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Published: Wednesday, 3/2/2005

At 87, artist comes of age with 1st exhibit of paintings

Ella Mae Peters, at the Tiffin-Seneca County Library in Tiffin, spent most of her 87th birthday on Monday preparing more than 40 pieces of her artwork for display at the library. Ella Mae Peters, at the Tiffin-Seneca County Library in Tiffin, spent most of her 87th birthday on Monday preparing more than 40 pieces of her artwork for display at the library.

TIFFIN - When Ella Mae Peters turned 87 on Monday, she didn't have a daylong celebration. She was too busy hanging pictures for her first one-woman art show.

Through the end of March, Mrs. Peters will have more than 40 paintings on display in the Tiffin-Seneca County Public Library on Jefferson Street, just a few blocks from her downtown apartment. The paintings range in style from primitive to abstract.

Although she has sold scores of paintings during the decades she has painted seriously, she has never had a display like the one at the library.

"This is going to be a real coup for her," said her daughter, Becky Hill, the co-head librarian for the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont. "It's pretty impressive. There's a lot from different time periods."

Patrica Hillmer, director of the library, is happy to have the show as well.

"It's important for people to have an opportunity to see how artists view the world," she said.

One of Mrs. Peters' earlier paintings, Old Mill Dam, hangs at one end of the library's entrance. The acrylic landscape glows with autumnal golds.

"I got it too bright, but artistically, it's great," she said, cocking her head to give the painting a critical look.

"Now, I wouldn't show the tree roots so much."

Spoken like a true artist. Who doesn't examine her early work and focus on all the details she would change?

Later in her career, she moved to watercolors, which are both more frustrating and more rewarding with which to work.

"You can't correct your mistakes. And you make a lot of mistakes," she said with a chuckle.

She stopped before a colorful nautical watercolor, Sunset at Quisset Bay. "That was probably one of my most difficult. I did it twice and threw one away."

Mrs. Peters, who grew up in Coryville, Pa., is largely self-taught, although she has taken many workshops and classes. Many of the paintings look back to her roots. Holmes Homestead, an oil, is a primitive look at her grandmother's house, in which Mrs. Peters grew up.

Village of Coryville, Pa., another oil, is a view of her hometown when she was a child, and its primitive style reflects that.

Other paintings harken back to days as a young woman in upstate New York, or her more recent home near Orlando, Fla. She moved to Tiffin about five years ago to be near her daughter, who admires her mother's abilities.

Even though much of her art concerns the past, Mrs. Peters is a 21st-century woman as well. Her children gave her a computer for her 80th birthday, which she still uses daily, mostly to keep track of her inventory and to stay in touch with friends and clients.

"I've struggled with it, but I wouldn't be without it," she said of her computer. "I don't understand those people, old people, who are afraid of them. I use it for Google, I have a journal, I scan pictures, and send email to people. I think they're wonderful."

She laughed.

"I'm never bored, between the painting and the computer," and she pointed at her daughter, "and trying to keep her shaped up. "She tries to keep me shaped up, but she gave up on that a long time ago."

Contact Vanessa Winans at:


or 419-724-6168.

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