Marilynn Brower: At Home With Art


By DOUG TONEY, Staff Writer

Strolling couples, art buyers and curious onlookers are enjoying their final two days of the 12th Annual Pletcher Village Art Festival, which began Thursday. More than 150 artists are showing their works in the open market held at Amish Acres. The arts and crafts of Indiana’s heritage covers acres of land with bluegrass music bubbling through the air, an undeniable open market atmosphere puts a country pleasantry to the surroundings.

This year marks both the Amish Acres’ and Nappanee’s Centennial year. Horse and buggy rides, tours of the Amish homes and demonstrations in the crafts of the state’s heritage provides the entertainment for those who attend.

Nearly $1,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to the winning paintings. Outstanding artists such as Ritrandreana Tomassinipaterno, of Miami Beach, Fla., Ruby Dillman of Silver Lake and Mary Dance of Mishawaka, have their works on display.

Many of the displays are family projects including two from Warsaw. James and Frances Townsend, a father and daughter pair will have a booth, as will Frank Greco, Jr., who will carry on the family pioneer craft of hand hooking rugs with his grandmother, wife and daughter.

Displaying and selling her paintings for the first time at a public show is Marilynn Brower, of near North Webster. Reviving her artistic talents after more than three years, Marilynn is entering scores of paintings and decoupage creations. "I’ve been painting since May of this year. I hadn’t really picked up a brush for about three years," reflects Marilynn.

"I have to get the bug to paint. This spring I saw some painting and they were for sale and I felt like I could do better than what I was seeing so I went home and pulled out the acrylics and started drawing flowers.

Her interest in art began with her years in 4-H. Supplementing her experience there, she took four years of art at North Webster High School. Experimenting with "op art and contemporary creations" Marilynn spent hours behind an easel.

Marilynn’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Reiff, have a "house-full" of Marilynn’s works from her 4-H years, Marilynn pulls out a trip to South America as her most treasured memory of the eight years spent in 4-H.

"I went to South America and I got to go because of my achievement book, I was one of 33 people from Indiana that was chosen to go. We spent three weeks in Peru, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil."

After high school, Marilynn married her high school sweetheart, Kent Brower, who is presently an engineering aid at United Telephone Service. Included in Marilynn and Kent’s family is their soon-to-be 4-year-old son, Bart.

Assuming the role of mother and wife diverted Marilynn’s interest away from art and, except for a couple paintings, let the skill lay idle. Then during the spring her interest became regenerated and the move back to art began.

Living in a trailer near Barbee Lake, the rooms are filled with scores of paintings and special decoupage designs, all heavily saturated with bright colors.

"I like to paint things that are pretty to the eye. I like to use bright colors. I just don’t like dull pictures. I like paintings that grab your eye once you enter the room."

With her painting focusing in on wildlife and nature several of the larger works of tiger cubs and animals are painted on canvas with a black background.

"Painting on black background makes your pictures stand out. You have to paint the whole canvas black and then let it dry a few minutes before you begin with the regular painting. One thing you don’t want to do is make a mistake, laughed the young painter.

Catching your eye is exactly what her paintings do as you enter the trailer. The canvases of deer and other wildlife are beautifully framed in frames constructed by her husband.

Utilizing wood from her father’s barn, Kent and Marilynn make frames for her canvases and boards from wood which is over a hundred years old.

With Kent cutting and fitting frames, the hobby of art has become a family affair. Her confidence to start up again and keep painting came from the girls she works with. Marilynn is employed at Time-Union in the composition department.

"One evening after I had seen some paintings at Clarksville, I decided that I could do as good as that. So one morning I took a few paintings into work and the girls really liked them. I sold eight paintings to the people at work and they gave me the encouragement I needed. I’ve never had a group of people behind me like they have been. They’ve simply been great encouragement," said Marilynn.

Marilynn has been employed at the Time-Union for a year. Originally hired as a typist, and make-up worker, her duties have now turned more to the art department where she does the necessary art work for advertising ads and displays.

The confidence Marilynn talked about is nothing more than a perpetuation of her art ability to sell itself. Noting that money does play a part in her interest, the selling of her works help pay for the cost and time involved in her regenerated hobby.

To sell her paintings this week, Marilynn took her vacation time to set up camp and her booth of works at Nappanee.

Her paintings range from $35 for her acrylic creations to $5 and $7.50 for her decoupage works.

Marilynn is the only daughter of the four children born to Bob and Pat Reiff. Her younger three brothers, Tom, Mark and Ralph, have been successful athletics for Wawasee High School.

