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Painter finds ‘very intense’ colors in WB
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · November 04, 2009


Patricia Rottino Cummins’ father’s shop was just a few blocks away from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. At age 10, she began visiting the museum, wandering the halls and taking in Oldenberg sculptures and Picasso paintings.


“I really didn’t understand it, but I liked it,” she said. “And I knew it was important.”

Her parents grew up in the Great Depression and neither finished high school. But she learned early on that she was good at art and wanted to pursue it as a career.

And her route from the Big Apple to the birthplace of the Great Humanitarian took her around the world.

Her training included painting lessons from an employee at her father’s hairdressing shop, an art studio at private Catholic school Mary Lewis Academy and a Saturday class at the Forest Park School of Art while in high school. She learned charcoal, pastels and oil painting.

In the late 1960s, she enrolled at Queens College for $80 per semester and studied art education. While there, she worked several jobs and also met her future husband. The two lived in White Plains, NY, before moving to Miami, where she enrolled at Florida International University at met Prof. David Chang, a talented Chinese artist who preferred painting outdoors and often studied abroad.

Cummins, who was also teaching art to elementary pupils, landed a grant from the Florida cultural council and was able to travel with Chang to China in 2006.

Cummins took a year off to paint and set up a studio near Biscayne National Park.

A BNP ranger stopped by one day and asked if she would paint scenes of the park. There was no money in it, but the BNP wanted to turn its visitor center into a gallery to highlight some of the endangered flowers found in a park made up of 95 percent water.

She did about 20 paintings and started to get recognized.

“I was on a mission,” she said.

She found venues, usually government buildings, to exhibit her work.

Cummins even had her work recognized by the governor’s office. She was given a choice between displaying her work in the governor’s chamber or the capitol building; she chose the latter for more exposure.

BNP encouraged her to apply for residency programs, which took her to the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert and, in October, the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site.

The Hoover Park was the first one she visited devoted to honoring a single person.

“I needed to be a little more responsible,” she said. “I was excited. It was an honor to paint anywhere a president was born.”

She said it took her a day to acclimate herself to the site, and the cooler weather. She left 90-degree Miami and arrived to 30-degree weather in West Branch, which started turning leaves.

“The colors are very intense here,” Cummins said.

Touring the schoolhouse, she saw a pot-bellied stove that reminded her of stories her now 91-year-old mother told her about when she attended a small school.

She said she was struck by the birthplace cottage because of its historical significance, but also by its size.

“It’s smaller than I expected,” she said of the 240-square-foot home. “I can’t imagine three children and two adults in there. The kids were probably outside a lot.”

More comfortable with painting nature than structures, she said she chose to draw the cottage, like other buildings, by pretending it was “just another bush.”

“It’s more forgiving to paint landscape,” she said. “You can express yourself better.”

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