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Pair shares a passion for painting

| Thursday, May 3, 2012, 9:51 p.m.

It takes a lot of work to look normal, says Ricki Wertz, of North Huntingdon.

When she and her husband, Tom Bordenkircher, invite friends and family to their home, there's much to do. Someone has to pack away the plastic sheet that covers their white carpet. The half-empty tubes of crimson, ochre and cerulean that litter their dining room table must go. And before they forget, the tell-tale canvases -- their creations -- must be stowed away.

Their work by no means stays behind closed doors. Their home's walls, which their children say look like a museum's, give it all away. They also share their paintings, around 150, with family, friends and charity.

"If you were a friend of ours, you'd have a painting," Wertz said.

Wertz, 72, and Bordenkircher, 82, did not always paint. After Wertz retired from her career in television at WTAE and Bordenkircher from civil engineering in 2000, Wertz persuaded her husband of 55 years to try painting at the Norwin Art League, on Main Street in Irwin, for six weeks.

"I told him, 'You're going to try it,'" Wertz said, laughing.

They both did.

At the Norwin Art League, the couple mixed colors for the first time, learned brush techniques, and step by step fashioned their first paintings.

"It's kind of like an addiction," said Pat Vaughn, the couple's oil painting instructor. "It sucks you right in."

The activity, which was just something to do, Wertz said, quickly turned into something else entirely -- a passion.

"In life you have to have passion," Wertz said. "We love (to paint) together. ... It's a passion we share."

"When you get married, share something with your spouse," said Wertz.

Their work differs in subject, however.

Bordenkircher, a U.S. Air Force pilot in World War II, paints primarily landscapes and planes he once flew.

"He took what he loved and put it on canvas," Wertz said. "I don't even know what they are."

Bordenkircher, who has painted about 50 pieces, said his biggest challenge is showing the planes in flight. Although he often paints from photographs, he fills in the missing angles from memory.

"I just can't paint it," Bordenkircher said. "It has to mean something to me."

Wertz enjoys painting a variety of subjects, based on her mood.

"I paint whatever strikes my fancy at the moment," she said.

Wertz has completed about 100 oil-on-canvas paintings, ranging from portraits of family members and pets to still lifes of fruit and landscapes from across the country.

Currently, Bordenkircher is painting the Hindenburg disaster and Wertz a coral scene for their show from May 12 through July 6 at Java Express in Norwin Town Square. The show will feature 25 to 30 of their paintings, all for sale to the public.

"Would someone please buy one so we can buy paints?" Wertz said with a laugh. She added that her two children know exactly what to buy them for Christmas and birthdays.

Although the couple usually paint their own subjects, they may join forces in the future. They are discussing a four-part landscape series on Ohiopyle. Each artist would paint two scenes of various rapids, rocks and forest areas.

The couple did paint together once on a project for charity. The Home Rabbit Society received a piece featuring a plane by Bordenkircher -- with a rabbit in the cockpit by Wertz.

"It's wonderful to do (painting) as a couple," said Pat Vaughn, vice president of Norwin Art League. "They can appreciate it together."

"We love to do it together," Wertz said. "We help each other."

Wertz added that the other Norwin Art League artists' critiques are useful.

"When you paint, sometimes you don't see certain things. The other artists help you see what you don't see yet," she said.

The couple enjoys staying active not only with their painting, but also with gardening.

Their feng shui garden, Wertz said, is inspiration for her when she paints at the dining room table.

"Our life is painting and gardening and enjoying where we are," she said. "So between the two of us, we're very happy."

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