Artist inspired by great outdoors

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Rabecca Hennessy
Rabecca Hennessy was photographed by fellow artist Jillian Webb Herrmann as she painted Elkader’s Keystone Bridge. Rabecca is one of 60 artists featured at the 4th annual Art in the Park Fine Arts Festival.

By Pam Reinig
Register Editor
Rabecca Hennessy’s artistic talent was nurtured at her Grandma Amelia’s kitchen table where as a young child she sat for hours transforming pieces of paper into fanciful works of art.
“Old calendars, wallpaper, newsprint—she kept a stack of scraps handy and taught me how to draw on them,” Rabecca recalls. “She was my first teacher.”
Rabecca is one of 60 artists whose work will be showcased at the 4th annual Art in the Park Fine Arts Festival, which will be held August 18 and 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m in Founders Park, Elkader. In addition to a showcase of original art, the event will include entertainment, kids’ activities, a youth art exhibit, a silent auction, wine tastings and food.

After high school, Rabecca studied commercial art in Omaha, which isn’t far from her hometown of Fremont, NE. She worked as a freelance graphic designer for several years taking up oil painting as a hobby while raising her two children.
“I let my interest in art rest while pursing work in the insurance industry,” said Rabecca, who relocated to Northeast Iowa in 2001 and Guttenberg in 2010.
“About seven years ago, I brought the paints back out and painted a cute little portrait of my sister’s Westie. This developed into a nice pet portrait business. I began teaching oil painting lessons at the Guttenberg Creativity Center and developed a little following for classes held once a month in different locations. The hobby finally outgrew my home studio. I walked by an empty storefront for several months before deciding to take the leap and move the hobby into that storefront and it’s now full-time painting business.”

That storefront at 14 Schiller Street, Guttenberg, is Rabecca’s current studio, Bent Willow Studio and Gallery.
Though she still enjoys doing pet portraits, Rabecca has recently developed an interest in painting “plein air” or outdoors.
“Painting on location is spontaneous and exciting and sometimes frustrating,” Rabecca said. “You’re always chasing the light and shadows, and it makes the work challenging. I also find it interesting to meet new people when I’m outside painting and occasionally hear the stories of the places that have caught my eye.”  

Rabecca paints outdoors regularly with a group of Dubuque artists but admits that the natural beauty of Clayton County keeps pulling her back here.
“Earlier this year, I thought it would be interesting to keep my paintings focused on my surroundings here and compile the paintings into a book,” she continued.  “I’m currently working on this project called Greetings, from Guttenberg. The paintings can be seen in the studio or on my Greetings, from Guttenberg Facebook page. I hope to have a showing along with the book completed by September 2019 or 2020.”
At this year’s festival, Rabecca will do a plein art of the festival and also a demonstration of a pet portrait.

“I’ve found that event-goers enjoy watching the painting process and asking questions, and I enjoy the feedback from the audience,” she said.
This busy artist will participate in a weeklong “plein air” event in Steamboat Springs, CO in September and will also be a participant in Dubuque’s Bluffstrokes plein air event in October. And when her book is finished, who knows what she’ll do next?
“For me, being an artist means always trying new techniques,” Rabecca said.  “Going forward I would like to study more figure painting and portrait painting. I think stretching oneself is important and leads to finding your true style. I find that the more answers I get, the more questions I have. Being an artist is truly a rewarding, challenging and exciting life!”

Editor’s note: Art in the Park will offer a variety of artwork showcasing ceramics, drawing, glass, jewelry, painting, photography, metal, sculpture, wood, and more.
Now in it’s 4th year, the event has drawn increasing number of spectators. More than 3,000 people attended last year. Here are some other Art in the Park  facts:
Recipient of 2016 Iowa Tourism “Outstanding New Event” Award  

Art in the Park is an event of Main Street Elkader and supported in part by the 2018 Main Event Sponsor, Julie Doeppke, American Family Insurance Agent.
Visitors can interact with several art installations throughout the park and vote for their favorite artist.
Everyone is invited to participate in the “Creative Chairs Community Project”

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