Citizen of the Week
By Maura LaGreca
The Ambler Gazette
October 20, 1999

At first glance, the work in progress by Ambler artist Laura Matthew appears to be a photograph. The painting of Philadelphia's Boathouse Row is so incredibly detailed you find yourself wishing for a magnifying glass.

It seems almost impossible to see all the intricacies with the naked eye.

"You can look at a tree from far away or your can get even closer. There's always more for anyone too see. I appreciate those details," Matthew said.

It is not surprising then to find out that Matthew has been working on this painting for almost three years. She estimates that she has spent more than 800 hours on the work, spending 10 hours per square inch on portions of the boathouses and trees.

Those numbers do not include the hours and hours of preparation taking countless photographs of Boathouse Row. "I would sit and wait for a person to go by on a bicycle or with a stroller. I am very patient," Matthew said.

Patient is an understatement. As an artist, Matthew's style of realism is extremely time consuming. Although Boathouse Row is her most ambitious project to date, Matthew has spent blocks of months and years working on one painting. She says, "Truth is really important. I like to represent how things are. I want people to know the whole picture."

Growing up in Ambler Borough, Laura Matthew (then Laura Davidson) was an artist from a young age.

"When I was little, maybe 5, my dad wrote my name in cursive writing. I thought if I copied it, it should look the same. From that I went to copying Charlie Brown cartoons and my favorite pictures from coloring books."

Throughout her childhood, Matthew won many art contests and as a senior at Wissahickon High School, she made plans to attend the Tyler School of Art.

After a year at Tyler, Matthew left there planning to enroll at another school.

She married and traveled with her husband in the military, living in 12 places in 10 years. She has two children, Christina, 11 and Davey, 9.

Four years ago, Matthew moved back to Ambler and started looking around for a Philadelphia subject to paint. Her work takes so long that she had to give serious consideration to the location. "It's like being pregnant for three years," noted Matthew.

Now that this painting is nearing completion - she expect to have it done this month - Matthew is starting to think about were it will go from here.

In addition to signed lithographs, Matthew has been approached about other possibilities. In terms of its final destination, "I want it to hang in the Philadelphia Museum of Art."

The attention being given to the Boathouse Row painting has been increasing as the "due date" draws near. Matthew was recently interviewed and taped by WPVI, Channel 6. The segment will appear on "Prime Time" at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct 23.

You might assume that painting and drawing would be a sufficient creative outlet, however, that is not the case for Laura Matthew. She also is a gifted songwriter and two songs she co-wrote with Glenn Barratt, owner of Morning Star Studios in Spring House, appear on the "The Best of Pieces of a Dream" album.

Although Matthew has taken a month-long leave of absence to finish her painting, she is the office manager of Morning Star Studios.

Some of Laura Matthew's favorite paintings have been those that were requested by friends or family members, "That's what it's all about - touching people with my artwork."

Click on the thumbnail to see the painting in Laura Matthew's gallery.

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