Margo Konetski didn’t initially think of herself as an artist, but as a child, “everything had doodles on it.”
Teachers would chide her for being inattentive, but now, she knows doodlers absorb learning better.
“The creativity part of our brains,” she said, “is not used enough.”
Margo is the latest artist displaying her work at Homeland through the Art Association of Harrisburg’s Community Spaces initiative. Every quarter, specially chosen AAH members hang their works in the bright Homeland Florida Room gallery for enjoyment by residents, staff, and visitors.
Konetski, a native of Lewisburg, now living in Upper Allen Township, taught school for 33 years before retiring. In her final years of teaching, she worked with Susquehanna Township School District middle schoolers with social-behavioral problems. They were bright children but were behind their peers, so they sometimes acted out to hide their embarrassment and frustration.
“They could be a challenge, but I enjoyed working with them,” she said.
She wasn’t an artist then, but she knew children learn better when teachers use a creative approach. For eighth-graders struggling with vocabulary, Konetski recruited them to help her build a game board involving pulling cards and defining the words on them. They could roll the dice and move on if they knew the correct answer.
“Being a teacher, you’re almost required to be creative,” she said. “I do believe that’s where I started as an artist. Making it fun was a great way for them to enjoy and learn it.”
Retirement gave Margo the time to step up her creative pursuits. A lover of gardening, she became a Master Gardener in 2022. Since moving to a new home recently, she has been working with a landscaper to bring variety and a non-linear look to her yard.
“I don’t like things all straight in a row,” she said. “I enjoy different colors and textures – mixing them up a little bit. The whole creativity thing touches lots of parts of your life.”
As Margo returned to art, she took Art Association of Harrisburg classes and started experimenting with different media. Her work has matured as she learns, but there have been adventures along the way. For a plein air class, Margo went to Wildwood Park, trying to capture the marshes on canvas. But pesky spotted lanternflies, refusing to cooperate with the romantic image of an artist painting in the open air, kept landing on her canvas.
She also struggled with the slope where she set up her easel, aiming for the best vantage point.
“If you could have filmed me, it would have been really funny because I was fighting the bugs,” she said with a laugh. “And I wasn’t stable on the bank. I’m sliding down the bank, with all my paints going everywhere. Next time I did plein air, I made sure I was on a stable surface.”
Margo carries a sketch pad and takes pictures, capturing beautiful scenes and intriguing architecture everywhere she goes. She recently returned from a trip to Lake Ontario in New York State with five drawings.
“The drawing is your first step,” she said. “You have to have some kind of vision.”
Her travels have taken her to picturesque places like Italy, Germany, and Norway, where her son-in-law is from.
“I like painting doors, for some reason,” she said. “In Italy, there are old-looking, interesting doors.”
Her favorite artist is French impressionist Claude Monet, for the way he seamlessly blends his lines.
“When you paint, you look at things differently,” she said. “Even if we’re watching a TV show, I’ll say to my husband, ‘Did you see that picture on the wall in that room?’ That’s what stands out to me.”
Margo has two grown children, and she and her husband have two rescue dogs, a Lhasa apso-bichon mix named Sophie and a dog named Frankie, “a little Australian terrier. He’s a little lover.”
Her Homeland exhibit is only her second showing. Two of her favorite works there, which are also popular with viewers, are small depictions of a fish and a pelican done with colored pencils.
“It’s a nice little hall space,” she said. “A lot of people travel through it, so they get to see the artwork. It’s a cool place to have your work.”
Margo doesn’t try to sell her paintings. For her, art is simply rewarding and fun.
“Painting is relaxing,” she said. “I can go downstairs and start painting, and five hours later, it’s, ‘Oh, my gosh, where did the time go?’”