When Painting and Writing Meet

Barbara Jablin, of Easton, age 96, a watercolor teacher, and local writer Barbara Reisert of Easton, age 77, have partnered in a unique project where the writing created by Reisert’s memoir students is illustrated by Jablin’s watercolor students. The two met years ago when Reisert was working in tourism and Jablin was in a local painting group called The Traveling Brushes. The two also attended the same church and would often ask when they saw each other what they were writing or painting that week. A friendship was born. Neither realized how parallel their lives had been upon arriving on the Eastern Shore.

Barbara Reisert (left) and Barbara Jablin recently partnered with one another to illustrate memoir with watercolor through local classes they are each teaching on the Mid Shore.

Jablin attended Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and, after raising her children, had a successful career in Balitmore as an illustrator for department stores and eventually as a freelance illustrator. She and her husband retired to St. Michaels in 1978. Her husband became ill with Muscular dystrophy and, after he died, she began teaching watercolor here and developed a large following of students.

She comments, “I got to do what I wanted my whole life without planning it. But I was smart enough to take every opportunity. Teaching gives meaning to my life.”

When asked about what happens when she paints, Jablin comments, “I drop out of things when I paint. I’m not aware of anything that happens except what happens with the paint and brushes.”

Reisert moved from Iowa to St. Michaels in 1997. Her husband was suffering from Multiple sclerosis. After her husband died, she started a bed and breakfast in Claiborne. She explained the draw to Claiborne, stating that her grandfather had been a ferryboat captain and Claiborne had a ferry at one time. She ran the bed and breakfast from 2001 to 2010. She then began to be interested in writing, taking an Academy of Lifelong Learning class that taught the bones of writing. She later decided to teach a memoir class at the St. Michaels Library and St. Michaels Community Center with her friend, Anne McCormick. She now teaches her memoir classes alone and has added a class at Londonderry on Tred Avon.

Reisert comments, “What I enjoy most about memoir is that when people write memoir, there is often a smile on their face as they remember certain periods of their lives. They seem to enjoy reliving these times through their writing.”

Reisert provides a writing topic for each class and notes that there is always a lot of interaction as people read their pieces. When she gave her class the project to write about a favorite tree in their lives, the results were a number of descriptive memories of trees. She then got the idea to have the memoirs illustrated by an artist and approached Jablin about having her watercolor students illustrate the writings. It was something neither had done before and the result was magic.

Writer Nancy Marie Seaman, of Preston, age 74, who has been a writer in Reisert’s St. Michaels Library group for about two and one-half years, has enjoyed the friendships that have developed from the memoir class. She comments, “As we take turns reading, conversations develop about our memories.”

In this latest project with Jablin and Reisert, Nancy Marie wrote about a mimosa tree in her yard. She adds, “I really enjoyed writing about it. Writing memoir really flushes out persona. Listening to other memoir pieces unlocks memories in your own subconscious.”

Writer Florence Thompson, of Londonderry on Tred Avon, age 90, has participated in Reisert’s memoir class for about three years. She had never written much before in her life, although both her father and grandfather were small town newspaper editors. She states, “Starting to write about something each week brings back memories worth sharing. Every Christmas, I share my memoir pieces with my family members. My writing allows me to keep in touch with my large extended family.”

Through Reisert’s writing prompt about trees, Florence wrote about a tree she observed with her daughter, granddaughter and two great granddaughters while visiting Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

Artist Beth Wright, of Tilghman, has been taking watercolor classes from Jablin for three and one-half years. She had done watercolor as a child and in college but did not really pursue it until she retired in 2015 and moved to Tilghman full time. Since then she has become President of the St. Michaels Art League.

Beth comments, “I love the class and Barbara is a wonderful teacher, bringing out the best in our paintings. I thought it was really interesting to do the illustrations of the memoir writing. It challenged us to work from our imaginations of what we thought the writer was describing instead of from an actual picture.”

For further information about the project, the memoir or watercolor classes, email Barbara Reisert at claiborne@atlanticbb.net.

1 Comment
  1. You both look terrific. Have had Barbara R on my mind for several weeks , wondering about your recent adventures. Barbara J. Often look over your St M’s home presuming you were with your son. Due to health issues have dropped out of the mainstream of activities. A few days ago I found a box with my writings. Thought f the joyful years with writing class. Looksike you both have thrived with your new venture. Thanks for the memories .Enjoy. It agrees with you. Agnes

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