Some folks retire with no clue what comes next.
Werner Liepolt was not one of them.
After 42 years as an English teacher at Staples High and Bedford Middle Schools, he knew immediately what he wanted to do.
His daughter Jordan — a Rhode Island School of Design graduate, working now as director of design for an international textile company — had left boxes of art material in her parents’ home.
She thought no one would use them.
But Liepolt — whose previous art experience consisted of doodling during English department meetings — did not want the supplies to just sit there.
He pulled out 2 boxes of pastels, and enrolled in Tom Brenner’s course at the Silvermine Arts Center.
Liepolt drew upon his Bridge Street neighborhood, his garden, his hiking experiences in Maine and the Adirondacks, and boating on Long Island Sound. He loved those places, and wanted to show them to others.
Early recognition came at Seven Arts Gallery in Ridgefield. Fellow Westport teacher Paul Fernandez included 5 of Liepolt’s botanical illustrations in a show.
Liepolt — a longtime visitor to Mount Desert Island — submitted several pastel works to a juried competition sponsored by the Rockefeller Land & Garden Preserve there. Two were accepted. They’ll be shown starting Tuesday (August 8).
He also participated in an invitation plein air “Paint the Adirondacks” conference with 80 top artists at Lower St. Regis Lake.
Underneath his daughter’s boxes of pastels, Liepolt found water colors. Last spring, he began studying with Kristie Gallagher at Silvermine.
He notes, “I’ve had the good fortune to teach in a community that supports good education. I’ve found a receptive audience for my plays and screenwriting, and am enjoying the rewards of expressing my take on the world through visual expression.”
As an undergraduate, Liepolt heard John Cage speak. The composer cautioned students not to succumb to a corporate job.
“What will you do when there is no one to tell you what to do?” he asked.