Bio: Struble, Pat (Lifetime of Art - 2016)
Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon
Surnames: Struble, North, Garrett-Holets, Roberts, Schuster, Naedler, Callaway, Kohler, O’Neil, Bradbury, Tufts, Marsh, Shard, Van Gorden, Scholtz, Kopp, Stone, Kunstler
----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 4/20/2016
Struble’s Artwork Depicts a Colorful Life (Lifetime of Art - 2016)
Pat Struble demonstrates her watercolor painting technique Thursday during an interview at the Neillsville Retirement Community. The painting features a scene at Rock Dam. (Photo by Todd Schmidt/Clark County Press)
By Todd Schmidt
Pat (North) Struble has had a wonderful and colorful life, in more ways than one.
Struble, 92, shared her story Thursday in a comfortable setting at Neillsville Retirement Community, where she has resided for the past month. Linda Garrett-Holets of the Clark Cultural Art (CART) Center and long time friend of Stephen Roberts joined the discussion.
Since she was a little girl growing up in Neillsville, Struble had a burning desire to be an artist. Garrett-Holets is excited to have 13 of Struble’s coveted watercolor paintings o n display during the CART Center grand opening weekend May 7-8.
Some of the paintings have never been publically displayed. Her fragile health permitting, Struble will attend the show May 7 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. She will sign prints of some of her favorite pieces, which will be offered for sale.
Garrett-Holets said Struble’s artwork would be shown through July 3.
Struble, who is a nationally renowned artist, provided a demonstration of her painting technique Thursday. She shared a few secrets about using salt and sand pebbles to make her watercolor art unique.
Struble grew up on East 4th Street in Neillsville. At that time is was a dead-end road that led to the Standpipe water tower and a park. Neighbors included the prominent Schuster, Naedler, Callaway, Kohler, O’Neil, Bradbury and Tufts families.
She was a tomboy who spent a lot of time with her friends enjoying the Black River in Neillsville and the surrounding mounds, which she climbed every year. They skated on the local pond and had fun sliding down the hill by the jail.
When she was young, her family practiced the Christian Science faith. They were not allowed to speak to children of the Catholic or Lutheran faith. She did attend the Congregational Church Sunday school, which was considered “neutral.”
Struble’s father, “Pete” worked for a bank, and children whose parents worked for a different bank in town were also “off limits.” Her Grandpa Marsh owned a dry goods store that featured clothing, shoes, fur coats, drapery and bedding.
One year, the Sunday school put on a play. Struble painted the scenery for it.
“That is how I discovered how much I like to paint,” she said.
Her father influenced her love for the great outdoors. They enjoyed spending time at Rock Dam, Saddle Mound and Levis Mound and going on fishing trips to Hay Creek in western Clark County. She learned about wildlife and wildflowers in the woods and trees.
When she was in eighth grade, Struble got her first flute and her first horse, “Gypsy.”
Later on, another horse, “Touch the Sky,” was shown all over the country, winning every competition.
“She was a Junior Pleasure Champion, which is comparable to winning the Heisman Trophy in football,” Struble smiles. “She had four colts, and one was a National Western Champion.”
Over the years, horseback riding has been her joy, refuge, therapy, salvation and comfort.
“On the back of a horse I feel completely in touch with my heart and soul,” she said. “I feel whole, complete and connected to the vital place in the center of me, and the chaos in me finds peace and balance.”
One winter, instead of building a snowman, Struble built a snow horse right in front of her house. A picture of her “riding” her snow horse appeared in the local newspaper.
The family had a cottage on Lake Arbutus. That is where Struble learned how to swim.
Many of these experiences influenced her watercolor creativity.
After graduation from Neillsville High School, Struble attended Downer College in Milwaukee for one year. She moved on to UW-Madison, graduating in 1945 with a degree in home economics.
While in college, she entered art shows, winning top prizes. She also attended workshops, learning a great deal from organizers and other participants.
She worked for a short time as a dress designer at a Boston Store in Milwaukee. She then began designing clothing for Joan Miller and Jr. House.
