Art Works on Main’s featured artist for August prepares for Plein Air autumn series

Roxie Murphy
Staff Writer

“You have to do something or you become stale,” said Joyce McGowan, Art Works on Main Artist of the Month for August.

McGowan, of Owensville, began painting in 1996.

“I was down and I needed to do something new, so I taught myself to paint,” she said. 

The self-taught artist quickly became enamored with the water colors and then saw that East Central College (ECC) in Union had classes available for other painting styles.

“So I took them,” she said. “And then I was immersed.”

It didn’t stop there. She took the classes where she could get them. Which is how she ended up in Sherry White’s acrylic paints class at Owensville High School.

“It was different, but I did that for a while,” McGowan said. “Then ECC had an oil painting class and I learned the basics of oil painting. I really enjoyed that too.”

Her work continued to grow and expand in styles. A year later, she and a group of lady painters met Ron Ferkol, an established artist in Washington, and asked for lessons. Eventually McGowan became the only student.

“You have to have a good eye to paint,” she said. “(Ferkol) would ask me ‘what do you see, what are you trying to show?’”

A winter scene was the product of this particular lesson, and is one of McGowan’s favorite works.

“I wanted the viewer to feel that snow storm,” she said.

Ferkol’s advice was to start with research to see how things work when McGowan had a picture she wanted to paint.

“We started with trees, which I don’t know why, because trees are very hard to paint,” McGowan laughed. “He said ‘you have to know what kind of tree and the leaves and shapes.”

She later moved to hay bales. 

“I started this season with hay bales,” she said. “I had gone to Iowa and for miles and miles all I could see was hay and corn — I loved it.”

She researched hay bales, and discovered she liked the way the sunlight played on the gold stalks, and the gold of the sun. She created the picture in her mind, then painted it.

“Of course there is a farmhouse in the background,” she added. “It took me about three or four months to do, but he said he liked it. I did another, and a lady bought it.”

 Another piece she is working on features a Crimson King Maple Tree with hay bales in the background. But McGowan isn’t afraid to try new subjects.

“My friend, Sue, had a picture of her aunt in a Polaroid and wanted a portrait painting,” McGowan said.

She took her time with the painting, and her friend loved it. 

“I have tried portraits, but I don’t know if it’s my calling,” she said.

The next step in her adventures? Plein Air — painting an image in a small amount of time.

“I take so long to paint, I’m going to practice painting faster,” she said. “It takes me three or four months to paint and Plein Air events are three or four hours.”

Art Works on Main has a Fall Plein Air event scheduled Oct. 25, 26, and 27. Friday, Oct. 25, painting begins at 8 a.m. in Owensville with two $250 cash prizes and at 3:30 p.m in Rosebud with one $250 cash prize.

Saturday, Oct. 26, painting begins at 8 a.m. at a private estate with a $500 cash prize. A second private estate event at 4 p.m. has a $250 cash prize.

Sunday, Oct. 27, White Mule Winery will host the group. Paintings must all be turned in by 9 a.m. for judging; awards (up to $600 in prizes) will be given out at 10:30 a.m. and a Plein Air sale will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“I think I am going to go back to water colors for this event,” McGowan said. “I can’t hardly do oil painting outside.”

She has already asked for advice from Ferkol.

“Ron said ‘you just give impressions with the brush stroke,’” she said.

While she is excited to try this new event, she continues to add to her collection at Art Works on Main.

“I like it, and I’ve sold three or four pictures through the gallery — which thrills me,” McGowan said. “It’s a nice gallery and I hope to get more people in to look at it.”