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Life in watercolor

Anita Plucker, shown posing with one of her paintings Thursday inside the Nobles County Art Center, will have her art on display there during the month of June. Ryan McGaughey/Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON — Anita Plucker has spent a lifetime with a paintbrush in her hand. Even as a child, painting and drawing weren’t just things she did to pass the time — they were part of her soul.

“I have been painting for as long as I can remember,” Plucker said Thursday morning at the Nobles County Art Center. “It was never just a hobby. I felt a need to create. I am happiest when I’m painting or drawing and in creative mode.”

Surrounded by crates of pictures and with a hammer and nails at the ready, Plucker prepared for her art show “Come To My Window,” which can be viewed by the public beginning with an opening event from 2-4 p.m. Sunday at the art center.

About 30 years ago, Plucker’s creative compulsions led her to watercolors. She loved it from the start.

“As I grew up I tried different medias,” Plucker said. “I liked to draw and I still use colored pencils, but when I tried watercolors I was hooked.”

Watercolors, she has found, are the perfect media for her water-themed work.

“I love being on the water,” Plucker revealed. “I have a kayak as well as my own boat. I find that it’s very peaceful out on the water. With my camera in hand, I can see nature up close. I like the paths and textures as man and nature play with the surface of the water. That’s been my focus for the last five years.”

As if to prove her point, many of Plucker’s paintings’ titles start with the words, “From my kayak” and then go on to depict the water and/or the shore as she sees it from her boat.

“My primary interest is nature,” Plucker explained. “I always say that the authentic ‘me’ rises above everything else when I’m immersed in nature. Nature takes me away for a little while from real life. It soothes my spirit, and I document that in my art work.

“The land is very important to me,” she added. “I grew up on a farm in rural northwest Iowa. There is joy to me in the disorder of nature — the haphazard places.”

Would Plucker enjoy painting outside in a classic easel-beside-the-river setting?

“I was going to do that one summer,” Plucker answered, chuckling. “I like it, but the light changes and paint dries too quickly outside and the bugs and the breeze — it gets frustrating. It’s much better in my studio.”

Now, Plucker photographs scenes she’d like to paint and then takes her camera home to her studio in Terril, Iowa, where she was born and raised. There, using the photos that she has taken as inspiration, she spends the majority of her mornings hard at work. Even her husband doesn’t interrupt; his schedule as a trucker keeps him away all week long.

“My studio is wonderful to have,” Plucker said. “It’s a very small space, but it’s arranged nicely and efficiently and I feel very comfortable there. It’s wonderful to have my time be my own during the week — I don’t have to worry about household chores or schedules. I’m excited each and every day to get up and go to work.”

Plucker has found the photographs she takes serve more as a muse these days than as an exact rule for what she wants to depict.

“The more you paint and learn about composition and what you’re trying to say, you can move things around so that the photo becomes reference material and I’m not held to what I see,” she clarified. “Painting exactly what you see in a photo is an excellent way to learn to paint. But now I know it’s more aesthetically pleasing to the eye to change things a little.”

For example, one of Plucker’s favorite paintings in the show is based on a photo that included aquatic plant life and a red rowboat that was out of place in the center of the picture. Now, improved by her brush, the pond scum is gone and the red boat is moved to the distance, drawing the viewer’s eye to the horizon.

Plucker knows of what she speaks when talking about composition and technique, having attended several art workshops across the nation over the years.

“When my kids were little I had no funds to go to reputable workshops, so I was self-taught,” she said. “Now I try to go on an arts adventure every year, both for fun and to learn. It expands my knowledge and challenges me, taking me in different directions. I think sometimes we get too focused and comfortable in one direction. A challenge can be rewarding.

“Being around other people that ‘speak your language’ is very fulfilling — the camaraderie — to understand each other,” she continued. “It’s a wonderful experience.”

In addition, Plucker teaches several art classes each summer at places like the Pearson Lakes Arts Center in Okoboji, Iowa, where she also has some work displayed. A Piece of Work in Spirit Lake, Iowa, carries her art, as does Arts on Grand in Spencer, Iowa.

Plucker summarized her art show and her philosophy as an artist by reiterating her compulsion to paint.

“For me, it’s that need to create. I believe that art is an expression of who we are on the inside. My work will often turn around and tell me about myself, what is important to me. I used to think that I just painted pretty pictures, but it’s life within, expressing itself.”

Anita Plucker’s watercolors will be on display in the Nobles County Art Center for the month of June starting with her opening from 2-4 p.m. Sunday. The art center, located in the basement of the Nobles County Library, is open weekdays from 2-4:30 p.m. Admittance is free.