When pastel artist Beverly Olin was young, she liked to draw and sketch. However, by the time she was in college, she knew she would wed Lutheran minister Carl Olin, and felt that she might need to be of some financial assistance but desired to contribute to society on her own. As a result, she was one of the first students to graduate in the new major field of special education.
In teaching, Olin discovered that drawing, sketching and clay sculpture brought out creative abilities in her learning-disabled children. The teacher had always liked working with her hands, so finding that head and hand control was a bonus and worked so well with her students. Little did she realize that this experience would set her up for a difficult, yet highly rewarding, time in her later life.
When the Olins retired to Fairfield Glade, they were still reasonably young. As it happened, a missionary friend suggested that the Church School in Madagascar would be a perfect fit for a couple of their experience. Olin taught English in the high school and loved her pupils from Madagascar, who were so poor yet so anxious to learn. The native people had their own arts and crafts, so the pastel artist found that cultures can meet through creativity. However, there were no pastels, crayons, notebook paper or much of anything in the island school.
Olin said she taught with a crumbling chalkboard in an ancient building. Her students all thought she was rich. They wanted to know how she lived. Perhaps by village standards, their home in the U.S. would have been a palace. Madagascar provided the following elegant accommodations… no electricity, running water, yes, but unfortunately, the village was located on top of a hot spring, so, of course, all the water was hot as well. The windows of their cottage were broken, but the place was so hot that window breeze was the coolest reliable air.
Pigs and chickens roamed the streets, feeding themselves. The chickens laid eggs, wherever, so Beverly always broke an egg individually, since she never knew how fresh or rotten the egg might be. Pigs ate garbage, so the Olins avoided pork. The couple ate a great deal of rice and canned vegetable soup.
In spite of primitive living conditions, the artist found that spiritually, the experience was rewarding. Eager students, plus kind and friendly people, more than made up for inconvenience.
Olin had time to draw and paint the village women and children and to work on their portraits. The artist is fond of faces, all kinds of faces. She had taken her first pastel class by accident. The Olins had moved to Fairfield Glade in 1996, and she wanted to take some classes. All the classes were full except for pastel painting. “What’s that?” she wondered, “I’ll take the class — I might like it.” Beverly Olin’s career as a pastel painter came into being. By 1998, when the Olins went to Madagascar, she had already become proficient in the medium. Six months later, she returned and brought many sketches, drawings, and paintings from her missionary experience.
Although her present pieces at the Plateau Creative Arts Center in Fairfield Glade are mainly landscapes, she is very active in both the Art Guild and in the Lutheran Church. The artist has exhibited many of her pastels in Cumberland County. Olin is a past president of the Art Guild who loves people and portraits. She organized the life drawing class at the Plateau Creative Arts Center.
Olin delights in pastels and states, “They are direct, the colors are bright and striking, and I like my hands holding the pastel as I draw figures and faces.”