Painting scenes on screens in Canton

SUNDAY SNAPSHOTS

Christine Maxwell...

April 07, 1996|By Richard O'Mara

Painting scenes on screens in Canton; Christine Maxwell: Artist's apprentice hopes she will have a brush with success as a screen painter.

Now that it's spring, Christine Maxwell hopes people are thinking about getting their screens painted, enough of them at least to get her new career launched. She's been practicing all winter in her Canton studio. Canton is to screen painting what Florence is to Renaissance art.

Ms. Maxwell thinks maybe screen painting is in her genes. Don't laugh; there have been weird-er evolutions.

She fits the profile of someone born to screen paint. Her maiden name, Lipka, is shared by one of Baltimore's most accomplished folk artists, Tom Lipka. (Ms. Maxwell doesn't know if they're related, but means to find out.)

She was born in Highlandtown and has spent all her 27 years around painted screens. She knows she won't make a lot of money painting screens.

"I just don't want it to die out."

Also, she's never had any formal art training.

"It came real natural to me," she says. "The whole idea is, [connoisseurs of painted screens] want you to be real naive about it, keep it real simple."

"Real simple" means a swan in a lake, a cottage with a red roof. Mountains are optional. That's good: Ms. Maxwell's mountains look like sharks' teeth.

Actually, Ms. Maxwell is still an apprentice, to the great screen artist Dee Herget. But apprenticeships are short in this game: You get some paint, some screens; you paint and paint. That's it.

There aren't many screen artists in Baltimore, or anywhere else, either. But then not many people want painted screens these days. You could say supply and demand are in equipoise.

But Chrissy Maxwell -- that's how she signs her screens -- has already had an inkling of success. She got a commission to paint a screen for a North Baltimore merchant. And a woman recently dropped off a screen at her studio; She wants a red-roofed house and a pond with swans. What else? When Chrissy gets paid she will become a professional screen painter. Nirvana. My baby (hiccup) said he loved me (hiccup), and it made me all twitchy inside (hiccup).

Absolutely, it sounds better than it reads. The lyrics and hiccupy singing spring from Ruthie Logsdon of Ruthie and the Wranglers of Takoma Park. They have a twitchy single out called "Rockabilly Song #10."

The single is to be played at 45 revolutions per minute. You'll need one of those old adapters. "Where do you get those things?" Ruthie asks. "Ah, could be a marketing problem."

Ruthie and the Wranglers play honky-tonk rockabilly, leaving only one question: What is honky-tonk rockabilly?

"I don't know. OK, I'm only kidding," says Ruthie. "Rockabilly and honky-tonk are two different sounds, actually. Rockabilly has a very strong back-beat groove. The bass and snare drum really pop. And there's a lot more nonsense in the lyrics than you would find in country songs."

You're a true (hiccup) fine papa and if you stay (hiccup) I promise I'll throw away (hiccup) my gun.

"It's called the hillbilly hiccup. It's fairly traditional," Ruthie says. "It becomes part of the song and the delivery."

During the 1960s, Ruthie hung on the every words of Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn and Elvis. She wasn't grooving to rock. For example, she has never heard of bad girl pop-star Alanis Morissette. "Well, she's never heard of me."

True, Alanis has not heard "Rockabilly Song #10." She probably doesn't have an adapter.

Ruthie and the Wranglers are scheduled to appear May 26 at the Chesapeake Country Music Festival in Essex.

Pub Date: 4/07/96

Rob Hiaasen

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