Limitless simplicity – teaching the craft of Grandma Moses

By Nick Blank
Posted 1/16/19

FLEMING ISLAND – In the late-1930s, Anna Robertson, also known as “Grandma Moses,” pioneered a spare, simple style of painting at the age of 78. She was discovered and became a sensation to a …

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Limitless simplicity – teaching the craft of Grandma Moses


FLEMING ISLAND – In the late-1930s, Anna Robertson, also known as “Grandma Moses,” pioneered a spare, simple style of painting at the age of 78. She was discovered and became a sensation to a point that some of her paintings sold for millions.

At the Shepherd’s Center in Orange Park, Susan Nevinger began teaching art appreciation classes in 2015. The classes later morphed into painting, where she provided all supplies and charged only $5 per canvas. Paintings from her classes have circulated around the Clay County library system. Her students’ paintings are part of what she has dubbed “Memory Masterpiece; Grandma Moses Style,” which was on exhibit recently at the Fleming Island Public Library. From there, the exhibit heads to the Middleburg Public Library at the end of the month.

Nevinger, a docent at Jacksonville’s Cummer Museum and Gardens, said the Grandma Moses style is appropriate for beginning painters.

“By the time she died, she was a world-renowned artist. She painted in a very simple style,” said Nevinger, who assists with education aspects and gives school tours of museum. “That was the approach I wanted to take, so people who hadn’t done any painting before or drawing before, they would feel comfortable with this style.”

Painting can help people walk through their memories and memorialize the past. It also may help younger relatives ask questions about their grandparents’ lives.

“My goal to encourage them; they have talent,” Nevinger said.

For Susan Stobe, 75, of Orange Park, it’s her childhood among the row houses in Astoria, Queens in the 1940s and 1950s she is painting. The painting titled, “Backyard at the Back Alley,” depicts family members, children, animals and details when she grew up, like Victorian gates. Children had to find ways to entertain themselves, she said.

“In the alleys in Astoria was dirt with glass fragments. We used to collect the different colors and put it in a treasure chest. We lived in a three-story house,” Stobe said. “We played hopscotch, double Dutch and hid from the cars at night, we invented games. Those are all our memories.”

It was her first painting.

“I thought, ‘I’ve never done this before, how is this going to work out?” said Stobe, whose students range in age from 61 to 96.

In, “On the Road Again,” Mary Case, 86, painted a scene of a car hauling a trailer on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. Case said she must have traveled 50,000 miles with it from 1963-1975. She said she loved the trailer so much she would joke about having it bronzed. The trailer was dubbed, “The Briefcase.” The trailer went to Yellowstone, Nova Scotia and Niagara Falls.

“We put lots of miles and trips on that thing,” Case said. “We lived in Georgia and pretty well covered it on weekends.”

Up next for Stobe is a scene of her 86-year-old uncle walking behind her toddler grandson on an overgrown trail in Rhode Island. Case is going to tackle a grove in Massachusetts, where she fondly recalls her baby brother sitting in a bucket.

Case laughed when she mentioned she forgot to add a spare tire to the trailer or the cows in the field to her Blue Ridge Parkway scene. Just because a painting is framed and hanging on the wall, doesn’t mean it’s over.

“Another nice thing is you can never stop adding to them,” Nevinger said.


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