WHEATON – After painting for almost 70 years, 90-year-old Winfield resident Margaret Schwicardi hasn't tired of one of her favorite pastimes yet.
During the month of April, many of her paintings could be seen hanging on the walls of La Spiaza coffee shop in downtown Wheaton. Her specialty is barns set in rural landscapes; she reads and researches as much as she can about these structures, which were some of the first built by settlers to the U.S.
"It's what I could do and what I enjoyed doing," Schwicardi said.
Schwicardi began painting after she married her husband, Frederick, when she was 22. Frederick was a classically trained painter who enjoyed painting people more than anything else. Together, they participated in art shows.
"Everything I knew, I learned from him," Schwicardi said.
Even though her husband passed away in 1987, Schwicardi continues to sell her paintings at a few local shows each year. She also paints every day at the Winfield home she shares with her daughter Debra.
All of Schwicardi's ideas for paintings come from something she's seen, whether in a book about barns from the library or a photo of a barn taken by one of her family members during a trip. But she said she enjoys making the painting her own, by adding little details like trees or whatever else may move her.
"I always look at something to get a start," Schwicardi said.
Right now, she has 185 paintings at home waiting to be framed.
Besides sharing her work with the general public at art shows, Schwicardi often gives paintings as gifts to her family and neighbors. For this past Christmas, Schwicardi gave neighbors paintings she created of their homes.
But her family and neighbors aren't the only ones to receive her paintings: she also gives them to all of her doctors. Schwicardi started seeing a new heart doctor recently, and as soon as she gets to know him better, she said she'll be bringing him a painting, too.
"He doesn't get one this early; he's got to prove himself," said her son, Kim, with a laugh.
After so many years of painting, Schwicardi said she can't imagine a time when she wouldn't want to spend a few hours each day in her art room, bringing to life the barns she's seen and feeling the happiness painting brings her.
"I was not after anything except enjoying it," Schwicardi said. "I'm just glad it turned out that other people enjoyed it too."