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Toil at Tole - The Art is in the Journey

Updated on May 14, 2009

The Michelangelo's and da Vinci's of the world are few and far between. Most of us struggle to make a stick figure look semi-realistic. But for all that our art rarely captures the majestic perfection and nuanced beauty the masters managed, there's something truly inspiring in an artist of any level deeply engaged in their craft.

My wife is one such artist. Though no slouch (her work often amazes me) she feels she'll never attain the level of skill and sophistication exhibited by those she idolizes. But the purity of effort, the passion she puts in, there's nothing more evocative of human perfection than the pursuit. The end results don't really matter.

Left alone, she can pass an entire evening engaged in her craft. The world around her may as well have stopped. Time has no meaning. Sometimes she sets down her brush with pride. Other times, it leaves her hand with a slightly contemptuous flick of her wrist if the piece didn't turn out as she'd hoped. Whatever her opinion, I've always felt the real art is the image of my wife, totally engaged in her craft, while I (and the rest of the planet) move distantly and insignificantly through time around her.

I can't teach anybody to paint (God help you if I tried) but I wanted to share just one of the many reasons I love this woman and, I hope, inspire others who have an interest in taking up painting of any style to give it a shot and rejoice in the journey until your mastery matches your expectations. That in mind, I asked my wife to write a little bit about one of her favorite styles – Tole painting. Her own words follow.

Tole Painting - Explore the Painter in You!

What is tole painting you ask? Well, first of all, it is nothing new! For centuries, people (both men and women) have used the art of decorative painting to embellish and decorate personal items either for their own use or to give as gifts. Tole painting is referred to by many names including: decorative painting, folk tole painting, country painting, One Stroke painting (which was made popular by Donna Dewberry), and folk art painting.

While a hobby for many, tole painting can also be a lucrative business. Many tole painters have turned their hobby into very successful careers! Laurie Speltz, for example, is a well known tole artist who has her own line of tole books, stencils and other painting related products.

Dedicated to their craft, most tole painters take their hobby very seriously. Not only are tole painting clubs and organizations available around the world, there are several big conventions held each year that are devoted entirely to the craft. Heart of Ohio Tole, which is part of the decorative painting society, hosts a tole painting convention that is attended by thousands of painters.  Better known as HOOT, this convention is a tole painter’s paradise! Whether you want to take a class with a well known tole artist, or shop among the hundreds of vendors selling anything from paint to patterns, this convention is a dream come true for those who love the art of decorative painting.

So, not quite sure if tole painting is for you? Trust me, anyone can become a decorative painter!  There are many different tole painting techniques and most of them, if not all, can be mastered if you are simply willing to practice! The wonderful thing about this creative hobby is the fact that there are many different levels. From simple folk art designs to intricate, detailed creations, there is something for everyone no matter what level you are.

For many people, once they discover the world of tole painting they quickly become addicted. Tole painting is not only fun, it is a relaxing and rewarding hobby. Many tole painters sell their creations at local craft shows and festivals. Trust me when I say you will never forget when you sell your first hand painted, one of a kind creation! Others paint just for the sheer enjoyment it brings them. If you are looking for a creative hobby why not awaken your inner painter and give tole painting a try!  Take it from this tole painter…you will be glad you did!

If you are interested in finding out more about tole painting, I recommend the following books: “The Complete Book of Decorative Painting” by Tera Leigh, “Tole Painting Made Easy” by Ondori Staff and for those of you that are already familiar with tole painting, I recommend anything by Jamie Mills-Price, especially the book: “Painting Heartwarming Holidays.” Good luck and happy painting!


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