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The beauty of bucks

Ilene Rubin’s exhibit, ‘Bucks County on My Mind,’ features local landscapes

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Brushes of greatness: Doylestown’s Ilene Rubin’s primary subjects are from across Bucks County, and include spots like Phillips Mill in New Hope. Her exhibit will be on display at the Bucks County Visitor Center through March 2. SAMANTHA BAMBINO / TIMES PHOTO

For 20 years, Ilene Rubin’s paint brushes went untouched.

She had a lifelong passion and undeniable talent, but one discouraging teacher crushed those dreams in an instant. Thankfully, life has a way of working itself out. Now, the Doylestown resident paints anything and everything her trusty car can take her to. Through March 2, a handful of these pieces depicting scenic landscapes from her favorite local spots will be featured at the Visitor Center in the exhibit, Bucks County on My Mind.

When Rubin moved to Bucks in 2008 after spending a number of years in Los Angeles, California and Boulder, Colorado, she was instantly attracted to the vast amounts of environmental beauty surrounding her. Each day, she discovered someplace new, whether it be a peaceful canal in Lahaska or a hidden walkway in New Hope.

“These are the things that make me want to stop my car,” Rubin said. “I can find something to paint wherever my car can go.”

When Rubin spots something she wishes to paint, she snaps a picture with her phone to help her accurately depict it later on. To date, Rubin has acquired thousands of scenic photographs, allowing her to never be at a loss for content.

Many of the paintings featured at the Bucks County on My Mind exhibit are of local places Rubin fears are in danger of being developed. Even if these spots, which include a number of historic farms along Swamp Road, are transformed into apartment complexes, she enjoys the idea that they’ll live on forever through her work.

The art of preservation: Many of the paintings featured at the Bucks County on My Mind exhibit are of places Ilene Rubin fears are in danger of being developed. SAMANTHA BAMBINO / TIMES PHOTO

“If something strikes me so beautifully, I need to capture it before it’s gone,” she said.

Though painting has been Rubin’s livelihood for the past 10 years, a full-time artistic career was a dream she put on the backburner for 20 years prior.

Growing up, Rubin was always a self-described “crafty” kid who was constantly surrounded by art. Throughout high school, her spare time was spent sketching and honing her creative passion so by the time she got to college, she was ready to take her interest to the next level.

However, her instructors were far from supportive, giving her no encouragement or constructive criticism. After one professor told Rubin to not quit her day job, she kissed her dream goodbye…at least for a little while. In the years that followed, she began checking all the boxes of a “normal” life, pursuing a professional career in retail management, getting married, having children and planting roots in California.

Rubin had built a successful life for herself while still keeping a glimmer of her creative passion alive, painting sweatshirts, mailboxes and other household objects. One day, her friend asked if she’d like to take an art class together for fun at the local parks and recreation center. Little did she know, this spur-of-the-moment plan would set her on the path she always envisioned.

The class reignited the passion that was snuffed out in college, and this newfound spark stayed with Rubin when she and her family relocated to Boulder. Since she had to leave her previous position, she had time on her hands to dive head first into the local art scene. It was there Rubin met her mentor, Lillian Kennedy, whom she credits for her present-day success. Unlike her college professor, Kennedy helped Rubin realize she was more than capable of becoming a professional artist.

With the help of her mentor, Rubin worked to develop her skills, expanding beyond pencils, charcoals and acrylics to oils, which soon became her go-to medium. To this day, she continues to challenge herself, never approaching something with the mindset of being an expert. According to Rubin, there’s always room for improvement.

“It’s been 10 years of serious learning,” she said. “It is my greatest pleasure and my happy place.”

When Rubin isn’t painting, she is also pursuing her second favorite childhood interest — writing. Growing up, Rubin’s nose could usually be found in the latest Stephen King novel, so it comes as no surprise that her four books, two of which are published, fall into the genre of “mystery.”

The first, As the River Flows, is based in our very own New Hope. Her inspiration for the spooky thriller came while driving down a dark backroad on a foggy, summer night.

“It’s like sitting around a campfire,” she said of the novel.

The second, Reason to Kill, centers around a serial killer and the psychological effects of child abuse. Both books will be available at the Visitor Center gift shop during the span of Rubin’s exhibit.

In addition to her personal accomplishments, Rubin is the co-founder of Broads with Brushes, a coalition of friends who love to paint and exhibit their art in the community. Rubin explained how at most art shows, artists are competing against hundreds of other people. Usually, only one piece can be hung on the wall, and it must have been created in the past two years. But what about artists like Rubin, who has been painting for 10? For members of Broads with Brushes, there is no cost and no time limitations. They’re allowed to have multiple pieces on the wall, and beginners can gauge the public’s reaction with virtually no financial risk.

“It’s a great stepping stone,” Rubin said. “There’s nothing to lose. They might not sell, but people are going to know who you are.” ••

If you go…

Bucks County on My Mind will be on display at the Bucks County Visitor Center, 3207 Street Road in Bensalem, daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through March 2. It is free to attend. For more information, go to visitbuckscounty.com, ilenerubin.com and 2broadswithbrushes.com.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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