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Watercolors light up landscapes at Proctorville show

PROCTORVILLE — At first, Ron Haeberle wasn’t sure what would come out of his taking some painting classes at the Huntington Museum of Art. But with a few courses under his belt and a lot of practicing, the one-time engineer has now segued into an unexpected retirement career as an artist.

Starting Wednesday an exhibit of his work is on display at Ohio University Proctorville Center for the next six weeks.

“When I started, I went in with nothing,” Haeberle said. “I had no brushes, no paper, no clue. In the first year I spent a lot of time painting. I painted almost every day. I think that is critical to get over the hump.”

The Proctorville Center show features an eclectic sampling of Haeberle’s work, most of which are landscapes of West Virginia scenes and South Carolina seascapes.

“I visit places and if I am interested in the place, I may travel there different times of the year to get a different perspective,” he said. “Then I will take a series of photographs and cut that down to some that have the proper perspective.”

He describes the paintings as more of an imaginative amalgamation of the scenes, rather than a literal recreation.

“I am not averse to moving a rock around,” he said. “The more I have painted, the more freedom I intend to take. It is just the beauty of the outdoors and basically what I am trying to do is the feeling of being there, a sense of the place.”

A Huntington, W.Va., native, Haeberle’s day job was as an engineer, a profession that has influenced his artistic efforts, he admits.

Also in the show is a new series Haeberle has begun of architectural scenes of Huntington.

The series, which is now up to six paintings, came about from a commission he received to paint the historic Keith-Albee Theatre. He spent a couple of weeks photographing the structure before picking up his brush.

“Once that was finished I thought this would be a way for me to reconnect with Huntington,” he said. “I spent some time photographing downtown, picking out spots that I call iconic views.”

Those include the old Frederick Hotel, Ritter Park and the old Herald-Dispatch Building, now the law offices of Farrell, Farrell & Farrell.

It was the unique challenges of watercolor where corrective work can destroy the painting that drew him to that medium.

“It’s the things you can do with watercolor, the transparency, particularly in things like standing water and moving water, just things you can do with watercolor that are unusual,” he said. “It is one of the most difficult and that in itself is a challenge.

If I can do this, I can do other things. And I hope some people will be inspired and think ‘Maybe I can take a shot at this.’”

The show is on exhibit at the Proctorville Center through March 12. Hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.