Her career wound through Schuster’s as an advertising artist and Chapman’s in Milwaukee as an advertising illustrator. She then worked as a free-lance artist, with accounts at Dayton’s and Young Quinlan.
Dayton’s then hired her full-time to design their Oval Room, Symphony and Ballet advertisements.
“Success was grand, but I became homesick for the woods, the water and the cottage at Lake Arbutus,” she said. Around 1950, Struble moved back home.
She married naval pilot Owen Shard in 1949. That marriage ended in divorce.
In 1950, she married Dick Van Gordon. They divorced in 1954.
In 1957, she married “Bud” Struble, the love of her life. They shared a love for horses, the outdoors and a cottage on Lake Arbutus. Sadly, Bud passed away in 1995.
In the mid-70’s, Struble exhibited a number of her watercolor paintings at a show in Appleton.
Pat Struble displays her watercolor artwork at a show held in Appleton in the mid-1970s. (Contributed photo)
“Something was within me,” she said. “I would see something new and I would want to paint it. Sometimes when I finished a painting I would look at it and not even remember doing it. It was like there was an inner power guiding me.”
Struble said over the years her painting style changed and matured. She went through an abstract cycle and then came back to realism. She dabbled in oil for a while and came back to concentrate on watercolor.
One of her paintings, at age 10, was of the old Clark County Courthouse as seen out her bedroom window.
This scene depicts the old Clark County Courthouse and several homes as seen outside Pat Struble’s bedroom window. She did the watercolor painting when she was age 10. (Photo by Todd Schmidt/Clark County Press)
I loved that old courthouse,” she said.
Her father built a playhouse for her, complete with stained glass windows. Another painting features that structure in its beautiful backyard setting.
She said the playhouse was eventually moved to the WCCN radio tower site. It is still in use today.
Struble said a photograph submitted by the long-time friend Kay Scholtz inspired a watercolor painting of Rock Dam.
“That one and other outdoor scenes I started with the sky first, followed by the flowers, and then I filled in the rest.” she said.
Other paintings were inspired by county trips with Roberts.
“We would take trips to many places around here, including Pray, City Point, Carter Lake and the Abbott Ranch,” Roberts said. “We visited her grandfather’s farm in Atwood and checked out a dilapidated barn near Osseo. We are both history buffs, and we enjoy talking about the rich history around here.”
They admit traveling on some “pretty scary” county roads.
“Dad just grilled local history into me,” Struble said. “I just love it.”
Garrett-Holets said she is excited about the CART Center grand opening featuring Struble’s artwork.
“Stephen showed me through the 1897 Jail Museum, which features some of her paintings,” Garrett -Holets said. “Pat is a wonderful artist. This is a great honor for us.”
One day last fall, Struble visited the former LAB Art Gallery on Hewett Street in Neillsville.
“She came in all dolled-out with a mink coat on,” Garrett-Holets said. “That gave us an opportunity to bond a little.”
Struble’s step-daughter, Nancy (Van Gorden) Kopp lives in Neillsville. Another daughter, Tamara (Van Gorden) Stone, will be coming to visit the week of the CART show from Bainbridge, WA, with her daughters: Kayt, Laura and Helen.
“I am the half-wicked stepmother to Nancy, and I love her dearly,” Struble said with a grin.
Garret-Holets said other things planned for the grand opening May 7 include a Neillsville Area Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting at 9 a.m. and a live concert by “Bridge to Grace” at 2 p.m. The group will provide free acoustic guitar lessons after the show.
Work from various artists, including oil painter Josef-Peter Kunstler, will be on display both days. Nationally acclaimed artists in painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, pottery and mixed media will have their work featured. Art demonstrations will be conducted and culinary class sampling will be enjoyed.
However, the most unique exhibit will be the display featuring Struble’s historical watercolor paintings. “Pat is one of the last links to many of the prominent families in Neillsville,” Roberts said.
Struble summed up her life experiences with a motto she has lived by. “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body,” she said, “but rather to ski in sideways, chocolate in one hand, margarita in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming ‘whoa, what a ride!’”
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