Rita Wilson never imagined she would be a watercolor artist. A self-described workaholic, who worked as a project manager for AT&T until she retired six years ago, the Land O’ Lakes resident found that retirement gave her too much time on her hands.
“My daughter, Kimber, told me I needed a hobby – something to stimulate my mind, and a few weeks later I received in the mail a package from her full of art supplies,” Wilson recalls. “I called Kimber and told her I didn’t know anything about painting, but she told me you never know whether you can do something, until you try it.”
With that advice, her daughter suggested she take art lessons, and even went online for her and found the Pasco Fine Arts Council. Kimberly promptly signed her mom up for beginner painting lessons, and today, Wilson is an accomplished artist with her first solo art show opening next week.
The Pasco Fine Arts Council is sponsoring Wilson’s exhibit, which she calls “Thru My Eyes,” from Nov. 25 through Dec. 23, at the Pasco Fine Art Council’s East Pasco Avalon Park West Gallery, at 33613 State Road 54 in Wesley Chapel.
An artist reception to celebrate Wilson’s work is planned for Friday, Dec. 13 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The exhibit is free and open to the public. All are welcome, and refreshments will be served.
Wilson will have up to 26 paintings on display at her show — all watercolors with scenes that depict her native coastal South Carolina, Florida scenes, florals, portraits of dogs and cats, and paintings of antique cars and trucks, which are often commissioned by owners who want paintings of their pets and collectible cars.
Wilson prices her painting very affordably — typically between $100 and $300, because she wants people to enjoy her work as much as she does. All of her paintings will be for sale during the show.
Wilson’s first watercolor lesson was taught by Jo Baughman, who today is the director of the Pasco Fine Arts Council, the group partnering with Avalon Park West to bring the arts to the east side of Pasco County.
“Jo made learning to paint simple. She taught us some basic techniques, and then let us experiment and develop our own styles,” said Wilson. “I showed my husband my first few paintings, and he thought they looked pretty good. With his encouragement and Jo’s enthusiasm, I was hooked after the first class.”
That first six-week class led to another, and soon Wilson moved on to intermediate and advanced classes. Over time, she has developed her own style based on her interests, and moved from landscapes into painting antiques cars and trucks – a hobby of her husband. She describes her work as realism, and especially loves paintings water and boats.
After a few years, her husband, Otis, built her an art studio with lots of windows at their home in The Groves, where Wilson now paints two to three hours a day, with plenty of room to spread out.
“I love to paint because it is so relaxing,” said Wilson. “I don’t think about anything else but the picture I am working on, and never know when I begin how a panting will turn out. I usually think it will be a disaster, but most often it turns into something nice. I love the flow of watercolor, and that it does not have any exact lines. You don’t really have control over the water, but then the paint becomes something beautiful.”
Wilson says if she can learn to paint, anyone can, and encourages people to check out all the offerings at the Pasco Fine Arts Council, especially now that the Council has a location in Wesley Chapel, that is more convenient for people in central and east Pasco.
The partnership between the Paso Fine Arts Council and Avalon Park West began earlier this year, with a goal to bring arts and cultural events, exhibits and workshops to East Pasco County. This is the first time in the Council’s 40-plus year history that is has had a location in East Pasco to host its exhibits and art classes.
One of the main goals of this partnership is to introduce people to local artists like Wilson, with monthly exhibits and demonstrations, and also to offer art classes for youngsters and adults.
And, that is exactly the plan for the new East Pasco Gallery of the Pasco Fine Arts Center.
“We want to have art classes and workshops for our community, and a place to share artwork created by students and adults,” said Stephanie Lerret, senior vice president of marketing and community relations for the Avalon Park Group.
“As it turns out, the Pasco Fine Arts Council has been providing these types of programs for years, and all it needed was a place in East Pasco to bring their programs and exhibits to our residents in Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills, San Antonio and Dade City.
“It is our vision to build Downtown Avalon Park West as the cultural and event center of East Pasco County,” Lerret said.