Layering patience with joy of painting


George H. Barrett says his interest in painting was whetted in high school, but he didn't start dabbling in art until he retired from Westinghouse three years ago.

Mr. Barrett, who has been taking watercolor and oil painting classes at the Pascal Senior Center in Glen Burnie, says he "likes watercolor a little better. My oil paintings come out a little dark a lot of time."

One of his watercolors, a seascape of a lighthouse, won third place at the 1994 Anne Arundel County Fair. He didn't enter this year's fair competition.

Mr. Barrett, a retired software test engineer who has been widowed twice, said the art class provides a social outlet and a chance to be creative.

"You can start with an idea and expand on the idea," said Mr. Barrett, 68, of Ferndale.

Yesterday, he worked on a landscape, a house surrounded by a field of grass.

"I usually take a reference and use it as a starting point and work from there," he said.

He has tried painting images he has dreamed of, such as a rocking chair sitting near a big bowl, both illuminated by a bright light in the distance.

"The chair and the bowl were heading toward the light. It came out all right. It just wasn't what I expected," he says, adding that the painting lacked the dramatic imagery he had wanted to convey.

His teacher, Martha C. Lenhoff, says he has shown steady progress. Mr. Barrett's painting of the lighthouse is among her favorites because of the way light and dark colors blend to achieve a soft tone, she said.

"I think [watercoloring] came naturally to him. Yet watercolor is a difficult medium. I'd say it's more unforgiving" than oil painting, she says. Mistakes made with oil are easier to paint over than errors made in watercolor, she says.

Mr. Barrett says he usually paints for a stretch of two hours at a time. A simple painting, perhaps a still life of a jug surrounded by pieces of fruit, can be finished in a few weeks. More elaborate subjects can take a month or more to finish. The secret, he says, is patience.

"When they don't turn out the way you think they should, you have to go back in and try again," he says.

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