It will probably come as a surprise to many in the Cassville community that one of its modest, unassuming residents is an artist who has produced hundreds of paintings and porcelain pieces worthy of note. Leone (Ames) Mayne is the talented octogenarian who shows no signs of slowing down and is happy to talk about her life long love of putting her brushes and pencils to work.
“Going back to when I was a Bloomington grade schooler, “ she reminisced, “the first thing I remember as being worth a second look was my drawing of the cartoon character Li’l Abner.” By the time she got to high school, classmates were well aware of her talent and interest in art, so when junior prom time loomed and a decorating budget was almost non-existent, Leone led the committee to a local general store to purchase one of the huge rolls of wrapping paper used to wrap many items purchased at that time. (Anyone remember that?)
The crew pasted long lengths of the paper together to create a backdrop curtain and proceeded to paint the scene for the “Blue Hawaii” prom theme. When it was hung high above the gym dance floor, they fashioned paper grass skirts to attach to the hula dancers for an added effect. “Id say it was the best-ever prom there for years to come,” she said. And somehow it seemed she counted that as launching her amateur career.
Painting and drawing were put on hold, however, when she married Sylvan Mayne and moved to a small farm near Beetown where they began raising their family. When World War II erupted, Sylvan enlisted in the US Navy, but upon discharge, with results of surgery during his service that prevented a return to farming, he moved the family to Cassville where he went to work for the new Wisconsin Power & Light power plant.
During the ensuing years while working at several different jobs, Leone returned to her passion for art, honing her skills, attending art workshops and finding mentors among local artists. She has dabbled in water colors and acrylic but oil painting is her true love. She is particularly good at looking at a photograph or a painting and then recreating it on her own canvas, and the subjects run a whole spectrum of portraits, scenery, wildlife and fantasy.
Her biggest boost to indulging in art came with Sylvan’s retirement and the ability to spend winters in Florida, which they did every year from 1989 until 2011. “Retirement communities are great for providing activity centers,” she noted, “and there was a lot of interest in painting china pieces.” Before long Leone was asked to teach the class, and that became her most productive work. She counts more than 90 students who worked under her there through the years, many who still keep in touch, and from time to time she has also hosted classes for area individuals.
There is no way to decide which medium she enjoys most, but Leone admits she would probably choose whatever she is working on at the moment. China painting is a longer process because of the many firings required, and she does have her own kiln in her (she wont call it a studio) basement workshop where a wall of shelves are filled with many of her completed pieces, including plates of all sizes – framed and unframed - and pitchers of various shapes embellished with gilt edges.
Though this is not a business venture in any way, Leone has sold things from time to time that caught the eye of an admirer or were ordered as gifts, but concedes her family keeps hinting it’s time to “downsize.”
Nevertheless, for the time being, this Cassville lady is happily working on her current art project and looking forward to the 69th Wedding Anniversary she and Sylvan will celebrate in November with their children - Charlene Cadwell, Dallas and Rene Braun – and their families.