By Maddy Vitale
Joanne Hession Lennon was trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She learned how to use acrylics, oils and pastels. She learned different techniques. Taught by some of the best, she honed her skills to stand out in the world of art.
But it was her life as a married, mother of six, living in Glenn Mills, Pa. and vacationing in Sea Isle, that gave her the perfect subject matter to highlight her distinct talent.
Over the years she has sold some of her pieces. Some were commissioned. Others hang in her Sea Isle home or have been handed down to lucky family members.
“I don’t get into selling them too much,” Lennon said. “All of my paintings are my babies.”
But her real babies – three daughters and three sons – and 22 grandchildren – have been her true inspiration for her favorite works of art.
Portraits, as opposed to landscapes, mothers and children, instead of still life, have been her motivators to continue to put color to canvas at age 80.
“What I like is the connection between mother and child,” Lennon said. “I just love people.”
She entered an art contest in Sea Isle two years ago and won. In return for the honor, she was able to create one of her works of art on an electrical box at JFK Boulevard, just steps from the Promenade.
Her love of children and family made it easy for her to choose her topic.
Three sides of the electrical box represent images of her grandchildren, Zachary who is waving, Olivia is holding a bucket and Adeline dons a big old-fashioned bow. On the fourth side is a sandcastle.
“I did the paintings through my photographs,” she said of the art done with acrylics.
Recently Lennon spent the day freshening up her artwork, that had faded and chipped due to storms.
That day reminded her of one of the many reasons she and her family have had a second home in Sea Isle for the last 30 years.
“I had people thanking me for beautifying their city. They were so nice,” she said. “It is my city too and I will make sure it is kept up.”
She would like to paint more electrical boxes in town.
“My niece told me there was an empty box and to call about it,” she said. “I think I will.”
On the weekends when Lennon comes down to her shore home, she takes morning walk and always “visits” her electrical box.
“It just makes me happy seeing the images of my grandkids,” she said of the children who are grown now.
Something else about Sea Isle has really been inspiring.
Despite going to one of the finest art schools in the country, classes she took at the Sea Isle branch of the Cape May County Library, gave her a new love for watercolors.
“Everyone was really friendly at the library and it was there that I really learned how to express myself,” she said. “I felt very comfortable. It really brought me more into watercolors. I told my friends about the art classes.”
The art teachers, Diana Heitzman and Sue Rau, inspired Lennon.
She hopes to return the favor by painting something for the library or even help with some classes.
This month she and some of her children and grandchildren are going on an African safari to celebrate her 80th birthday.
“We are going for 13 days. I suppose I am a little crazy,” she laughed.
Her grandchildren will be taking sketch pads to do watercolors to capture the memories.
Lennon plans on turning to animals for her latest artwork.
She has been a tour guide, a graphic artist, and most importantly, a mom and all the while, art has been there, something her late husband Bill Lennon, was always very supportive of throughout their 51 years together, she said.
“Art has been something I always loved of course. Art is such a wonderful thing. It just has brought me such pleasure in my whole life,” Lennon said. “I can find enjoyment in shapes and colors. It makes life more beautiful.”