May 2006
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Art is a Blessing for Goshen’s Irene Sanders

  Irene Sanders often moves away from the canvas to paint on old artifacts, including saw blades. Her work can be seen at the Goshen Farmers Co-op that graciously allows Sanders to display and sell her work. W.O. and Irene Sanders are part of the Goshen Farmers Co-op extended "family." "We depend on the Co-op for so many things from feed and fertilizer for the farm to the friendship and fellowship that abounds there," Sanders said.
by Jaine Treadwell

God’s little creatures serenade Irene Sanders as she piddles on the porch.

Every now and then she glances up from her easel and her eyes rest on the songbirds singing sweetly in the trees, then the squirrel scampering across the lawn. The cows beyond the fence join the chorus and she smiles.

"I’m not an artist," she said, almost apologetically. "But art is a blessing to make me keep quiet and still. And, I love to piddle out here. It’s so peaceful and quiet. I just come out here and do my own thing."

The home of W.O. and Irene Sanders sits on land in Goshen that has been in the Sanders family for 100 years.

Irene Sanders is a Goshen transplant but her heart is so deeply rooted in family, friends and community in the small Pike County town that no one would ever guess that she is a Louisiana girl.

Home is where the heart is and Irene Sanders is at home in Goshen. "I love being here," she said. "I love home and I enjoy piddling on the porch with my painting. It’s a big part of my life. But, like I said, I’m not an artist; I just piddle."

Sanders began piddling when she retired about 25 years ago. At first, she piddled in genealogy and penned several books related to family history. But, then she found another interest that really hooked her.

"Two friends, Edna Railey and Betty Shirley, and I decided that we wanted to do some painting, so we met down at Good Hope Baptist Church and got started," Sanders said. "We painted with watercolors and we took our painting seriously, but not too seriously. We would paint and talk and just have a good time."

All three were budding artists and needed some type of instruction. They found the perfect instructor for them, Bob Ross. "He was on television and he showed you step-by-step how to paint different things," Sanders said. "We started videoing his show so we could stop it and start it and go at our own pace."

The friends began to venture out away from watercolor to painting with oils. The new medium presented greater opportunities and more challenges.

From the heart to the hands to the canvas.  
The ladies were delighted to discover that each of them was developing her own style. "No matter how close we watched Bob Ross and

how closely we followed his instructions, our paintings all ended up looking different," Sanders said and added laughing, "We developed ‘style’."

Strong, bold colors define Sanders’ style along with a flair for the fanciful. All of her work has a feeling of happiness about it and draws the viewer to a place of quiet refuge where memories abound.

"Almost all of my work has a memory attached to it," Sanders said. "I get many of my ideas from pictures and from magazines. I guess you could say that I’m not an original person. I did an original piece and it didn’t work out too well."

The Sanders’ "original" hangs high on the wall of the enclosed back porch and Sanders laughed as she pointed it out. The farm scene wasn’t complete. It needed something, so Sanders added some yard chickens.

"I put in far too many chickens," she said laughing. "That’s all that you see. Chickens. I need to shoo some of them away."

The paintings that line the walls of the studio/porch are just a sample of the work that Sanders does. The house is filled with her work, from the kitchen to the den and living room and down the hall.

Although her beautiful paintings of flowers adorn the more formal rooms in the house, it would be difficult not to see that landscapes are Sanders’ first love. And many of her paintings have a sunset, a barn and mountains or all three.

  An Irene Sanders’ original
"I love barns," she said. "I am just fascinated by them. And I like the way the sunset is reflected in water and the way it settles around objects. And, I just love mountains. There is just something about mountains."

Although Sanders has sold some of her paintings and even done some "commission" pieces for friends who want a painting of an old home place or a scene painted on an old cross saw or some "antique" piece, she maintains that art is "just a hobby."

"I’ve done a few portraits of my grandchildren," she said. "I enjoyed that. Looking into the sweet face of a grandchild while you paint is a wonderful experience."

The reward of painting is the satisfaction one gets from creating something with their heart and hands. And, if others enjoy and appreciate the work that she does, the joy is multiplied.

Sanders’ joy was multiplied many times over when her son and his wife, Bill and Ann Sanders, asked her to paint a spring landscape to hang over the mantle in their living room.

"That pleased me to no end that they would want me to paint a scene to go in such a special place in their home," Sander said. "I had no idea that they would think that way. It was the greatest compliment that I could get."

The appreciation that others have for her work is all the "pay" that Sanders needs or wants from her artwork.

A day spent piddling on the porch with a "budding" canvas before her and serenaded by God’s little creatures is nothing short of unbridled joy for Sanders.

And when that joy is shared freely and openly with others, it is multiplied many times over. Through her art, Irene Sanders is doing just that.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.