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Full circle brings artist home to Blairsville

| Tuesday, May 8, 2012, 1:58 a.m.

BLAIRSVILLE--When Annis Ringler moved from this, her home town, she knew she would be leaving behind old friends, close family and a town she was forever fond of. But not her art.

Known as Annis Smith when she lived on Brown Street, Ringler was introduced to art as a child, and honed her skill through the school system and a few private lessons.

She cut her artistic teeth on the Blairsville landscapes and landmarks, and experimented with all types of media, from acrylics and charcoal to porcelain and stitchwork.

Blairsville is where she bloomed as an artist.

Ringler's daughter Polly Ringler, also of Blairsville, owns about 20 of her mother's paintings, many of them oils done in the 1960s.

But she also owns more recent watercolors "which she's proud of," Polly Ringler said. It's "a collection that shows her progress as an artist."

But when Annis Ringler moved to Huntsville, Ala., and later to Seattle, she developed as an artist, using those base skills and building on them until not only was she winning awards, but her work was substantial enough to garner its own solo shows.

After graduating from Blairsville High School, Ringler earned a degree in education from Penn State University, and later developed a short career as a dietitian.

She married John Ringler, also a Blairsville native.

But when he got a job as an engineer for Boeing, his career had the couple traveling and living all over the country.

Ringler has also lived in Wichita, Kan.

"My husband was very supportive, and I spent a lot of time painting and going to shows and developing my own style," Ringler said.

Ringler painted rigorously in her home studio before she moved back to Blairsville a year and a half ago.

"I would paint constantly," she said, "sometimes all day long."

Nature inspires Ringler's art--many of her paintings depict flowery scenes with many colors. Nature "is just something I love," she stated.

Most of her painting is done from her mind's eye--she claims to have never painted from a photograph or copied a painting.

"As we moved around, I'd see something that caught my eye and I'd think about it later and paint it from memory," she said.

As a young girl in Blairsville, her rural surroundings were inspiration for much of her earlier work.

She recalls sitting by the river's edge and painting variations of old town buildings by the Diamond on her canvas.

"I always liked painting and drawing," Ringler said.

She is mostly self-taught, although she did take a few college extension courses in Alabama and Washington.

"But mostly, I just painted in my own studio and did things in my own style," Ringler said, a style she described as "magic realism."

"I do a lot of negative painting, painting around objects to preserve the white of the paper," she said.

While living in Blairsville earlier, Ringler was a member of the Indiana Art Association.

She recalled that the very first painting she ever entered in an IAA show won a prize. It was a scene looking out at the backyard of her home, into the neighboring yard.

Ringler can't recall the first time she ever picked up a paint brush, but knows she was young. "I always painted, always drew," she said.

She remembers art classes at Blairsville High School, where she was taught by Silvia McCreary.

"She was always encouraging," Ringler said.

She began painting in oils, not watercolors.

As a young woman, Ringler took classes in oils from a local teacher, Joanne Bowman.

"A lot of women from Blairsville took classes from her," she said.

The oils medium is a much more relaxed form than her preferred watercolors, she explained.

"Watercolor is hard," she said, noting that controlling the medium is very difficult.

"If you make a mistake in oil, you can paint over it until it's right.

"With watercolor, once it's down on the paper, it's down."

With watercolors, only paper is used, Ringler pointed out, and it must be stretched tightly across a frame before work begins. Before the painting begins, the paper is taken from the frame and taped to a board.

The only other preparation Ringler said she needs, then, is "lots and lots of water."

But her creative experiences haven't been limited to just watercolors and oil painting.

"I always wanted to try everything," Ringler said. "I did some watercolor when I was in high school, but I just played around with it. I didn't know anything."

She has tried her hand at acrylics and charcoal painting and drawing, also.

But Ringler never limited her artistic ability to just painting, either.

"I did a lot of creative stitchery," she said, using different fabrics and designing outfits, using embroidery and beadwork, too.

She also crafted porcelain dolls, an interest that bloomed from her childhood collection.

"I've always had an interest," she noted.

She made her first porcelain doll after years of fashioning rag dolls from fabric.

In Seattle, Ringler took a class in porcelain to improve the quality of the dolls' faces.

The porcelain is poured into a mold, and it takes many firings in a kiln to get the right consistency.

Once the face is ready, she then begins stitching a body and stuffing it with material to give the doll shape. Then, she painstakingly paints the details on the face--the eyes, the blushing cheeks, the rosy lips.

She also applied her stitchery skills to create wardrobes for these dolls.

Her watercolor paintings have been a great artistic outlet for Ringler, whose work has garnered many awards, including several first prizes at the King County Fair in Washington, but, as Ringler pointed out, "I won many that weren't first prizes."

Through her travels, she's also had the opportunity to display her work to the public.

"I've had my painting in a lot of different galleries in the Northwest," Ringler said.

"I've had quite a few shows, had paintings in lots of galleries in the Seattle area."

Some of those shows were collaborations with other artists, while others were solo shows highlighting only Ringler's work.

Ringler's favorite painting that she still owns, which hangs in a side hallway in her home, is titled "Lilacs," inspired from the blooms planted in her backyard.

The still-life painting blends a variety of soft pastels into the purples of the flower, arranged in a large vase.

She couldn't say exactly why the painting is a personal preference, except that, "I just like lilacs. I think the painting turned out well."

The lines of Ringler's work indistinct, bringing a slightly opaque glow to her paintings.

"I paint freestyle," she noted. "If you want something photographed, you ought to take a picture of it."

Polly Ringler enjoys the technique her mother uses.

"I like the freedom of her paintings," she said.

She said her mother used to splash paint onto the canvas "And figure out what they looked like," she said.

"She didn't start out with a flower or a shape, she started out with color."

Unfortunately, bad eyesight has robbed Annis Ringler from her ability to paint--she hasn't picked up a paint brush in five years, she said.

"My eyes just got too bad," she remarked. "It's been really hard for me."

After the passing of her husband, Ringler made the decision to return to Blairsville.

"I just wanted to come back," she said. "I always thought of Blairsville as my hometown. I still have good high school friends living here, as well as my daughter.

"I'm happy to be back in Blairsville. I've made a full circle."

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