An Artful Life: Ebby Hynson has mastered the art of living well
By Cesca Waterfield
She’s been serenaded by locals and praised by art lovers for her skilled and imaginative paintings. Former Colonial Beach Mayor Rummage promised fireworks on her hundredth birthday.
But Evelyn “Ebby” Hynson, who turned 93 in January, almost didn’t move to Colonial Beach at all.
“When we were first married in ‘40, my husband wanted to come live here,” Ebby remembers. “I screamed and hollered. I said, ‘I’m a city gal! There’s nothing to do!’”
So the couple lived in Ebby’s hometown of Washington D.C. and visited the Beach on weekends. Each time, Ebby brought her sketchbook.
Then she discovered painting. “I was using pastels and somebody gave me these oils,” she says. “I didn’t know what to do with them.”
As an only child, Ebby had drawn all of her life, but painting was different. She was determined to master it. Sometimes she worked on a painting through the night until it was time to leave for her secretarial job at the United Mine Workers of America.
Ebby soon warmed up to her husband’s hometown. “I got involved with women of the Moose and other activities,” she remembers. “It didn’t seem so deserted.”
After she retired in 1982, she and her husband moved to Colonial Beach for good. Early on, she found artistic inspiration by visiting Washington’s birthplace.
“When I first came down here, I would hang out there quite a bit. It interested me, because nobody was painting that era and it seemed so colorful.”
But don’t think the Potomac offered inspiration. “The river doesn’t impress me,” she makes clear. “My house is on a creek. I have a beautiful view across to the other shore. Now that impressed me.”
Around town, Ebby became known for her one-of-a-kind personality and for wearing stylish hats.
“The first time I met Ebby, I had no idea she was an artist,” recalls Beach resident Lyn Ring. “She was just this charming and funny lady at a picnic at the Moose Lodge wearing a very happy flowered hat. You never saw Ebby without a glorious hat.”
Among artists, she was gaining a reputation as a skilled painter. When Dr. Sara Looney moved to the Beach, Ebby was recommended to her as a teacher.
“I think I’ve been a decent painter and it’s because Ebby has helped me over the years,” Looney says. “She has a great eye. It’s a very practiced eye, because she’s painted for [so long].”
During an afternoon visit, Looney says to Ebby: “You’re always trying to learn something new. You keep pushing for a technique that you haven’t tried yet. You work with it until you master it.”
“The one thing I’m still searching for is to get the light right,” Ebby says. “I haven’t satisfied myself yet.”
While she is driven to improve, Ebby sees painting as a way to relax. “I’m always trying to explain to people about painting, how it releases them from their own tensions and things that are bothering them. I used to say flowers were my therapy. When I painted flowers, then I’d really relax.”
Nine months ago Ebby suffered a stroke and had to move into Westmoreland Rehab. But she remains cheerful and is quick to laugh when her blue eyes ignite with amusement.
“Up until now, I haven’t given [painting] that much time because I’ve been getting acquainted with everything that’s going on. It seems so strange. I wanted to go back to my house to do my painting but I can’t.”
She often brings water colors to the common room for use by residents. “Not teaching,” she says. “If you push somebody, you end up pushing them into the hole you’re trying to pull them out of! All I do is put the paint out and say, ‘Use it the way you want to.’”
She’s still looking for a place in the facility where she can paint. “When you’re a person who has a talent to do it, it’s a drive. You can’t just stop and do it any old place. You have to have a feeling about the painting. You have to want to do it real badly. Then you try and get all the information you can and get it in your mind. There’s more to it than people think there is.”
She’s had health complications before and rebounded with verve. “Ebby’s spirit and love of life surrounds her like an electric aura,” Ring says. “She is an exceptional lady.”
Last month, Jarret Thor Gallery showed Ebby’s work and an early birthday party brought out dozens of Ebby’s friends and admirers.
“I love to paint and hopefully whoever gets a painting of mine is somebody who can really enjoy it, not just as a picture but to see some things in it that they were not aware of at first,” Ebby says. “To me, every artist puts their own personality in their paintings. There’s lots of people who paint, but I don’t think everybody puts their heart and soul into it.”