SIDNEY — It’s a tale of two friends, told in pictures.
Gateway Arts Council’s (GAC) current exhibit, “A Tale of Two Friends,” comprises paintings created by Dotty Arnie, of Sidney, and Robert Warren, who died in 1995.
“I can’t remember when we met,” Arnie said of her late friend. “I keep thinking it must (have been in) one of the art groups that met in Sidney. But mostly, he joined the Auglaize Art Association. That’s where I mostly remember painting with him.”
Arnie and Warren often painted together in groups of artists. Warren would act as teacher to anyone who wanted to participate.
“He would try to help people learn how to paint,” Arnie said. Warren would paint a little bit of a picture. Then others would copy his method and paint the same thing themselves.
“The teaching was very informal — more like helping,” Arnie said.
The GAC exhibit will continue through the end of August in the galleries at 216 N. Miami Ave. Admission is free. On display are oil paintings of landscapes and still lifes, as well as portraits and historical subjects. Among them are paintings by Warren, which were published by the Sidney Daily News as covers for its bicentennial editions, June 28-July 1, 1976, and copies of those newspapers.
Sidney Daily News reporter Joyce Fahnestock interviewed Warren at the time.
“’I lived in a small town when I was younger: I remember the old steam engine trains — about the only excitement around,’” Fahnestock quoted Warren.
“Warren says he also remembers the old trolley cars, horses and buggies and, not just by coincidience, they crop up in his oil paintings,” she wrote.
Arnie remembers traveling all over the county with Warren and his wife.
“They showed me where the canal came in off the Miami River and the locks in Lockington,” she said.
One of Warren’s daughters, Theresa Naseman, of Sidney, said her father began painting in the 1930s, but stopped as his family grew. In the 1960s, he picked up his brushes again and “then for the rest of his life (he didn’t put them down),” she noted.
“He painted at the kitchen table. When it was time to eat, the pallette got pushed to the end of the table. The painting got stood up on the washer and dryer and that’s where it dried,” Naseman said.
Another daughter, Pauline Warren, of Sidney, remembers eating on TV trays in the living room when the kitchen table was too covered in canvases, paints and brushes to make having a meal there possible.
“But when he wasn’t painting, we ate in the kitchen,” Pauline said. Warren was often the cook.
“When company came, he made the dinner. He made great bread,” Pauline said. His painting of bread was displayed in the lobby of the Peerless Bread Machinery company for many years. Warren worked as a draftsman there.
Arnie, Naseman and Pauline all said that Warren’s best paintings were of trains.
“But we don’t have any of them,” Pauline said. “He sold them all.” The sisters are trying to collect photos of the more than 500 paintings their father completed.
“If someone has one of his paintings, take a picture of it and send the photo to us,” Pauline said. The photos can be sent to GAC, who will forward them to the family. Warren’s artwork could be far from Sidney. He donated pieces to the Ruth Lyons Christmas Club raffle in Cincinnati and to many other organizations’ fundraisers.
The last 14 paintings Warren did were for his grandchildren. He created a painting for each grandchild, and instead of signing it with his name, he signed it, “Grandpa.” Some of them are in the GAC exhibit.
The Sidney Daily News had reprints made in 1976 of the paintings it published in bicentennial editions.
“For the longest time, some were framed and hung in McDonald’s,” Pauline said. “I think they’re still in some patient rooms at the hospital.”
It was Arnie’s idea to showcase Warren’s work at GAC.
“They insisted that I (exhibit my work), too,” she said. Arnie, who was born in 1929 and grew up in Detroit, took her first art class in 1957, when she was working in Washington, D.C.
“I didn’t really get into painting until after marriage and two children had been born,” she said. When her husband, Bob, was discharged from the Marine Corps in 1965 and the family moved from Texas to California, Arnie took painting classes at night school. A job for Bob at Linn’s Stamp News brought the Arnies to Sidney in the late 1960s.
“I began taking painting classes at Edison Community College and later with Doris Whitson in Fletcher, Don Kerr in Piqua and finally with Nancy Foureman in Greenville,” Arnie said. She was a member of the Sidney Art League and other local groups, as well as the Auglaize Art Association.
“I like belonging to a group because if something isn’t going just right, you can ask people. They tell you several different things. Then you stand back and figure out what works for you,” she said. These days, she paints with the Monday Afternoon Paint Club at GAC. It’s open to anyone at no charge, every Monday, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
“Just bring your own supplies,” said GAC Executive Director Ellen Keyes.
Arnie, like Warren, has donated many paintings to be raffled for the benefit of area nonprofit organizations. Her work in the exhibit is in oil, but she has recently been dabbling in watercolor. It’s a very different medium.
“In oil, you work from dark to light. In watercolor, you work from light to dark. And mistakes are very difficult to fix,” she said. “My favorite method of working is to start something on site, take photographs, and then come back to the studio and finish it up.”
The Tale of Two Friends exhibit is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information, call 498-2787.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.