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story.lead_photo.caption Evening Shade artist Eva Haley puts the finishing touches on one of her paintings using a palette knife. Haley received the $600 First Community Bank Purchase Award in the recent Plein on Main art contest sponsored Sept. 29 and 30 by Gallery 246. - Photo by Staci Vandagriff

— It had been awhile since Eva Haley had done a plein air painting, but her recent efforts paid off. She participated in the Plein on Main art contest sponsored Sept. 29 and 30 by Gallery 246 in Batesville and won the purchase award.

“I definitely was surprised,” she said, smiling. “I had not painted outside in four years.”

Haley, 61, received the $600 First Community Bank Purchase Award for a painting she did of one of the homes on Batesville’s historic Main Street.

“A couple of my students and a friend from Hardy told me about the contest,” Haley said. “I registered and drove down Main Street, which is mostly the historic district, and saw several houses that I might like to paint. I chose a blue house that had an American flag on the porch, a raised walkway and ivy growing on it.

“That morning when I got ready to paint it, the light was just right. … The sun just lit it up,” she said. “I worked on it about 2 1/2 hours. I painted another house that afternoon, when the light was just right on it, too.

“Julie, from the bank, chose the one of the blue house as the purchase-award winner. It makes you feel good to win,” Haley said.

Julie Graves, junior graphic designer for First Community Bank, said, “I thought it just looked like Main Street to me.”

“I liked the way the light seems to draw you into the painting. There is just something about the light and steps. … It just leads you up the steps. And the colors are just beautiful,” she said.

“I live near downtown and walk by this house frequently,” Graves said. “This is the second year the bank has sponsored this award. This is just a way for us to serve the community.”

Haley said she considered herself a “hobby painter” until four years ago, when she opened Piney Creek Studio at 225 W. Main St. in Evening Shade.

“This is my dream come true,” she said.

“I had always planned to teach and paint after I retired,” Haley said, adding that she worked in the banking industry for approximately 40 years.

“Retirement came a little earlier than I expected. I had an accident that caused a back injury and forced me to retire four years ago. I retired Feb. 2, 2015. My husband, Lonnie, built the studio and gallery for me, but he didn’t have it ready by then. I taught for a while in a room at the empty school building,” she said.

“I have a couple of days a week set aside for teaching on a regular basis, and I have a few private classes as well. I also carry Jack Richeson artist supplies,” Haley said.

“As a kid, I was always coloring and drawing. I think I started school in 1963. There was no Bob Ross on PBS or any other artists on TV back then. The only time we watched TV was on Saturday morning when we were allowed to watch cartoons. The rest of the time, we were outside playing,” she said.

“There was no art class in school. So I don’t know how I knew I wanted to be an artist. My mother has a piece of paper from when I was in the first grade that said I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I don’t know how I even knew what an artist was. There were no books, no shows about artists on TV,” Haley said.

“I just always loved drawing. After Lonnie and I got married, I bought some ‘how-to’ books and pretty much taught myself,” she said.

“About 10 years ago, I took my first workshop from an internationally known professional artist, William Scott Jennings, who lived in Sedona, Arizona. I had seen him on PBS. He held a weeklong workshop at his home for what he advertised as for ‘professional and serious students only.’ I called and talked to him, telling him I still worked and only had two weeks’ vacation in which I could attend a workshop. He accepted me into the workshop,” Haley said.

“It went real well,” she said. “I got the bug for plein air painting. I went back again a couple of years later.

“Later, I attended a plein air workshop with Frank LaLumia of Colorado,” Haley said. “I have also attended a plein air workshop at Cotter on the White River with Bruce Peil of Athens, Texas.”

Additionally, Haley has taken workshops with Kathryn Stats, a landscape artist from Utah, and Jeff Legg , a still-life artist originally from Missouri who lived in Colorado but now lives in Northwest Arkansas. Both presented workshops at different times in Fayetteville sponsored by the Artists of Northwest Arkansas.

Born and raised in Evening Shade, Haley is a daughter of Herman and Evelyn Runsick, who still live in Evening Shade. She has two brothers, Randy and David Runsick, who also live in Evening Shade.

“We didn’t get too far from home,” she said, laughing. “I graduated from Evening Shade High School in 1975, the same year I married my high school sweetheart, Lonnie Haley,” she said, adding that Lonnie moved to Evening Shade from Ohio when he was in the 10th grade, although his dad was originally from Evening Shade.

Eva Haley worked 6 1/2 years each at the Bank of Evening Shade and the Bank of Sidney, and the remainder of her career was at the Bank of Cave City.

“I started as a teller, then went into bookkeeping and finally worked in the computer room, which I just loved,” she said. “I spent 25 years at the Bank of Cave City. I was vice president when I retired.”

Haley is working on a painting of a 1954 Chevy truck that her husband, who is the mayor of Evening Shade, is restoring.

“When I finish it, I am going to give it to him to put on the wall of his workshop,” she said. “He enjoys restoring old cars. Before he was elected mayor, he was the police chief, but he couldn’t hold both offices. He gave up the police chief’s job, although he is still a police officer. He is a deputy for Sharp County and also works full time for the Spring River Ambulance Service. He is also a founding member of the Evening Shade Volunteer Fire Department and is still on it.”

Eva Haley’s preferred art medium is oil.

“I play with watercolor,” she said, laughing. “I don’t do it seriously. Next to plein air painting, I also enjoy doing still-life paintings. I am a collector of pottery, old duck decoys. … I buy those things, telling Lonnie, ‘I’ll use it someday in a painting.’

“That’s just an excuse to hoard.”

Currently a member of the Spring River Artists Guild, Haley is featured in the book The Art and Artisans of the Ozarks, Vol. 2, published by the Palette Art League of Yellville.

Haley said she hopes to participate in the Gallery 246 Plein on Main art contest next year.

“After my accident, I thought I might not be able to paint outside again,” she said. “I used to go out with my backpack on my shoulder. I can’t do that anymore, but I now have a cart with wheels that I can use. You can find a way to do what you want to do.”

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