Her trailer, located only a couple of miles from her parents’ home, is very close to her husband’s family home. Being life-long neighbors and living in the community has an evident existence as the rural community involvement is part of the Reiff family personality. 4-H is still an active part for the family as Ralph the youngest brother, won his division in the recent sheep judging at the Kosciusko County Fair.

Ralph also was nominated as King of the Fair this year and has been busy all week reigning over the fair festivities with fair queen Ann Kaiser.

Since the "bug" hit Marilynn, this spring, her artistic concern is definitely oriented towards nature and animals, a possible influence of her rural upbringing. A large, acrylic painting of a proud deer sits humbly on the living room floor, surrounded by numerous smaller but equally precise paintings.

Two acrylic paintings of tiger cubs are sitting on small stands in the kitchen, both similar but different in the style of composure.

"Both of the tiger paintings are from the same photograph. But after I sold the first one, I decided to do another one, but as you can see they are different. That’s how much my perception of the same picture has changed in just a few weeks," commented the 23-year-old artist.

The original painting, heavily laden bright yellows, oranges and browns, has precise lines and details that push a near life like empathy from the observer. Her second painting is less bright and more fluid, projecting an image of life instead of a reproduction of life. Both paintings successfully seem to project the same feeling, but through different means of expression.

The acrylic area of her art is one which Marilynn enjoys. The flexibility of its usage over the conventional oils has added a new dimension to her art has it has for many artists.

"With acrylic you can do so much more with texture," explained the Time-Union employee, "You can pile it on real thick, directly from the tube if you want. I’ve done that to several paintings, and it gives them a thickness, a texture that allows for a whole new area to work with."

Another of the advantages of acrylic paints is the characteristic that allows the paints to be mixed with water to give a water color texture to a painting.

Harsh, clean lines and divisions can be diffused and blended, giving a more tranquil, light contrast to an image. The bright, alive colors can be mellowed out to a pastel tranquility that presents a completely separate field in which to work and experiment.

Probably the quickest to create but yet one of the most consistently unique and attractive creations are her works in decoupage. Utilizing the century old wood from her father's barn, boards are cut into sections of less than a foot long and then the late night hours are filled with Marilynn drawing flowers, mushrooms and little children in different bright scenarios that are beautifully accented by their aged foundation.

The acrylics applied easily to the wood, according to Marilynn, and the paint doesn’t soak into the wood to any serious degree after the final touches are completed the board is sprayed with a sealer that covers and preserves the art work, giving the wall decorators an increased amount of longevity.

Showing a personal favoritism for the small creations, her walls are lined with her favorite pieces and gives the trailer an artistic, aesthetic tone and decor.

Demonstrating a curiosity with new techniques, Marilynn is creating three dimensional decoupage pieces by using the rather bizarre combination of common bread and Elmer’s glue.

"I take one slice of bread, and one teaspoon of glue. Mix it together in a glob and just squish it around," moaned Marilynn, imitating the facial expression that such a conglomeration creates on a person's face. "After it’s mixed up well, you mold it into the form you want and stick it in the refrigerator."

The effect are pleasing as you see the finished product. The unlikely mixture forms beautifully into the shapes of mushrooms and other plants, and once painted, present a remarkably aesthetic creation.

Experimentation, working on new techniques and looking for an emphasis, takes time, and with the three way job of worker, wife and mother, it sometimes is hard to devote as much time to the creative field as Marilynn would like to have.

When asked what are her most productive hours, she laughed and said, " When everybody is in bed. Painting is something that, once you sit down, you want to stay. With supper and meals to fix and a home to clean it’s almost impossible – like when the TV is going, I usually wait until Kent and Bart go to bed. Then from about 11 o’clock at night till one in the morning is the best time. It’s quiet and I can concentrate so much easier.

Each painting has its separate timetable, according to the paint-by-night artist, with many factors setting the pace.

"When I paint and I’m doing something for someone, I can do the paintings in a couple of settings because I like to do these things for people when I know they want it," said Mrs. Brower.

Another determining factor is the complexity of the project, with some of her works in acrylics, especially the large paintings which sometimes take several weeks, including a portrait of a gospel group that is entered this week at the Kosciusko County Fair. Also entered in the contest is her original tiger cubs painting that is already sold.

But the two entries at the fair are having to take a back seat to the festivities at the Amish Acres art show where Marilynn sits and paints as passer-bys look and comment on her creations.

Warsaw Times-Union Spotlight August 10-17, 1974