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Down Time During The Pandemic Helps One Ozark Resident Discover A Love Of Painting

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Jeannette Erter
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Jeannette Erter, who lives in Ozark, has lost count of the number of acrylic paintings she’s done, but it’s well over 100 and likely closer to 200.

Early last year, the 75-year-old was busy volunteering at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center and attending meetings of a writing group she’s involved in and a retired teachers’ group.  But then the pandemic hit, stay at home orders were issued, and the retired biology teacher suddenly found herself stuck at home with lots of time on her hands.

"We stay in as much as possible," she said.  "When we do go out it's usually early in the morning or late in the evening, and of course we wear a mask everywhere, and recently we've been double masking."

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Credit Jeannette Erter
A painting by Jeannette Erter

Erter had taken a couple of painting classes at the Christian County Library in late 2019, and she really enjoyed them.  Her husband, Don, noticed.

"For Christmas last year he bought me a whole bundle of canvases, and I bought some more acrylic paint, and I just started using reference photos to get some ideas," she said.  "Actually I started with some old birthday cards that had things on the front of them, and I looked at those and would copy them so to speak, in your own way."

In mid to late spring last year, Erter picked up her newfound hobby in earnest.  She dusted off her canvases, got out her brushes and palette and set up a studio of sorts—a table in a sunny area of her home—and got to work.

"For awhile there it was like one a day, and they range from really small ones--5x7s--to, I have a couple that are like 20x20," she said.  "I found some canvases at a thrift store that didn't have much on them, and I just painted over them, and, you know, I did some big ones on those."

Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes, and the more Erter painted, the more her skills with the paintbrush improved.  She tends to paint nature scenes, but she’s done some still lifes, too.

"I will think of something or see something and go, 'ooh.  That would be a neat painting.  How  would I go about doing it?'" 

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Credit Jeannette Erter
Several of Jeannette Erter's paintings on a bookshelf

Erter said she’s always had a creative streak in her dating back to when she was a child.  But she’d never really tapped into it until the pandemic.

"When I was in sixth grade they had me color a Christmas scene with colored chalk on a chalkboard," she said, "and I think I've had this kind of in the background for years maybe, and it just kind of surfaced when I had more time to do it."

Basic supplies to purchase if you would like to try painting include paint, something to paint on, which varies according to the medium, a pallet and brushes.  Bryan Sanders works at National Art Shop in Springfield.

"The best advice I can give anyone on this is watercolor requires the least amount of things because all you need is the paint and a piece of paper whereas with acrylic it's very similar, but they prefer to be painted on a harder surface," said Sanders.

And oil painting requires hard surfaces or canvases as well as cleaning supplies.

He said the main thing is to not be afraid to try something new.  And, according to Sanders, there are many benefits to tapping into your creative side.

"It just sparks the feeling of being alive," he said, "and particularly right now with COVID and the fear factor that we see around us.  It just eliminates fear."

Painting has been a diversion for Erter—something to keep her busy even though she’s not painting as much since her in-person meetings moved online and some online volunteer opportunities have resumed at the nature center.

Erter and her husband continue to stick close to home to protect themselves from the coronavirus, and painting continues to be a sort of therapy—a way to keep boredom at bay and a chance to dream.

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Credit Jeannette Erter
A painting by Jeannette Erter

"It makes me think of places I'd like to go," she said.  "I have been to the Tetons, and I thought, you know, 'Don's never been (my husband), and I'd like to take him out there,' and so that was something I kind of thought of," she said.  "Then I have a cousin who lives near Mt. Ranier, and she posted a picture, and I texted her and said, 'hey, could I try to paint that?' and it turned out to be one of my favorites, and it's a small one, one I feel the most about.  So, I think it's just kind of helped me get through this by focusing on something other than, you know, have to sit here and twiddle my thumbs, which, besides painting, I also crochet and knit and read a lot."

This newfound love of painting is something Erter said she’ll continue to pursue even after the pandemic is over.

"I think that I will probably continue to paint off and on from time to time," she said.  "I have slowed down some.  There for awhile I didn't do any because I think I had kind of painted myself out but then I found some things, and I thought, 'well let's do this,' and I'd sit and do some more.  But once I get back to where I can go to my writing group or back volunteering at the nature center or those I probably will slow down.  I have set up a card table and an old shower curtain as a cover to keep it clean, and everything sets up, and I can come in here at any time and paint."