BURLINGTON/HARWINTON — From the breakers rolling ashore on Cape Cod to the rolling hills and meadows of her beloved Litchfield County, Margaret Schuster finds inspiration for her paintings everywhere she looks.
Prior to the library closing because of the COID-19 virus crises, the Burlington resident was delighting patrons of the Harwinton Library with her collection of paintings in the library’s “spotlight gallery.” Her show entitled “Farm & Nature” includes landscapes, animals and nature scenes done in pastel or oil. Who knows how long the library will remain closed, the paintings seen only by the small staff that is working there. But even if it is only a few dedicated workers who get to view the artwork, they still are bringing a smile and a sense of joy to the beholder.
Schuster said, “My career as a teacher and naturalist have taught me to look closely at everything and that is reflected in my work. I especially enjoy painting scenes from my farm.” And her paintings reflect that strong emotional connection to the land and nature in general, showing us that God is in the details and the scenes depicted need not be grand in scale and scope to inspire and bring a sense of peace to the viewer.
Schuster is quite accomplished at her art, considering she began painting in earnest only six years ago when she retired as an educator, mostly teaching environmental education, she explained. She graduated from Central Connecticut State University with a degree in child development. She has lived her entire life on her family’s farm and considers herself a farmer by nature, and is self trained.
Although she got serious about her painting when she retired from teaching in 2014, Schuster said “I have always been interested in art. As a kid I loved my Crayola crayons and making mud pies. Over the years, I have dabbled in painting and pencil drawings.”
Her formal training consists of art classes in high school and college, and she has recently taken classes and workshops with master pastelists Alain Picard, Liz Haywood Sullivan and Karen Israel, whom have inspired her, and have taught her various nuances of art as well. She “works at it every day,” she added.
“I love pastels; the colors are so rich. I also do oils, some acrylic and recently started collage.” Schuster believes she has matured as an artist since those early days of learning how to transfer scenes from the natural world to canvas. “I have changed a lot. I have definitely become bolder and loose in my works. I use more color and larger strokes to create an atmosphere.”
She speaks of her love of the outdoors and how it has dramatically influenced her art. “My inspiration really comes from nature, I like to paint landscapes, water and plants.” She also talked about her influencers. “I admire my high school art teacher, the late Joan Stolicny. Anyone who went to Lewis Mills High School and had her as a teacher would agree. She always encouraged us and taught us so much.”
Schuster discussed her pure enjoyment of art and being engaged in the work. “I really do enjoy the process of painting. I get totally absorbed in my work and sometimes I get carried away. Then my painting takes on a life of its own — sometimes that works out. Last summer I began painting en plein air. It is a good way to make you more observant.”
Schuster has shown her work at a number of displays, including area libraries, as well as at Jerram Winery, the Gallery on the Green in Canton, New Hartford Town Hall, Avon Town Hall, Seabury in Bloomfield, and the McLean Home in Simsbury. She has been in juried shows such as the Kent Art League, Underground Gallery, West Hartford Art League, and Granby Land Trust.
“I enjoy exhibiting my work and I plan to enter more juried shows,” she said. “I am also hoping to become accepted into the Connecticut Women’s Artists organization.”
She discussed several of her paintings and how they came to be created. “In `Girl on a Swing’, it was a hot summer day and this girl in a pretty white dress was on this swing. I believe the painting makes the girl feel like she is in motion.” Indeed, the painting is a visually sweet depiction of a young girl enjoying a beautiful day, and the movement of the swing, as she looks at the beauty all about her.
“In ‘The Marsh,’ I love painting water and the colors in this painting make you feel as if you are there.” Schuster brings the viewer to a place of solitude in this work, where worry and cares can fade into the land.
Another painting, “Way Days,” draws the viewer in to admire how Shuster has captured sunlight playing off the tips of the breaking waves, and white sea foam below it splashes onto a beach on Cape Cod. “The painting is from First Encounter Beach,” she said, located in the quaint fishing village of Wellfleet on the bay side of the Cape.
The Cape Cod scene was a bit of a departure for her as an artist. “I usually paint local scenes,” said Schuster. “There are so many scenic places right here in Connecticut that I have plenty of subject matter. We have rolling hills, marshes streams and gorgeous sunsets. My favorite place in Litchfield County would have to be New Hartford. I have quite few pieces done there.”
Margaret Schuster reminds us to look around, especially during these troubling times, and drink in the beauty that surrounds us as a way to soothe and calm our minds.