For more than 30 years, Jeannie Wolff’s painting has been part of an Effingham County Fair tradition at the 4-H Arena.
After each show, 4-Hers would stand in front of the large painting and have their pictures taken holding their trophies.
Now as the fair resumes following its cancellation last year because of the pandemic, 4-Hers will be greeted by a new painting.
Wolff embarked on the new 4-by-6-foot artwork after getting a chance to look at her first painting up close during the 2019 Effingham County Fair.
“I looked at my own painting and I said ‘Oh my gosh, that’s really faded,’” she said.
But rather than try to retouch the 1989 painting, she decided to paint a new one. However, she was afraid she wouldn’t have enough time to finish it.
“Then the pandemic hit and I thought, ‘I think I have plenty of time to finish this,’” she said.
The painting took Wolff a year and a half to complete.
“Acrylic would have took me a lot sooner but I knew it would be outdoors and knew I wanted to do it with oil so it would be lasting,” she said.
Wolff said using oil makes the process “kind of crazy.”
“If you make a mistake, you have to wait and let it dry before you go over it. This is the kind of job you have to stop and wait for couple days,” she said.
Wolff said when painting she sometimes just goes with it.
“Sometimes, I think, ‘Oh, what am I going to do here? I don’t know. Oh, I think I should try this.’ It’s kind of an accident waiting to happen,” she said. “I had an idea in my head and then I just kept exploring.”
The new one is two sided. One side is a backdrop for photos and the other side greets those waiting to enter the show ring.
“If people are coming from the back, you have to have something there,” she explained.
Her inspiration for the new painting was simple.
“I just felt like the fair needed a new beginning because the pandemic had stopped everything. I knew I could do something that would maybe inspire and get everybody excited about going back to the fair. I always want to promote 4-H,” she said.
Wolff’s fondness for 4-H stems from her and her family’s involvement. Not only was Wolff a member, but her husband and children were also.
“We just believe in 4-H,” she said.
While one side of Wolff’s painting has 4-H animals, it includes other aspects of the fair such as food judging and a Ferris wheel on the other side.
“We’ve always been involved in the fair,” said Wolff, noting one of her daughters was fair queen.
Wolff has also always loved painting. She continues to teach art at Altamont Lutheran Interparish School two days a week.
Her artwork is well loved as Wolff discovered when she dropped off the new painting at the Effingham County Fair grounds recently.
4-H Program Coordinator Patti Logan said 4-H families present and past were excited to hear Jeannie and her husband, Dale, had a surprise in store for them. When word got around the 4-H community the couple would be dropping the painting off at the fairgrounds, many 4-H families showed up to get a first peak at her artwork and to thank them in person.
“I was so shocked,” said Jeannie Wolff. “I thought, ‘Oh, I’m just going to drop this off.’ And then all these kids are sitting there on bleachers. I just felt so humbly grateful that so many people were interested in it. I didn’t even expect that kind of response.”
“The painting is just beautiful on both sides,” said Logan.
Wolff said she had fun doing the painting.
“I was just happy to do it,” she said. “I’m glad it was so well received. It was my gift.”
The retired painting will still have a place at the fair. Logan said it will hang in the 4-H General Projects Barn.