Church painting contest winner studied in France

The painting of the First Presbyterian Church, 102 E. Third St., featured on today’s cover of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette was created by Becky Noble, of Montgomery.

“I just think it’s a very interesting looking building. I like the architecture,” she said. “That’s what drew me to it, the architecture of the building.”

She said she enjoys the appearance of the church itself though she is not a member of the church.

“It’s very classic looking. I grew up in the area, and I remember driving by it when we were kids,” she said. “It’s a building that I think is very beautiful.”

First Presbyterian Church was built in 1841 at Tom Alley and Market Street but was destroyed by fire in 1849. It was rebuilt and destroyed by another fire in 1859. The building was rebuilt again in 1884 at its current location, with additions to accommodate a larger congregation.

“People like the traditional architecture, and the fact that it looks churchy,” said Maggie Little, administrative assistant and ruling elder at the church. “It’s got the weightiness to it. It doesn’t look like you’re meeting in the basement of some fire hall … It’s just got that old church feel to it.”

The church, which features Tiffany windows, was refurbished to its original splendor in the 1990s by the late Marguerite Bierman.

“She did a fantastic job on it,” Little said. “When she really brought out the architecture and the many talents of it, she used beautiful colors … There’s a Victorian stencil that was covered that she thoughtfully reproduced. It’s beautiful.”

Little was thrilled to hear that the church inspired Noble to make her painting featured on today’s cover, an annual Sun-Gazette holiday tradition. Each year, the Bald Eagle Art League holds a church painting contest, and the winner’s painting is featured on Christmas morning.

“It is an extreme honor, and it’s a blessing,” Little said. “We’ve always wanted to be more visible than we have been.”

Noble loves painting and studied it professionally.

“I’ve trained at the Renaissance School of Art in Florida. I’ve trained with Vladislav Yeliseyev, the instructor who runs the school,” she said.

Before she painted the church, she had gone on a trip to France where she learned new techniques under Yeliseyev’s instruction.

“It was an incredible trip. We painted for eight days,” she said.

“We traveled to different towns and villages every day to paint. We went to what used to be the hospital where Van Gogh stayed the year before he died, and we painted there as well.”

She applied Yeliseyev’s new method for her church painting.

“It is a way of mixing the colors, the primary colors and layering, so it’s a three-step layering process,” she said. “It’s one he has developed in the last couple of years. We were one of the first groups he worked with on that.”