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The Art of Rural Lives

By Lori Thielen

Artist Marilyn Hake
Artist Marilyn Hake has been doing pencil art illustration officially since the youngest of her seven children started high school.

Artist Marilyn Hake finds inspiration for her pencil illustrations in her rural roots and her picturesque setting nestled in the rolling Blue Hills near Tipton, Kansas.

“I am blessed with a peaceful location that’s quiet and I can just do work,” Marilyn says. “I get inspiration from being in a rural area and people like the rural-themed art for a variety of reasons.”

Born and raised in Tipton, Marilyn took an early interest in art and drew whenever she could. She attended Marymount College in Salina, Kansas, for one year and took a correspondence art course from Minneapolis, Minnesota, but is mainly self-taught in the ways of art.

“I always wanted to go to the Kansas City Art Institute, but at that time kids did what their parents wanted them to do and they wanted me to attend Marymount College,” Marilyn says.

After her college experience, Marilyn returned to Tipton and worked for a time for her brother who owned the local grocery store. She soon married Clarence “Pappy” Hake and had seven children, leaving her little time to draw.

“There was about a 25-year absence of drawing,” Marilyn explains. “But when my youngest child was in high school I got started again.”

She can easily recall the picture that got her back into the drawing mode. It was of two young girls who were waiting for a ride at the annual Tipton Picnic held each August. Marilyn captured the scene with pencil and paper and surprised the girls’ mom with the finished illustration.

Because of the amount of detail Marilyn includes, each drawing takes a minimum of six weeks to complete. The process builds up layers of pencil gradually. She typically starts with a picture of her subject, which gives her time to capture every detail.

“It would take forever for me to try to capture that if someone were just sitting in front of me,” Marilyn says.

Marilyn’s subjects include real things that one might see in rural Kansas including ordinary people, scenes and objects and she is particularly partial to drawing people.

"Ladies with Purses" (upper left) is Marilyn's best seller and she believes it appeals to a wide audience because many people can see themselves in it.The drawing titled "Maude and Claude" (lower right) was one of forty finalists selected for the Modern Maturity Magazine "Seasoned Eye Competition."
"Ladies with Purses" (upper left) is Marilyn's best seller and she believes it appeals to a wide audience because many people can see themselves in it.The drawing titled "Maude and Claude" (lower right) was one of forty finalists selected for the Modern Maturity Magazine "Seasoned Eye Competition."

“I love doing people because by the time I finish I feel like I know them so well,” Marilyn says. “I especially enjoy drawing old people with wrinkles because they’re fun and have a lot of character to work with.”

In fact, using old people as the subject was exactly what earned her recognition in a national competition from among 10,000-plus submissions. Her drawing titled “Maude and Claude, 1983” was one of forty finalists selected for the Modern Maturity Magazine “Seasoned Eye Competition.” She explains that the picture illustrates a farming couple and the toll hard work and hard times have taken on them. 

Her best seller is an equally notable illustration titled “Ladies with Purses.” Marilyn’s daughter, Lisa, bought the original picture and got permission for Marilyn to interpret it in artwork. They found out the picture was taken at an auction in Portis, Kansas.

“The ladies’ friend had just died and her things were being sold, but everyone puts their own story to the picture,” Marilyn explains. “It’s interesting to see how people interpret it differently or can see themselves in it.”

Getting artwork into the public eye is a challenge, and one that used to be more easily overcome when she attended more art shows. Marilyn and Pappy used to travel to up to 18 shows a year in Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. However, setting up for each show involves a lot of physical labor and health concerns have made it more difficult to attend many shows. Marilyn still tries to make it to a couple indoor shows a year where she does not have to set up and tear down the display each day.

“I really love going to the shows and interacting with other artists,” Marilyn says. “One thing I’ll really miss about going to the shows is the competition because typically each show recognizes an artist with a “Best of Show” award.

Marilyn's studio is in a converted garage at their scenic farmstead near Tipton.
Marilyn's studio is in a converted garage at their scenic farmstead near Tipton.

Marilyn now does some commission work and maintains a website to sell prints, notecards and even t-shirts. She also has a captive audience for her artwork each fall during hunting season. Marilyn and Pappy, along with their children, have operated Blue Hills Lodge at their scenic homestead since 1999. The couple moves to a small, cozy cabin just yards away from their home from October through December and allows up to 12 hunters at a time to stay in their home. Family members prepare three home-cooked meals each day for the hunters.

“People think we’re half crazy to move from our house each year, and on moving day I usually think so too but then things settle down. It is so fun to meet all of the people who come through here,” Marilyn says. “Some of this has also resulted in work being commissioned. The hunters like the art and they buy quite a bit.”

It is evident Marilyn has passed on her talent for art. Two of her daughters are graphic artists, one daughter has created jewelry, and one daughter does interior painting and design.

“I’m starting to give the originals of my work to my children,” Marilyn says. “I’d like to get pictures drawn of my kids and 11 grandkids.”

 

 

 

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Last Updated August 28, 2006
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