By Connie Leinbach
After a week of painting pictures—an activity she had never done before—Ruth Fordon of Ocracoke found she played Pickleball better.
“I hit the ball better because of a week of focusing on one thing,” Fordon said about her participation Oct. 27 to 31 in the First Annual MATTIE Arts Paint-Out Workshop on Ocracoke. “It strengthened my ability to concentrate and my eye-to-hand coordination.”
Fordon, who had never painted with oils before in her life said the painting instructor and class was excellent and the daily activity of producing art earned her an honorable mention award for her last-day painting of the Ocracoke lighthouse.
Best of Show recipient was Anita Fletcher of mainland Hyde County, former postmistress of Ocracoke, and runner up was Peggy Powers of Norfolk.
The workshop of about 12 artists was organized by Judith Hickman McLawhorn, director of the MATTIE Arts Center in the old courthouse in Swan Quarter. Mark Hierholzer of Richmond, VA., who also has a home in Swan Quarter, was the instructor. Hierholzer has been teaching painting at MATTIE for the last year, and many of the participants have been studying under him. The group was based at the Soundfront Inn.
Another first-time painter, Karen Burgan also of Ocracoke, said she learned a lot from Hierholzer.
“It’s one of those things in retirement I wanted to dip my toe in,” she said about the class. “The takeaway is looking at things differently.”
Those differing ways were apparent in the paintings the artists created early in the week showing a rainbow of colors for three neutral-colored objects set up as a still life on a table in the yard. There were two duck carvings, one a light-colored wood and one in darker brown, and a white whelk. The paintings showed these objects in an array of yellows and oranges.
Brenda Respass, a real estate agent in Pantego, was reviving an interest in painting that she had dropped a long time ago.
“I saw Mark’s work online and was impressed with his color and his method of instruction,” she said about her taking time from her career to paint for a week on Ocracoke. Repass and the other students used a palette knife for their painting—a departure from using brushes.
In addition to a color study earlier in the day, the class went around the village and painted landscapes, water scapes, architecture and portraiture.
McLawhorn, a retired charter boat captain on Ocracoke with the charter boat “Onkor,” was happily being the organizer and enjoying every minute of it.
“We intend to do this every year,” she said about the week on the island.
Fordon plans to be among the group next year.
“I think people learn better when they’re involved with music and art because you use other parts of your brain,” Fordon observed. “Creating art has an impact on the brain’s ability to retain information.”