Pamela Wilde spent the last year painting portraits in a studio space at the Artists Emporium in downtown Havre de Grace.
“I wanted to do something special for my 55th year,” Wilde, of Abingdon, said.
From Jan. 26, 2018 to Jan. 25, 2019, for her Portraits from Havre de Grace project, she painted 120 portraits of 119 people (one person was spread on two canvases).
“I wanted to inspire people to think about being painted, to democratize the portrait, to make everybody realize they’re valuable,” said Wilde, primarily and oil painter. “It’s not just for the president of the bank, the retiring doctor. Everybody is worthy of being painted. Everybody contributes to the community in a different way and we’re all very important no matter where your station in life is.”
Wilde’s portraits are on display through April 30 at the Artists Emporium, 220 N. Washington St.. It’s the only time all of the portraits will be shown together.
She will be giving a talk on the project at 6 p.m. April 18 at the gallery.
Wilde considered the project for three years.
“I didn’t go into it lightly. I was scared I might fail, I might embarrass myself,” she said.
Then she had to organize it, set it up so people could sign up easily and make it affordable. The $50 registration fee covered Wilde’s supplies, but not her labor.
She said she put 1,500 hours into the project and 3,500 miles on her car.
Wilde said she would have been happy to get 50 models and was thrilled to get 119.
Once the exhibit closes, the portraits will be available for sale. The ones that don’t sell will go into storage or possibly be shown elsewhere.
What Wilde is more excited about, however, is the possible conversations that stem from her project.
She’s hoping to create conversation, to get people thinking along the lines of not waiting until someone passes away to have their portraits painted, Wilde said.
Wilde’s youngest model was 7 months old, the oldest model was well into her 90s. She also painted Camay Murphy, daughter of Cab Calloway; Havre de Grace Mayor William T. Martin, city council members Carolyn Zinner and Jason Robertson, and Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor, senior commander of Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Wilde worked painting the 7-month-old, Asher, around his naptime. His mom fed him a big lunch, made sure he had a clean diaper and took him for a walk in a stroller before bringing him to the studio.
“We got to work as quickly as possible. I had 45 minutes before he woke up,” Wilde said. “I got enough I was still able to make a pretty good painting.
Bob Greene of Havre de Grace was another subject of her paintings.
“He’s an older gentleman, an elderly African-American gentleman who walks around with his bucket and picker picking up cigarette butts,” Wilde said to describe Greene, who founded the CAT (Citizens Against Trash) Club of Havre de Grace. “He came in and sat with me. I got to meet him and hear about his passions. I learned he hates cigarette butts.”
One of Greene’s first questions for Wilde was whether she smoked, she said. She happily told him she does not.
Greene wanted his picker included in his portrait.
“Bob is such a beautiful person, the picker is dirty, gross, it stinks,” Wilde said she told Greene. But her persisted. So I put the picker in the painting, on the far edge of the canvas, to get it as far away from him as I could.”
She painted Maggie Paukovits’ four children — Sadie, 6; Sari, 7; Donovan, 13; and Riley, 15, at the time of their paintings.
Something magical happened when Wilde was painting Donovan’s portrait, she said.
“I had him in his seat, and every once in a while you get a voice. There was something special [about this one], so I just stopped,” Wilde said.
It was only about 2 hours into what is typically a three-hour session and Wilde called Donovan’s mom, Maggie Paukovits, to pick him up.
“She walked around the easel and she got teary-eyed,” Wilde said. “I knew I stopped at the right moment. I knew I touched her heart. It’s always nice when you know your painting resonates with someone.”
Donovan, 14, is “at an age where he is becoming independent and less accessible,” his mother said.
“When I saw his painting, I became emotional because I immediately saw sweetness in his eyes that reminded me of when he was small,” Maggie said. “Pamela captured a part of Donovan that I will always be able to revisit through her painting.”
Wilde is proud of all four of the Paukovits’ portraits.
Working with children is unpredictable, but the Paukovitses were “so easy to work with and just beautiful kids. They had a greater appreciation for art than most children their ages,” Wilde said.
Maggie Paukovits said she wanted the kids to be a part of Wilde's project because she and her husband, Andrew, are raising their family in Havre de Grace and she wanted them to have something to look back on when they are older to remember their childhoods.
“I also though the project was something unique and I wanted to make sure that our youngest citizens were represented,” she said. “My daughters, Sari and Sadie, were thrilled to see their principal, Mr. [Ron] Wooden, alongside them on the gallery wall.”