Meet the Artists: Three in Washington ‘get real’

Meet the Artists

This is the third in a weekly series of articles on the artists you can visit during this year’s Artists of Rappahannock Studio & Gallery Tour on Nov. 6-7, sponsored by the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and the Community (RAAC). This week we visit with three artists based in the town of Washington.

Artists: Geneva Welch, Linda Lawler and Kevin Adams.

Tour dates: Nov. 6-7

Tickets/info: 540-675-3193 or www.raac.org.

Little Washington is not a big place, but it seems to attract an abundance of artistic talent. Three artists painting in the vein of realism are the subjects of this week’s spotlight on participants in November’s Rappahannock Studio and Gallery Tour.

Getting ready for this tour may be stressful for some, but for Washington-based painter Kevin Adams it’s a walk in the park — literally.

Adams paints at his Gay Street studio, on location around Rappahannock landscapes and inside Shenandoah National Park. Adams’ notable paintings are so lifelike, you feel you could walk right inside one to nap by a tree trunk and listen to a brook babble.

The U.S. Department of Interior commissioned Adams in the 1990s to paint landscapes for the anniversary celebrations of two National Parks, and recently asked him to participate in the upcoming 75th anniversary celebration of Shenandoah National Park. (The latter will culminate with a show of Adams’ work at the Inn at Little Washington on Nov. 21, with seven of them now being previewed at the inn’s shop.)

Kevin Adams finds subject matter for his art in and around Rappahannock County. Photo by Megan S. Smith.

Avid Rappahannock hikers may recognize some local sites in Adams’ oil paintings — Mary’s Rock, Old Rag Mountain, White Oak Canyon Falls — but each feels distinctive. “It’s not just the colors or shapes,” Adams said, “but also whether it is a humid August afternoon or a cool fall morning light.”

Plucking heirloom tomatoes from his garden, Adams also paints rough still lifes in the summertime, later finishing indoors when outdoor location painting nips the nose.

Adams began painting in middle school in Oxford, Md. After studying art in southern France and Minneapolis, his career took him around the world and as far away as the Soviet Union. Later he was awarded the title of “Combat Artist” as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. Adams is currently represented by galleries in New York City and Washington, D.C., and co-owns the lovely Gay Street Inn with Jay Brown.

If you see someone prowling around the forest’s edge, wading through a scummy pond, or tiptoeing through cow patties at sunrise, chances are you just met artist Geneva Welch.

Animals figure prominently in the art Geneva Welch creates. Photo by Megan S. Smith.

“I guess you could say I’m a stalker,” Welch said. And stalk she does — sheep, deer, cows, cats, dogs, pigs, herons, you name it. She takes photos of her animal subjects that she later turns into paintings in her studio. A chance sighting of a frog in her dog’s bowl “led to a whole series,” she said.

Always working multiple pieces in various stages, Welch’s Town of Washington studio/gallery is adorned with oils, pastels and prints of her beloved animals. Others she turns into Christmas ornaments, mugs and bottle stoppers.

Why four-legged creatures? Allegheny County-raised Welch seemed to “always be outside” with mammals, she said. Thinking Welch was “crazy,” her friends even found her occasionally lounging in a “lawn chair looking at cows.”

Some 22 years ago, Welch moved to Flint Hill, where she still resides with husband Roger. She studied art at Virginia Commonwealth University and has been practicing it her entire life. A former award-winning graphic designer, her signage still hangs today at the Kennedy Center.

Beltway traffic forced her to reconsider marketing her work in Georgetown and Old Town Alexandria galleries. Visiting her current galleries in the Carolinas twice a year, she now dabbles in lovely water scenes at twilight.

Welch recently entered her work in national miniature painting contests in Washington, D.C., and at the Ice House Gallery in the town of Washington. She paints “what she loves,” Welch said, creating realistic masterpieces seemingly detailed enough to board Noah’s ark all by themselves.

Self-taught artist Linda Lawler forged a second career in art after retiring from government service. Photo by Megan S. Smith.

Linda Lawler was a frequent visitor of the principal’s office growing up. Her crime? Drawing.

Perhaps this was her clue to go into art professionally. Instead, she worked as a U.S. postmaster at multiple sites, one of them Amissville, for 28 years.

Then in 1998 her paintings were accepted into several national art shows and Lawler knew her time was coming. In 2000, she finally found the nerve to leave government work and follow her dream.

Working mostly in oil, Lawler’s detailed realistic work is remarkable, yet she is self-taught. Her drive to learn is simply based on her desire to paint. “I love painting people,” Marshall-based Lawler who runs the Ice House Gallery in Washington, said, “and animals.”

Lawler landed one of the 50 coveted “Registered Copyist Program” spots, allowing her to copy famous works on her own canvasses in D.C.’s National Gallery of Art. “At first it was [intimidating],” she said, but she soon got used to people observing over her shoulder.

Half of Lawler’s work is commissioned by admirers, the majority being pet portraits, but she also paints landscapes. She admired artist Norman Rockwell growing up, falling in love with his sense of humor and capture of facial expressions. Lawler is able to portray feelings in her portraits as well.

“I love tedious,” she said, which is obvious in one smaller painting depicting intricate crochet work. “I find it relaxing.”

“I don’t have a minute I’m not inspired,” she said, wondering aloud if others see the vivid-colored world and all its blessings as she does. “Or do they just rush by?”

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