ROCKINGHAM — Brenda Diggs dips her thin paintbrush into a mixed-color swatch of light green, the hue to brush blades of grass.
Meanwhile, Flo Aiken spreads a sea of crimson against a white canvas for the backdrop of a still life, while Pat Halligan sketches out the setup on a drawing pad.
These ladies, along with Peggy Andersen, make up the humble beginnings of a new artists’ group: the Pee Dee Artists’ Guild.
The group was started by Andersen and Halligan, who said the purpose is “so artists in the area have an opportunity to meet like minds.”
Halligan said she’s been doing art for 35 years and started painting in acrylics 10 years ago.
She said she noticed there wasn’t much art activity in the area when she moved to Rockingham six years ago from Westminster, Maryland.
“Richmond County has a lot of artists,” she said, “but there was no painting group.”
Halligan said she then gravitated to the Artists’ League of the Sandhills in Aberdeen. Last year, she served as the president of that group.
“We kinda got tired of driving 30 miles,” she said with a chuckle. “The commute back and forth, it’s a long drive.”
Halligan said she was taking classes in West End through Sandhills Community College and met other artists from Richmond County.
“We thought it would be nice to have something in Rockingham,” she said.
But the painting community wasn’t always a blank canvas.
Andersen said there was a prior group that had been active for many years.
She said the group had been doing exhibits, but stopped about a year after the formation of the local arts council.
The current guild began meeting two weeks ago at First United Methodist Church in Rockingham.
“The church has been really nice to let us use this room,” Halligan said.
The room provides plenty of space and has a television where guild members can watch art videos.
Haligan said they will also be going out to different sites around the county for outdoor paintings.
Andersen and Halligan started out ambitious, planning to meet twice a week. But the pair said they will be cutting back the meeting times to just Thursdays.
“We are just getting started,” Andersen said. “It’s open to everybody; it’s just getting the word out that’s so difficult.”
“Sometimes people show up, sometimes they don’t,” Halligan added.
She said it takes time for people to find out about the meetings and put them on their schedules.
“Once they learn that it’s great fun,” she said, “they’ll do it.”
The group has greater aspirations than just being painting pals.
“We’d like to find some storefronts that would like to hang up the artists’ paintings,” Halligan said. “It would also be nice to have a pop-up gallery.”
The latter would require renting a storefront for a couple of weeks for customers to purchase local artwork.
The Pee Dee Artists’ Guild is also planning to hold an art show in early November, but members are still trying to finalize the details.
Halligan said they hope to make it a quarterly exhibit, rotating out different pieces of art each time.
She said the first show will feature only two-dimensional art, but members are hoping to expand to three-dimensional works for future exhibits.
The guild encourages anyone interested in joining to contact Andersen at 910-895-6909 or Halligan at 410-596-2770.
“I think it will benefit Rockingham greatly to have an active arts community,” Halligan said.
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675.