Seaford artist surprised when her first try at painting turns out well

By Lynn R. Parks

Tammy Kearney was searching for something. Her only child, a daughter, Brooke, had left home for college and Kearney wanted a hobby to fill the hours. "I had always liked art," said Kearney, 51, of Seaford. "My mother had painted when I was a kid and I had always liked the look of watercolors. I decided I would try to paint." Kearney, who had never had a class, who had never even been told in school that she had any talent, bought a techniques book, some paints, paper and brushes. She set up a table in her home's sunroom and started painting a picture of two quaking parrots. To her astonishment, the painting turned out well. "I was really surprised that I could do it," she said. "I thought, 'I think I really like this.'" That was in 1999. Today, Kearney has a well-lit studio on the side of her house, transformed from a garage by her husband, Mike, in a three and one-half year project, where she creates her watercolors. In the corner of her studio is the only portrait she has ever done, an oil of Brooke. She accepts commissions and has works hanging in a gallery in Corolla, N.C. And she couldn't be happier. "I just feel very blessed that I have found this in my life," she said. "Painting is a great joy." Kearney grew up in Greenwood and graduated from Woodbridge High School in 1975. She went to work for the Justice of the Peace court system soon after graduation and retired as operations manager of the Superior Court in Georgetown in 1992. She works part-time as an assistant at Century 21 Tull Ramey real estate, Seaford. Kearney takes classes with Nancy LaPrad, Seaford, and with Kurt Plinke, Greensboro, Md. Her focus is on nature-inspired paintings, in particular landscapes and birds. Lying on her painting table on a recent late-fall morning was a just-finished painting of a red-tail hawk standing on a weatherworn wooden post. A single strand of barbed wire stretches across the bottom of the painting, a few sprigs of grass rise up from the ground.

On a nearby counter was an unfinished painting of a bluebird, also standing on a post. Nearby were paintings of a blue jay with delphiniums, a yellow finch sitting on a thistle bloom, thrushes and swans. One painting was of an old stone barn in the snow, another was of a pair of Canada geese. "I've gotten great feedback from a lot of people and that makes me very happy," Kearney said. Kearney is one of the founders of the year-old Nanticoke River Arts Council, which is trying to bring more opportunities to view and appreciate art to western Sussex County. The council had member displays during this summer's farmers markets in Kiwanis Park and has held two Art in the Park events, also in Kiwanis Park. In September, it held an invitation-only art show and wine tasting at Act II florist in downtown Seaford. "We hope to get to the point that we can offer workshops and art education classes," Kearney said. "Maybe even a festival." Kearney believes that everyone can benefit from exposure to art and to painting. Based on her own experience, she insists that people don't know the extent of their artistic talents until they actually put brush to paper. "I really wish that I had started this earlier," she said. Her daughter, she added, "has a very good eye," and she is encouraging her to start painting. "I don't want Brooke to waste time," she said. "I don't want her to wait until she is 45 to start doing what she should be doing all along."

For your information: Tammy Kearney can be contacted at 629-2829 or by e-mail at Her studio is open by appointment.

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