Hampstead artist wins top prize in seniors show Norman Rockwell among his heroes

June 09, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

Hampstead artist Francis C. Wolfinger didn't make his living as a painter.

"I would have starved to death," he said.

But with his painting "A Touch of Baltimore Street, Taneytown," Mr. Wolfinger, who has been painting for most of his 72 years, carried off Best of Show honors in the Carroll County section of the Second Annual Maryland You Are Beautiful Senior Citizen Fine Arts Competition.

The local competition, sponsored by the Carroll County Bureau of Aging and the Carroll County Arts Council, attracted 14 entries.

"Mr. Wolfinger is an incredible technician," said Hilary Pierce, executive director of the Carroll County Arts Council. "His proportions are really wonderful."

But she added, "What makes it [the painting] beautiful is the light. There's not one flaw in what happens in this picture. . . . There's not a wrong shadow in this piece."

She also praised Mr. Wolfinger's skill at making the painting's background recede through the use of muted colors, which contrast with the vivid colors in the foreground.

Mr. Wolfinger's painting also won Best Oil/Acrylic.

Other winners included "Glass Study," by Fran Nyce, which was named Best Watercolor, and "The Sentinel," by George Miller, Best Woodcarving.

Honorable mentions were awarded to "Anne's Primroses," an oil by Eve Smith, and "Rose Trellis," a watercolor by Katherine Jerome.

Judges were Mark Cherry, a local woodcarver; Joyce Blair, a pastel and watercolor artist; and Scott Grimes, a visual artist and graphic designer who designed the Carroll County Arts Council logo.

The prize for Best of Show includes a weekend getaway and a reception in Annapolis with Gov. William Donald Schaefer as host.

Mr. Wolfinger and his wife, Mildred, will miss the governor's reception because it falls on the day of their 50th wedding anniversary, the occasion for the family's first reunion in more than 14 years.

Art is part of Mr. Wolfinger's heritage. An uncle was an illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post, and Mr. Wolfinger wanted to follow in his footsteps.

He studied art at the Philadelphia Industrial School of Art (now the University of the Arts).

"It was a tough racket to get into," Mr. Wolfinger said.

He ended up working for a pen company in New Jersey and later for Kirk Stieff Co. in Baltimore, where he was manager of purchasing and engineering. But painting remained a lifelong hobby.

His prize entry and other works in the Maryland You Are Beautiful show hang in the Carroll County Arts Council gallery on a wall opposite works by high school seniors from around the county.

"It was really an eye-opener for me to hang this show," Ms. Pierce said.

She said the contrast between the high school students' work and the older artists' work impressed her.

"These creative outputs are so symbolic of certain stages of life," she said.

Young people in the show, Ms. Pierce said, depicted conflict and seemed to view life as a series of hurdles to be overcome. They used images such as flames, a drowning man and a soldier in Somalia.

The older artists, she said, painted images of beauty they want to remember, such as a rose trellis or a beach.

Mr. Wolfinger said the first artwork he remembers creating was a copy of a Wrigley Spearmint Gum advertisement he did when he was 4 years old.

Many of his recent works involve painstaking library research to re-create details such as horses' harnesses and wagon styles of a particular period.

Mr. Wolfinger said his artistic heroes are Norman Rockwell and Mort Kunstler, whose Civil War scenes are full of accurate detail and skilled handling of light.

"I like the challenge of going through all the preliminaries" of research and layout sketches, he said. "It's a puzzle, really."

Mr. Wolfinger said artistic talent isn't a gift from God, but the result of schooling and practice.

"The gift is not the ability to do it," he said. "It's the desire."

Entries in the Maryland You Are Beautiful contest will be on display until June 18 in the Carroll County Arts Council gallery, 15 E. Main St., Westminster. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.

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