Artist sees more in rocks than meets the eye
Lincolnville — Residents of Midcoast Maine see rocks all the time – so much, in fact, that most of us have probably stopped seeing them at all. But summer resident Marge Olson looks at a barnacle-covered rock and sees a basket of flowers; the curve on the end of another specimen suggests a lady’s hat or a Smurf’s cap.
Olson and her husband, Bob, have been coming to Lincolnville Beach in May and returning to their home in Arlington, Va., in October for five years, and each summer Marge has done paintings on rocks. Even before the art major and former special education teacher started painting rocks, she noticed them. “I’ve been a rock collector all my life,” she said. She’s collected rocks in Canada and various places in Maine, as well as around Lincolnville. “Wherever I am, a rock will catch my eye.”
The paintings started as something to be passed out to trick-or-treaters at Halloween, Olson said. At first, she had half rocks and half candy, but the rocks proved so popular that she soon just offered rocks to children coming to her Virginia door. Kids come back year after year to add to their collection of painted rocks. Last year, she said, she took home 120 rocks for Halloween and ran out.
She has pirates, superheroes, Smurfs, the Grinch and other themes that appeal to children, and when she offers those for sale (they’re free to trick-or-treaters, of course), she charges just $1 to make them affordable for youthful budgets. Rocks painted to appeal to grownups range from $2.50 to $3.
The proceeds go to the Lincolnville Improvement Association’s (LIA) scholarship fund, Olson said, and she donates some of her rocks to the LIA to sell at its annual Blueberry WingDing each summer.
Often, the shape or texture of a rock will suggest the subject for a painting, as with the barnacles that made Olson think of flowers. Certain rounded rocks look to her like a woman’s face looking out from under a hat: these she calls her “cloche ladies.”
Other subjects include penguins, puffins, loons, butterflies, angelfish and quilt squares, but the rocks don’t always cooperate. “Loons are really hard to find,” Olson said.
She finds it usually works best to paint the whole rock, rather than trying to make use of the colors in the rock, because they look pale next to the paint. The rocks, which are mostly hand-sized or smaller, are not intended to be displayed outdoors, as Olson uses acrylic paint, which would wash off in water.
Lately, Olson has started selling her rocks through Dwight Wass’ Lincolnville Fine Art gallery at 2522 Atlantic Hwy. Wass will price the rocks and pass the proceeds on to the LIA. The gallery is open afternoons and evenings or by appointment.
Sarah E. Reynolds is a reporter for the Camden Herald.
Sarah E. Reynolds has been a reporter and writer for more than 20 years, winning awards from the Maine Press Association and other professional organizations. She loves to read, hike and play word games.
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