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Painter, storyteller join forces for exhibit
new slt barton arts martin drach
Oil paintings by St. John artist Rebecca Drach illustrate George Martin's short story, "Raspberries." Both are included in the current exhibit at the Barton County Arts Center.

An excerpt from Raspberries, by George Martin 

Alice put the pan down, leaning it against the wire at the bottom of the sty. A slow tipping and the contents began to run into the trough. Soapy water is supposed to keep hogs from getting worms, Alice thought to herself. I’m glad it isn’t good for horses or I’d have to carry it clear to the other side of the barn.


The printed word and painted canvas complement each other in the latest featured exhibit at the Barton County Arts Center.

Ellinwood writer George Martin penned the short story "Raspberries," which inspired a series of accompanying oil paintings by St. John artist Rebecca Drach. The pages of the story hang beside the paintings, so as Martin describes a cook’s helper doing mundane chores on a farm, the reader can see images of chickens being fed or dirty dishwater being carried outside. And the shy — or is it sly? — expressions on characters’ faces in close-up portraits foretell the "twist" at the end of the story.

Born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y., George O. Martin Jr. is the youngest of four children. George Sr. was "a quiet man, a steam engineer on the freighters that plied the Great Lakes," according to information supplied by the writer. His mother Helen was "a garrulous woman who loved to tell stories of her own childhood, and the history of her ancestors, who had settled in Ontario, Canada, around the city of Collingwood."

Influenced greatly by his mother’s story telling, Martin says writing has been a constant pastime since he was in the sixth grade. He began publishing poetry in the 1980s and stories in 1988. He wrote a series of stories for the Hoisington Dispatch under the title "Steam Whistles," and since 1994 he has written a weekly newspaper column titled "Boiling Stones — Things a Man Can Do in the Kitchen," which appears in five newspapers.

"Raspberries" was a story first told to his wife as they traveled home late one night after a trip to southwest Kansas. "It was not put to paper until much later," Martin said. The story appeared last year in the first issue of "Prairie Ink," a literary annual published by Barton Community College. Now Karen P. Neuforth, executive director of the Arts Center, says she plans to publish the story as a book, with Drach’s color illustrations. Meanwhile, story and paintings can be viewed weekday afternoons at the Arts Center, located at 1401 Main St. in Great Bend. Free copies "Prairie Ink" are also available at the Arts Center.

Drach, too, says she’s been interested in art since childhood. She was given an oil painting set when she was 10 years old and experimented on her own for several years.

"Painting in oils still fascinates me," Drach said. "I paint using the Direct Method, otherwise known as ‘Alla Prima,’ all at once. Using this method the paint is applied to the canvas in a single layer, usually in one setting.

"My favorite subject is the portrait scene," she continued. "That is a face or figure included in either a landscape or still-life scene. At times I also enjoy substituting animals in the scenes. These scenes seem the most expressive to me and are the most fun and challenging to paint."

She and Martin are discussing future projects. Meanwhile, Drach continues to have her paintings featured in area exhibits. Her works will be shown at The Hutchinson Arts Center in June.