Artist overcomes pain to create
By Paul Huggins, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily
Last winter, Danny O’Driscoll thought his illustrious 37-year art career had ended.
Tendinitis in his right thumb made holding a paintbrush too painful. It was impossible to paint with the precision that had earned the Batesburg, S.C., man best of show awards twice at the Southern Wildlife Festival.
He couldn’t even hold a brush from January until April, but the four-month layoff didn’t affect his talent. O’Driscoll claimed his third best of show award at the festival during a special preview show Friday night. The 28th annual art show and sale is open to the public Saturday and Sunday at Calhoun Community College.
This year’s event has attracted 30 artists, including painters, photographers and carvers. Saturday also will feature a working duck decoy competition as well as educational demonstrations with live birds of prey at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
O’Driscoll said he truly feared his painting career was over last winter and spring. Nothing doctors prescribed helped relieve his pain.
“We tried taping it, cortisone shots, heat, cold. Nothing worked,” he said. “Finally, a lady, an artist who had the same type of problem, told me to just rest it. So I did, and here I am.”
O’Driscoll, 56, returned to the canvas in the summer, but he didn’t push himself to work in fine detail that makes his paintings so realistic.
“I was so scared to do it,” he said, noting he usually paints eight hours a day. “I was scared I was going to hurt (my hand) and never be able to paint again.”
Two weeks ago, O’Driscoll decided to give his hand a test and began painting in fine detail again. Last week, he started a painting of a kestrel perched atop a fence post. He finished it Tuesday, and three days later the best of show ribbon hung by its side.
Though he couldn’t paint last winter, O’Driscoll kept himself busy photographing wildlife to use as guides for his paintings. It was the most photography he had ever done, he said, and he figures he has enough photos to keep him painting for 10 more years.
“So some good things did come out of it,” he said.
The photography also had a direct impact on his award-winning kestrel.
O’Driscoll said he has wanted to paint a kestrel perched in that position for many years, but until last winter, he lacked the photographs to help him get the truest perspective on the bird’s movement.
“I wanted to capture the inquisitive look that kestrels have. They’re always moving their heads, always looking around,” he said.
O’Driscoll added that he specifically placed the bird in front of a blue sky to help bring out some of the subtle blue hues in the kestrel’s feathers.
O’Driscoll’s work often is mistaken for photography because the subjects appear so realistic. Part of his technique is to airbrush the background, which makes it look out of focus while also making the subject stand out.
“It was just so lifelike,” said Jennifer Swoboda, one of the show judges. “All the works were so good, it was very hard to pick (a best of show). But that was the one that grabbed my attention first.”
What: Art show and sale; live birds of prey seminars, 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m.; working decoy competition; children’s arts and crafts activities.
When: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Calhoun Community College gymnasium.
Cost: $3 for adults (good both days); $2 for students and senior citizens; free for children 6 and younger.
Painting, feathers: First, Danny O’Driscoll, kestrel; second, John S. Gibb, tawny owl; third, Steve Burney, redhead ducks.
Painting, fur: first, Martiena Richter, red panda; second, Liz Scott, ram; third, Kevin Webster, elk.
Painting, general: first, Svetlana Bellamy, butterflies and fruit.
Carving and sculpture: First, Jerry Dupré, great blue heron.
Photography: First, Garth Frazier, cougar; second, Kay Benedict and Mike Segorski; songbird; third, Mike Serkowenek, cardinal.