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An artful life

Parkville woman continues lifelong passion

Created date

February 21st, 2012

As a mother of eight (and now grandmother of 14), it s hard to fathom how Penny Schwab ever had the time to eat or sleep, much less hone her natural talent as an artist. But her Parkville home at Oak Crest, the Erickson Living community where she lives, shows that is exactly what she did. Scenic watercolor paintings of lighthouses, sailboats, colorful bowls of fruit, and vases overflowing with flowers adorn the walls throughout the two-bedroom Oak Crest apartment home she shares with her husband, Van.

Rediscovering passions

I ve always loved art, says Penny, who grew up on Wickford Road in Roland Park. It s something I discovered at an early age. In my teens, my mother, realizing I was artistically inclined, sent me downtown to portraiture classes. Then, after high school, I studied fashion, live models, landscape, and still life at the Maryland Institute College of Art, in hopes that after graduation I could work for department stores doing fashion illustration for advertisements in newspapers and magazines, she says. However, Penny opted to rear her eight children, so her artwork became more of a recreation. When she and Van decided to move to Oak Crest, We specifically chose our two-bedroom floor plan with the idea that one of the bedrooms would work as my art studio, says Penny. Now she participates in art shows and showcases her paintings in the community, among other activities. I enjoy living here so much, says Penny, who now volunteers with the Oak Crest resident-run Crafts for Kids program and enjoys spending time with her own grandkids. I have met so many interesting people and the community itself is so beautiful. It s a delightful place to be and we re just busy, busy, busy all the time!

Lifelong pursuit

Penny s glad she continued her passion throughout her life. No matter how busy her life got, she still managed to pursue her love of art and enjoy a fulfilling life as a stay-at-home mom to five boys and three girls. After the kids went off to school during the day, I would bring up all of my painting supplies from the basement into a wonderful bright open area in the house. Then I would set up a still life and paint, says Penny. Staying home allowed me to help out whenever they needed me at the kids school, where I volunteered painting posters and artwork for dances and events. Over the years, Penny painted portraits of family and friends upon request and spent summers engrossed in workshops with the distinguished watercolor artist Frederic Schuler Briggs. For 17 years she illustrated the covers of the holiday catalog for the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. And on occasion, she assisted college friend and courtroom artist/NBC news illustrator Betty Wells with her sketches. We met in a fine arts class in college and became great friends, says Penny. I would drive with her to Washington and fill in the color before her sketches were displayed on television. That was really a wonderful adventure and very exciting opportunity for me.