Saturday, November 9, 2002

She puts words, images to wood

Career chose her, artist says

By Peg St. Clair
Enquirer contributor

One warm fall day I am fortunate to meet Angel McIlwain, a painter who lives in Adams County. Ms. McIlwain takes ordinary wooden items and embellishes them with soulful words and images inspired from nature.

[photo] Angel McIlwain with a bench she painted with pastoral scenes
(Steven M. Herppich photos)
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We sit down to tea, complete with Amish baked goods and homemade sourdough bread, at a painted table edged with a quote from Thoreau. I look around and take in all of the touches that give her simple home uniqueness and warmth.

We talk of gardens, good recipes and babies. I happily pick up John, her son.

Ms. McIlwain always knew she was to be an artist.

"We are the lucky ones who don't have to choose their careers,'' she says.

Her story begins with her mother, Darlene Ackemeyer, who sells Ms. Mcllwain's art at Woodlands in Mount Lookout. Her mother's philosophy of rearing children included all the exploring and playing out of doors a child could desire.

Drawn to the arts, Ms. McIlwain attended the School for Creative and Performing Arts. She was accepted at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, and after school she moved to New York and accepted a position at Time magazine, where she worked until the early 1990s.

[photo] Ms. McIlwain paints a bowl in her garage/studio while keeping an eye on her daughter Sarah, 3.
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As the art director of Time's "the World" section, she was involved with coverage of the fall of the Berlin Wall, reunification of Germany and the Gulf War through photos and words.

Nevertheless, the stress of living in New York was taking its toll. She felt drawn to a rural setting, close to home, and picked Adams County. Her plan was to live there for a year, then return to Cincinnati.

Ms. McIlwain felt at home living in a rustic cottage and never planned on finding her husband, Doug McIlwain. After they married, the couple decided to stay in Adams County but moved to a larger home, big enough for a family. Their renovated garage now works as a comfortable studio and a play area for their two children.

Painted boxes and furniture in the couple's home have been embellished from an oversize book of Ms. McIlwain's favorite quotes.

Besides finding Ms. McIlwain's work at Woodlands, 1004 Delta Ave., some of her pieces will be at the Holiday Market next weekend at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington. (See Page E9.)

Contact Peg St. Clair by phone: 541-4680; Web site:

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