'Teach me to doodle better' Artist: So it began for a Sykesville sketcher who has become an accomplished artist with her first show in just eight years in time for her 100th birthday.

March 16, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

At 92, Daisy W. Troxell discovered the artist within herself and has devoted the past eight years to painting. She calls her talent "the greatest gift," one she gave herself late in life.

"By the time you are 92, you are supposed to be finished, but I thought, 'There is something I have got to do,' " she said. "I found out I could draw."

Troxell celebrates her centennial April 1 with an exhibit of 26 paintings at Fairhaven Retirement Community in Sykesville, where she lives. The exhibit reflects only part of the numerous works Troxell has produced in her 10th decade.

"The volume of her work is enormous," said Ruth E. Dodge, who coordinates art exhibits for Fairhaven. "She has a real knack for animals, especially their fur or their feathers."

Troxell's softly colored drawings of bears and kittens share space in the Fairhaven gallery with her lively sailboats and vibrant landscapes. Among her favorites is a buffalo herd racing against a background of storm clouds.

"I am complimented that they think my things are worth putting up," she said.

A lifelong doodler, Troxell joined an art class at Fairhaven Retirement Community shortly after moving there from her home in Roland Park in 1989.

"All I asked was, 'Teach me to doodle better,' " she said. "It is nice to find out how I should draw."

For her first picture, she copied a photograph of Mount Hood, the highest point in Oregon, and surprised herself when her blues and grays became a mountain.

"I am not an artist -- just a copier," she said. "I am not original, but I like the challenge of painting."

She signs her paintings, careful to credit the artist, if she knows who did the original. Although "Manet and Monet are beyond caring," she said.

She might be a copier but "she puts a lot of herself into the things she copies," Dodge said.

Troxell quickly progressed from still lifes to animals. "Everybody does vases, and I get a little bored with flowers. Animals are much easier. You can cover up their faces with fur," she said.

On Fridays, Troxell drives her electric cart to Fairhaven's art room. Sometimes, she admits, she speeds.

"I see an empty corridor and I think, 'Why not?' " she said. "Even when I use my cane, I walk fast. I am determined to get going and to keep going."

She paints under the guidance of Shirley Lippy, an art teacher with the Carroll Community College Extended Learning program.

"Shirley is an inspiration," Troxell said. "She brings lovely things to do and really encourages us. But she never touches our work, even though it must be an awful temptation. She never imposes herself on us."

Lippy creates an atmosphere conducive to painting. Music plays softly in the background. A flower arrangement graces a table. Students may find inspiration in a pile of photographs. Troxell, who prefers sitting at a table to standing at an easel, thumbs through the pictures.

"Soon as I see something I like, that is what I paint," Troxell said. "If I'm not interested, I don't get anywhere."

Two butterflies hovering on a branch of a budding willow tree are her latest project. One butterfly has folded wings and rests at the bottom of the branch; the other spreads its wings atop the branch.

She spent most of her class last week coloring the branch several hues of brown and making the gray buds look fuzzy. What she did not like, she scraped off with a small knife.

"You have to get the first strokes in to indicate contour and make them stand out," she said.

When she started painting, cataracts made it difficult for her distinguish colors. The results were a purple chipmunk and a hot pink fox.

"I scraped them off and did them over," she said.

Lippy helped by labeling all the pencils and sorting them by color. She says her eldest student has "a built-in sense of color and she knows instinctively the right choices."

Troxell has painted animals in their true colors since a surgeon removed the cataract from her right eye.

She also has developed a technique and a medium for herself, an unusual combination of colored pencils and oil pastels, Lippy said.

"She has the true spirit of an artist, willing to strike out in new directions," Lippy said.

Painting puts any worries on hold and may be the key to her longevity, Troxell said.

"You can lose yourself in your painting," she said. "I lose myself in something I am producing."

Troxell is one of three "April Fools," who reside at Fairhaven and take turns playing host for the annual birthday celebration.

"I never set 100 as a goal; it just eased up on me," she said.

Jane Weyrauch, 67, just joined the art class. She calls Troxell an inspiration.

"Daisy is just like Grandma Moses," she said, referring to the artist who painted in a primitive style and became well-known late in life. "Daisy never started painting until she was 92, and look at what she has accomplished. I came here to start again. Daisy really is an inspiration to us all to keep going."

Pub Date: 3/16/97

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