Couple turns hobby to community benefit

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 18, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

LUTCHER – Lutcher couple Joann and Allen Stark don’t use their retirement time to just play golf and garden.
The pair has taken their love of art to the next level and used it to better the community around them. Joann Stark does freehand portraits of historically significant or iconic African-Americans. Her husband, Allen, paints portraits of Louisiana plantations and slave cabins.
Joann, 61,  said that she began drawing with color pencils to ease the grieving process after losing her daughter, Alicia, to complications from diabetes.
“I started in 2005 when my oldest daughter passed away. I just started drawing animals. I did one every day. It was like a therapy to me. Then about two years ago, I decided to do a portrait. I did all of these to keep my mind together,” said Joann Stark, gesturing at the many animal portraits that line the walls of her bedroom.
She said she is currently working on another animal portrait but is waiting for help from her husband because she can’t see many of the details of the dog’s clothing from the source picture.
“We started decorating the house with (them). Oh, she’s good at it. She made them so realistic,” Allen Stark said, in reference to his wife’s pictures.
Allen Stark, 63, said he has always had a background in the arts — in his younger days, he attended Southern University at Baton Rouge with a major in fine arts but never completed his studies.
When asked why, he replied with a laugh, “Finances. When you have a couple of kids, you’ve got to work.”
Allen Stark still utilizes what he learned in school in his portraits and sculptures.
Though he doesn’t often sculpt anymore, he said his favorite medium is wood. His latest series of painting has been of plantations, but Allen Stark said he sticks to one series for a while before moving on to another subject matter.
He also enjoys glass plate printing and plaster casts and makes his own frames for his paintings. He attributes his wife’s interest in drawing to his love of the arts.
“I started doing portrait drawings, and she kind of picked it up over time. You notice you won’t see any of my portraits up there. She does such a good job I told her go ahead on,” he said with a playful nod to his wife.
The pair said they are not trying to achieve fame with their work but are happy they have started to receive some recognition. The Starks hope to work toward more art shows and eventually selling their pieces.
The couple’s work was featured during the Lutcher Library dedication in April. Allen Stark said more art shows should come soon because his wife works fast.
“Really, I’m a little excited because they’re just beginning to be recognized. We never had recognition. We just drew,” said Joann Stark.
“We haven’t really done many shows, but she does so many drawings and paintings in a day. That’s why I told her we’re going to try to do some showing. I think when she’s feeling it she could do about two (portraits) a day,” her husband added.
As far as long term goals, the Starks hope they can see more community involvement for their art in the future.
Said Joann Stark, “I wouldn’t mind exposing it to the children because a lot of them are black history (related). Just finding out who this person is and reading about it, I like doing that. They’re learning a lot, and I like seeing the children’s face light up.”