Of the Baker City Herald

Ever since assistant manager Brenda Holly can remember, Western Bank and 50 other Baker City businesses have had festive window decorations for Miners Jubilee thanks to Marge Brown, better known locally as Marge Mayes.

I just turn it over to her and never have to worry. She does the designs and the phrases, everything, Holly said.

Brown has been decorating store windows for Miners Jubilee for 15 years. She was a resident of Baker County but recently moved to Tensed, Idaho.

Holly said Brown is able to create her window paintings while people watch and visit.

Its like her own little social hour, and a lot of people know her and respect her fantastic work.

Jake Peabody of Artcraft Paint and Glass said that Browns work has become a Miners Jubilee tradition.

Brown agrees, It is a tradition now, and Miners Jubilee is a fun time for me to see friends and paint. Its very rewarding, she said.

There you go painting the town again, said Darnel Cassidy as Brown worked on the window of the Sycamore Tree on Main Street. Cassidy is Browns old horse back riding partner who stopped by for a hug while Brown painted.

I always like going around town and looking at Marges work, Cassidy said.

Other friends honked at the artist as they drove by.

Brown is originally from Yelm, Wash., and lived in the Okanogan area before moving to the Baker Valley. She started her training as an artist with a correspondence course at age 19, then stopped half way through for family responsibilities. She resumed her work 10 years later, and taught herself from then on.

I love my new life. Ive got a garden and a chicken house and my husband is building me an art studio with a skylight, but I miss living here, she said. Look at all of the lettering on the business windows, that is all my work; I made my living here. Baker has been good to me, the merchants, the business people, I love them all.

Brown has her work displayed in galleries in Oregon and Idaho and has been painting windows in Spokane and Pullman, Wash., and Moscow and Colfax, Idaho.

Theyre starting to discover me up there too, she said. Word of mouth advertising is the best. If you make people happy, theyll tell others and pretty soon youre busy.

Brown has also painted windows for the Pendleton Roundup for the past nine years.

She and her husband travel to art shows, and Brown sells her work out of their travel trailer. She said she has been busy with Christian art and cards as well as painting windows in Tensed.

Just the other day a man stopped and asked me if I realized how much joy I was giving to people. I said I hadnt realized that, but its nice to know, Brown said. People tell me, Oh, Im so glad you came back, it just wouldnt be Jubilee without the windows.

Brown said some people even take photographs of her windows. Its good for the businesses, they like it and they get their moneys worth, she said.

Brown said she will do about 80 windows for 50 businesses during the three weeks that she has allotted. I always give myself some extra time because new people come up and tell me they want their windows done, too. It just starts to snowball, Brown said. I do five to eight businesses a day, and Ive done it so much I can do it without thinking.

It takes 45 minutes to one hour for Brown to finish one window. She said she starts the process by calling businesses a month before she paints, finding out the theme and sketching ideas and slogans. Brown said the hardest part is coming up with the slogan.

As Brown painted leaves and the elbow of her female character, she said, I really like cartoons because anything goes. I use this little miner character, his wife and the mule, sometimes there are kids involved. The mule is my favorite. Id like to make up some more characters but I have fun playing with their facial expressions and positions.

Brown uses a special type of paint from Portland. She said she learned to use acrylics on windows that are exposed to rain. Its expensive but it really stays because you never know if the weather will hold around here.

Brown said perseverance and practice has been essential to her career as an artist.

If you want to be an artist, or anything for that matter, do a good job, do your best, and if you find something you love, stick to it and it will become even easier and more fun. Formal training would help, but you can learn it on your own, it takes a lot of observation and its really 90 percent practice, and 10 percent talent, Brown said.

Browns window paintings are on Main, Broadway and 10th streets.