Soldotna artist dabs in oils in spare time

Personal pleasure

Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2001

Melinda Hershberger looked around the open space at Kaladi Brothers where her vibrant oil paintings are hung. She pointed out her favorites and those she believes need work, but her talent is prevalent in every one.

"I do it for personal pleasure," she said, adding that her in-home studio is makes it easy for her to get away and produce the works.

It also makes it easier to paint because all her tools and paints stay where she needs them.

"No one can tell me to put it away," she said with a smile.

But time often factors into her hobby.

"If I can get at least two hours , I will sit and paint," Hershberger said.


"Dall Ram" by Melinda Hershberger

She said she paints to relieve the energy that builds up inside her.

"It is a release of sorts. Your mind is always painting a picture."

Hershberger said, on average, landscape paintings can take as little as four hours or as much as several days work. But one look at the framed masterpieces make it all worth while.

Hershberger's family moved to Alaska in 1956 and later settled on the Kenai Peninsula in 1967 when she was 12. She is a graduate of Kenai Central High School and works part-time overseeing the fine arts department at Beemun's in Soldotna. She also is a full-time homemaker.

She said she is a born artist but has sought training to refine her talent. She enrolled in Kenai Peninsula College painting classes when she first started painting more than 20 years ago. She recently started taking classes again, and several of the paintings displayed at Kaladi Brothers are works she created in class.

"I don't have a degree in any one thing, just a lot of experience," she said.


"Juneau Falls" by Melinda Hershberger

She also attends week-long seminars in Oregon each year.

"The inspiration you get from being around other painters, that is an education and degree in itself," she said.

For her, the seminars reaffirm her love of painting.

"(The seminars are) one of the most inspirational experiences," she said. "You just live art on a week straight."

But Hershberger said she is as interested in teaching others how to paint as she is in learning.

She teaches a weekly class at Beemun's on Thursdays. Her classes alternate between children and adults. She also teaches a class that deals with Femo clay, a polymer clay. The class is open to all ages.


"Pink Peonies" detail by Melinda Hershberger

She said she enjoys teaching both groups, but the kids are her favorite.

"It is a real rewarding feeling. The children are so pliable."

Hershberger said she took a hiatus from painting eight years ago to sculpture. She said the art is more portable and does not take as much effort for her.

"I deviated from painting during that time," she said. "It was less of a drain. It takes more to sit down and paint a painting than to mold clay."

Still, painting is her favorite medium.

She said, similar to the walls at the quaint coffee house, almost every wall in her mother's home has a painting hung on it.

"She has some of the prettiest I have done and some of the worst," she said.

Hershberger's husband, Bruce, also is a bit of an artist. While she brushes paint onto a canvas in her studio, he restores muscle cars.

"He always encourages me

to do what I like to do," she said.

Hershberger said she often is inspired by nature and sometimes uses pictures for ideas.

"I like pretty traditional, realistic looking things," she said.

As she looked around the room, Hershberger pointed out a painting of some birds, titled "Chickadees," that she favors. She produced the work in a KPC class and admits, with a smile, she still has a way to go in painting some things.

"Painting is always a learning process," she said.

Hershberger's oil paintings are on display at Kaladi Brothers in Soldotna throughout May.

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