Paintings by ‘Grandpa Jim’ Ward

13 years ago

ImagePhoto by Karen Donato
GRANDPA JIM — Jim Ward of Houlton will be the featured artist at the Blue Moon Gallery, a part of Visions on Main Street from Aug. 27 through Sept. 24. Ward is shown here with granddaughters, Anna Ferdinand, 13, left and her sister Sarah, 11 of Brunswick.

By Karen Donato
Special to the Pioneer Times

The Southern Aroostook Cultural Arts Project will be featuring the art of Jim Ward of Houlton at the Blue Moon Gallery, 66 Main Street with an opening reception on Friday, Aug. 27 from 5-7 p.m. A retired banker, Ward will display his paintings at the gallery though Sept. 24.
    Ward is 89 and a grandfather of six. He has been a life-long resident of this town, graduating from Houlton High school in 1939 and going on to the University of Maine in Orono to major in engineering. Ward’s school days were cut short after the declaration of WW II in 1941. He, along with more than half the student population at college left school with plans to join the various branches of the service. Ward chose the Navy and spent four years in the Naval Air Service. In 1946 he returned to UMO where he changed his major to business.
    While at the University he began dating Lois Hovey, also from Houlton. They have been a couple since 1949 and have three adult children, Bob of Houlton, Jim of Bangor and Cathy Ferdinand of Brunswick.
    Following his college graduation Ward joined the First National Bank, now Key Bank in downtown Houlton. He worked his way up from teller to senior loan officer retiring in 1983.
    After his retirement he was encouraged by his daughter to pursue his interest in art. Cathy bought him brushes, paints, paper and books and said to him, “Yes, you can do this! You need to have a hobby!”
    At the age of 75 he enrolled in a workshop offered by local artist Esther Faulkner who was part of the SAD 29 Adult Education program. This course has since become a part of the S.A.G.E. program, Seniors Achieving Greater Education now offered through the many branches of the University of Maine.
    “I think I am the oldest member of the group,” he said with a smile. “I can’t give enough credit to Esther, she has a great way of convincing ‘old folks’     like me that they can do this. My art is really just a hobby; I have to work at it like a dog to finish!”
    “I have to have a subject, something that tickles me, like my grandchildren and their baggy pants or a floppy hat they might be wearing. I also like to paint animals, moose, dogs, cows or buildings,” said Ward. “It has been a challenge, but I tell myself I am going to do this. I might draw it 25 times to get it right,” he said with a chuckle.
    Ward says that Faulkner’s classes are great and that she claims that she is not there to teach, but to ‘help’. Ward has been under her watchful eye now for 15 years. He says that others that have taken the classes with him have also inspired him. People like Ruth Williams and Priscilla Bubar of Littleton and the late Chris Friel of Houlton. He said of Williams, who is unable to attend the classes due to health issues that she was so determined that she would start something in the beginning of the course and keep bringing it back week after week to complete it.
    “I was a bit different,” said Ward, “as I didn’t always finish one project before I was on to another. I wanted to know how to do clouds, water, a rippling brook or ocean waves. Esther has a way of introducing such things in an order such as skies, rocks, trees and water. I didn’t like waiting for the next lesson, I wanted everything at that moment, I didn’t want to wait.”
    Interviewing Ward at Drews Lake where he spends his summers he said that he puts his paints away when he’s at the lake, preferring to paint during the rest of the year. Ward’s studio is his dining room on Burleigh Street where he has lived since he was a child. His work sits on the easel where he can take a look at it each time he travels from the living room to the kitchen. He fusses with it, until he gets it right, maybe 15 or more hours on each piece. Watercolor is his favorite medium.
    Ward says his wife, Lois, sometimes critiques his work, but that he doesn’t always listen to her. However, he does listen to Faulkner. When he is nearly finished his piece he e-mails a photo of it to Faulkner and says, “Don’t tell me it’s good! Tell me what I need to work on.”
    “She may tell me that it needs more light or I need to push the trees back or the shadows aren’t just right. Usually I can fix whatever needs to be done without starting over,” said Ward. “Esther has so much talent and such a unique way of teaching. I would encourage anyone to make an effort to experience an art class with Esther. I am so glad I did.”
    So set aside some time to stop by the Blue Moon Gallery to meet “Grandpa Jim” and his family. One just might be influenced to give the paintbrush a whirl. As the old saying goes, ‘one is never too old to learn something new’ and Grandpa Jim is certainly proof of that.