Wilton artist’s passion for painting began in elementary school

WILTON – When she was in fifth grade, Joan Tierney said, “I started copying pictures on my parents’ Christmas cards, trying to paint the same thing. So I guess I’ve been at it for a long time.”

Later, when her children were small, her brother gave her a oil painting set “as a get-away sort of thing. I don’t know why he did that but he created a monster.”

Her father, Don MacLeod, had apple orchards and a large packing plant and retail store in Milford. She began painting pictures on apple box boards and other items to sell in the retail store. Now her paintings are more conventional.

She didn’t really like packing apples, she said.

Now, during the month of May, there is an exhibit of her work at the Jaffrey Civic Center lower level, 57 small to miniature pictures, none larger than 12 by 16 inches, and many of them two by three inches.

“They are all different subjects,” she said, still lifes, scenery, barns, fireworks, winter and summer scenes. “And quite a few of Monadnock.”

Mount Monadnock is a favorite subject. “I grew up in Peterborough on Old Street Road where I could look across and see it every day. It’s hard to live (in that area) and not paint ‘Our Mountain’.”

But she really has no favorite subject, she said, “Whatever I’m painting. It’s such a wonderful thing (to do). I sit down and it’s like I’m off on a trip without spending money. That’s my Scot’s blood, I guess.”

Her work is also available at East Colony Fire Arts on South Commercial Street in Manchester.

Tierney has been hosting a weekly gathering of local artists at her home on Abbott Hill for about 30 years.

This summer she will be teaching a class at Art Happens in the Hillsboro Mills in Milford, and will lead a summer workshop in watercolor at Sharon Arts Center.

While she works in oil and watercolor, she prefers acrylics. “I’ve used water-based oils but it takes too long to dry. I get impatient. Acrylics dry very fast – in a day you can frame it. And you can use it on paper, wood, canvas; it’s very versatile. It’s a plastic emulsion and doesn’t smell.” Oil paints smell, she said, “but I like that smell.”

Tierney learned painting in a variety of ways. “I took a few courses when I was in college,” she said, “and I took lots and lots of workshops, and videos and books.”

But to paint, like any other craft, “you can’t do it unless you do it.” And she says anyone who wants to can learn to paint.

Tierney is a supporter of the local arts and her bumper sticker says it all: “Invest in oil – buy a painting.”