A collection of farmland animals in all shapes and sizes flocked to the Abington Community Library last month. A pig peered out at visitors in the Ryon Room and a duckling greeted readers at the end of the fiction aisle.
Brush strokes gave texture to feathers and fluff, life to eyes, and colorful backgrounds to animals usually found in a barn yard.
Abington Community Library’s March artist of the month, Dorothy O’Connor, didn’t describe herself as a painter until a little more than four years ago. She learned to paint at the Deb Hamby Studio in Dalton.
“I come from an artistic family,” O’Connor said. “My mom quilts, my sister is creative and crafty, and Dad is artistic too. My brother Paul can paint and is a great photographer. Paul can do anything.”
It seems the artistic gene wasn’t lost on O’Connor either.
On March 28, the Abington Community Library hosted “An Evening with the Artist” event that featured O’Connor’s work. The evening was sponsored by Clarks Summit Senior Living Center. O’Connor chose pieces in a collection she titled “Farmland Friends and Playpen Posse.”
O’Connor explained most of her paintings are done using a photograph as reference. The photographs are copyright free or used with permission. Other works in the collection are inspired by animals O’Connor has met in person and photographed herself.
Chrissy Rimes of Clarks Summit made her way around the room attempting to guess which animals O’Connor had met in person and which she had seen only by way of photograph.
“You can see the personality of this one,” Rimes said as she studied a painting of a horse. “It has something in its eyes.”
As she studied another work by O’Connor, Rimes noted, “you can tell that she really attempted to capture the spirit of the animal. ... There is something about art. Something that portrays out and then pulls us in.”
The smaller canvas pieces displayed by the stacks in the library gave observers an opportunity to view a collection of baby animals. These began as pieces for a nursery.
“I began making these for my daughter when she was expecting our first grandchild,” O’Connor said.
Varying hues of color could be seen in the faces of a lamb, bear and raccoon.
Some pieces take only days. Others, weeks.
A large 4-foot-by-4-foot framed painting of a chicken, titled ‘Red Knight’ took only a few days.
“I knew I wanted to paint him and it needed to be square. The large canvas was the only one I had on hand at the time, so that is what I used,” O’Connor said.
Red Knight was a favorite for many who attended “An Evening with the Artist.”
O’Connor is married to her high school sweetheart, Sean. The couple has four children and one grandchild. Active in the Abington community for more than 30 years, O’Connor and her husband owned Sole to Soul in Clarks Summit, which they closed in 2015.
“I closed my store in December right before Christmas, to spend time with family,” O’Connor said. “By February my mother in law needed care. Everything that unfolded, unfolded for a reason.”
“There was one painting I was working on for my husband. As I was painting it, I was really stuck. It was a painting of a storefront with a lot of things in the picture and a lot going on. I was having a really hard time with it. My teacher, Deb Hamby, gave me the best advice. She said, ‘take it and turn it upside down. Turn the reference photo upside down.’ So then I was looking at shapes and not the thing anymore. Then I could see what I needed to do.”
Being willing to look at her work – and her life – from a new perspective helps O’Connor whenever she is stuck.
Last year, she found herself busy with two weddings in the family and then the birth of her granddaughter, Valentine.
“I had a dry spell there for a few months and then was sick through the holidays,” she said. “I decided to do a painting a day in January and that got me out of it.”
Artist and teacher, Deb Hamby, along with Jennifer Brandon, encourage their students to do a 30-day challenge, with 30 paintings in 30 days.
One painting showed a pig with his snout raised in greeting.
“He had put his nose through the fence at me,” O’Connor said laughing. “I didn’t paint the fence, but I wanted to capture his expression.”
Discovering her talent and love for painting brings O’Connor joy, which she is happy to share. The artist’s work is available at Summit Frameworks.
“I do it for the joy and the love of it,” O’Connor said. “It’s absolutely fun. ... Life is not always planned, but it’s a journey and I just roll with it.”