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It might be wise to fix your hair next time you lounge on a bench in downtown Wake Forest: You might just wind up in a painting.
Watercolor artist Maureen Seltzer has her studio at the N.C. General Store on South White Street, and she has found that some of the best subjects are right outside her door. Often she spots unique characters sitting on a downtown bench and wants to paint them.
But the average Joe isn’t likely to sit still for hours, and Seltzer isn’t much for portraits anyway. So she goes for the sneaky approach. “Unbeknownst to them, I’m snapping a picture with my iPhone,” she said.
More Art After Hours
Sunflower Studio & Gallery, 214 E. Jones Ave., pencil artist Steve Hockenyos and woodworker Steve Blackerby of Wooden Forest Designs
Lede Studio & Gallery, 504 S. White St., third annual Lavaliere show spotlighting neck adornments
Gilded Palette Gallery, 123 S. White St., watercolor artist Mary Margaret Steele’s seasonal landscapes, floral still lifes and animals with expressive faces
Harris Warren Gallery, 107 S. White St., “The Abstracted Landscape,” a variety of contemporary works from the gallery artists
The Cotton Company, 306 S. White St., “One Hundred and One Creations,” Ema Godfrey’s display of 100 fish and one giraffe formed with wire mesh and painted with bright acrylic paints
Want to go?
Art After Hours is downtown Wake Forest’s monthly art event featuring galleries open from 6 to 9 p.m. and special events around the South White Street area.
The faces she paints aren’t all that detailed, giving many of the unknowing subjects a degree of anonymity. Still, Wake Forest is a small town, and locals have made a guessing game of figuring out who’s in the pictures.
Visitors to the N.C. General Store have spotted neighbors, family members and even themselves in the street scenes. Seltzer said folks can be quick to buy a painting of a loved one.
On Friday, Art After Hours walkers can catch her working on her latest subject, an out-of-towner who stood out.
“He was visiting from the West,” Seltzer said. “He had on the cowboy hat and the cowboy boots. ... I look for the interesting and the unusual.”
While most artists toil in private until the finished project is hung in a gallery, Seltzer prefers to work in public. Her tiny studio – modeled like a front porch – sits smack in the middle of the N.C. General Store, a busy shop selling local products. She’s been there almost daily for about four years.
“At first I was a little nervous about it, but I’ve since relaxed about that,” she said. “I love to be with the people.”
She has grown used to people watching her, but sometimes shoppers aren’t sure how to react. “People will come in, and they’ll be starting to whisper, and I’ll say ‘you can talk – it doesn’t bother me,’ ”she said.
Seltzer has been painting full time for about six years, but art is a lifelong pursuit for the Youngsville resident. She took art classes as a student at Garner High, but her parents pushed her toward something more practical than art school. Her degree is in industrial photographic science – a subject that’s not taught much today. Still, she has taken every opportunity to apprentice under professional artists, and eventually she joined their ranks.
“I eventually just said, my kids are almost raised, it’s my turn,” she said.
In addition to the series of downtown scenes, Seltzer has been using found objects such as leaves and stones to form shapes and textures in her paintings. She also paints beach scenes, looking for new subjects whenever she visits the coast.
With streetscape construction kicking up dust and noise, her best-known series has been a challenge lately. “It’s been a little hard to get people sitting on the benches now because of the construction,” she said.