Greencastle artist continues to capture beauty on canvas

John Irwin
Eliane Ambrose is pictured here with a painting that she did, titled 'Waiting for My Master,' at her Greencastle home studio. JOHN IRWIN/ECHO PILOT

A Greencastle woman has been very busy painting and bringing beauty to a blank canvas during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eliane Ambrose, now 83, found her love of painting at age 52. She has continued to develop her skills in oil painting ever since and is keeping busy during these times when social distancing is encouraged.

Ambrose came to the United States in 1956 after meeting her late husband, Harry Ambrose, while he was serving in the United States military in her native France.

"I remember we came to the States with two suitcases and $1,000 in our pockets," she said. "It was quite the journey and took us many hours to get here. I remember we had to stop once because of engine trouble. It was one of those four-propeller type planes. I was never scared though, just anxious to arrive."

The couple built a life back in his hometown of Greencastle and started a family, having six children together and adopting another. Her husband retired from the military after 20 years of service and multiple overseas deployments. It was after all of their children were grown that Ambrose pursued her love of painting.

"I took up painting after I met this artist Dennis Blalock from Thurmont, Maryland, and I saw one piece of his work and was very impressed with the painting. It was of an orange, it was very simple but very intricate, you could see the juice coming out of the fruit and I was so impressed with his technique," Ambrose recalled. "I contacted him and asked him if he took students and he said, 'Only students who are serious about painting.' When I first started I took lessons once a week. After a few weeks, he saw that I had potential. He was a serious painter and would give me assignments and there were many nights I burned the midnight oil working on a piece. After a year of painting with him, he said, 'I can’t teach you anymore, go ahead and fly.'"

Ambrose joined a group of oil painting artists and they would meet and critique each others paintings and encourage one another.

“It’s good to have a second pair of eyes to always look at your work, you know," Ambrose said.

Ambrose paints from her memories as well as images that she finds intriguing and beautiful.

"I paint a lot of things from my travels when I go back to France and I also paint pictures of photographs that my friends send me or that I have taken. I've even painted some based off of postcards that I've received," she explained. "I do paintings anywhere from abstract to impressionistic, but always in oil. Oil is the Cadillac of all paints in my opinion."

Over the past three decades, Ambrose has used her paintbrush to create hundreds of paintings, all unique and never duplicated.

“When you're painting, you lose yourself, you don’t see the hours fly by," she said. "It's very therapeutic and relaxing, but you have to suffer to become a good artist. Sometimes you have an art show and people don’t buy anything. But you don’t give up, you come home and take a break, but you don’t give up because the drive to paint is in your blood.”

Ambrose said that she used to place her work in art shows, but now she paints for her own enjoyment.

"I used to show in galleries. It's a lot of work taking the pieces, setting up and transporting the canvases back and forth. Now, at my age, I just paint for myself, and if I sell one that’s a bonus," Ambrose said. "Over the years, I’ve sold some overseas and have shipped them all across the United States.”

Now, Ambrose enjoys spending time with her many grandchildren, taking care of her beloved Boston terrier, sharing home cooked French-style meals with her friends and family and writing poetry.

"I'll keep painting as long as I can,"Ambrose said. "It's a great love of mine. They all have a little story behind them that needs to be told."