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Nature inspires watercolorist’s creations

A stroll through the country gardens surrounding the home, potting shed and studio of artist Lynda Rhodes never fails to inspire her. The Little Kanawha River borders one side of the property near Parkersburg and a rail-to-trail path winds along the other.

She captures birds, flowers, leaves and nests with her delicate watercolor palette and creates pastoral village scenes and whimsical snowmen to celebrate the winter season. The studio and shop is named Heaven and Nature, reflecting the spiritual connection and peace Rhodes finds in nature.

"I paint every day. I'm just not complete if I don't paint," she said. "Painting grounds me and sets the tone for the day."

The home she shares with her husband, Glenn, has evolved from the simple fishing cabin they bought 38 years ago to a graciously rustic home and grounds filled with colorful flowers.

Students who have taken watercolor painting classes from her loved the ivy-covered potting shed were she first taught classes. They were inspired by its exposed rafters, large window, potted plants brought in for the winter and shelves of twigs, bird's nests and moss-covered clay pots. They were disappointed when the Rhodeses constructed a new building for the family business with airy space above for her studio.

"There was no air conditioning, and we would have to wear two pairs of socks in the winter because it was so cold, but they liked it there," she said.

For the first 25 years of her painting career, Rhodes painted with oils. She taught tole painting to decades of students. Twelve years ago, she tried watercolors for the first time. "I loved oils, but I wanted to try another medium. I didn't know it would be a passion. I absolutely love watercolors," she said.

Her watercolor instructor urged her to market her watercolors and bolstered Rhodes' confidence in her new medium. The Greenbrier and Tamarack both carry her watercolors, and she is an artist in residence at both galleries.

Today, she teaches a few classes in her new studio/gallery, but holds most classes at the Riverside Artist Gallery and studio in nearby Marietta, Ohio. She doesn't follow specific rules, just paints the way she thinks looks good.

"I was reluctant to teach watercolors because I don't go by the book. I told them I could teach what I know, but it's not gospel," she said.

She finds satisfaction in her students as they master tasks that once overwhelmed them.

Visitors, who call first to make an appointment, wander her grounds and studio, where they can purchase prints or original paintings. Her designs grace note cards, calendars, journals as well as prints suitable for framing. Prices range from $2.50 for a note card to $7 for a journal to $15 or $25 for a print.

A watercolor of a woman walking along a country lane with a dog at her side is based on a photograph of her grandmother, who farmed and gardened in her rural Wirt County home until she died at the age of 103.

"She inspired me about gardening and taught me a lot. She lived off the land," Rhodes said. She changes the accents and prints in the studio to match the season when she holds summer and winter open houses. Pumpkins and fall leaves will give way to engaging snowmen, red cardinals, pine cones, evergreens and holly berries for her open house in December.

A recent trip to Nova Scotia with a group of artists inspired a newer line of work. "I lean more toward English-style paintings, especially after being to Nova Scotia and spending time on Prince Edward Island," she said. The influences of her favorite artists -- Tasha Tutor, Beatrix Potter and Andrew Wyeth -- show in her work.

For years, Rhodes squeezed her painting time in between raising three children and administering the trucking business she and her husband ran from their home. Her days are finally filled with painting the scenes she loves.

"I don't have any trouble with inspiration. My head is so full of ideas. I can't get them all down," she said. "Every place I go I see something I want to paint."

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