed an artistic bent early in life. She received a scholarship to the Delaware Art School at age 10 and continued taking classes there through high school. She graduated from Towson State College (now Towson University) with a degree in fine art and also studied at the Maryland Institute of Art.

Her working career included positions as art director for various magazines. In Columbia, Md., she started a monthly magazine, "Columbia," as art director for the Columbia Association, which was the governing body of Columbia. In Connecticut, she was art director for magazines such as "Medical, Marketing & Media" and "Perspectives." She also had a graphic design business called Design Studio, which created graphics for logos, brochures and magazines as well as "wearable art" for upscale boutiques.

For her own paintings, McCafferty works mainly in acrylics.

"They dry fast, and you move right along," she said.

Interested in gardening (she's a member of the Clear Spring Garden Club), she enjoys painting landscapes with garden scenes.

"It's kind of a way to dream of how I'd like my garden to actually look," she said, smiling to indicate that "dream" was the operative word.

McCafferty recently started work on a series of paintings she calls "Hints of Hagerstown."

"It will be snippets of Hagerstown. Rather than a whole house, it might be little vignettes, something such as the fence, or a door."

McCafferty belongs to the Hagerstown-based Valley Art Association, and some of her work is on display in the Mansion House at City Park. She has a one-person show scheduled for April in the Mansion House's North Gallery.

Her decorative painting work is often sold through festivals. For information on McCafferty's work and classes, go to her Web site at

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