Opp artist’s ornament featured in White House

Published 11:59 pm Friday, December 12, 2008

Opp artist Jan Breedlove contributed a little part of Dixie to the Christmas celebration in D.C. this year.

In June, First Lady Laura Bush contacted Congressman Terry Everett with a request that his office select an artist to paint an ornament reflecting the uniqueness of Alabama’s Second District.

In turn, Everett chose Breedlove. Soon she received an unpainted ornament and a set of guidelines from the White House.

“The White House instructed me to paint the ornament in a style which reflects the American spirit of my state and district, and should compliment a red, white and blue color scheme,” Breedlove said.

Breedlove, who had an Oct. 1 deadline to paint and return the ornament to the White House, chose to adorn the 5-inch traditional round ornament with an Alabama map showing the Second Congressional District along with images of the state flag, and a cotton bough, a peanut and a helicopter, highlighting local farmers and Ft. Rucker.

According to Breedlove, the ornament she painted for the White House was her first attempt at such a project.

“I actually experimented with a similar ornament that was missing the top. I knew it could not be hung on the tree and it really helped give me an idea of what I would need to do,” she said.

The practice run paid off, according to Breedlove, because she ran into a slight problem with the first ornament.

“The ornament itself was a shiny surface and I had to spray it will a primer coating to give the paint something to adhere to,” she said. “I painted the first section of the ornament and decided to let it dry to see how it turned out. I came back sometime later and it was still not dry. I eventually had to switch to a faster drying paint to obtain the desired result.”

Although Breedlove’s White House ornament was a first-time endeavor, she said that painting has been a part of her life for the last four years.

“Joann Williams Walker was coming to Opp to teach an oil panting class four years ago,” she said. “Several of my friends had taken watercolor classes with her and I knew I just had to take the class. I took the class and just fell in love with it.”

Breedlove said that she finds painting to be a tremendous source of relaxation and, since her home is currently under renovation, she has missed her time with the canvas.

“I told my husband that I would give anything if I could just paint. I just need to paint, but I couldn’t, so I sat down and sewed. I need to do something sometimes at night to just release.”

On December 2, Breedlove, along with her husband, Robert, attended a White House reception to unveil the President’s Christmas tree. The Opp couple got a chance to meet Mrs. Bush and view the tree complete with Breedlove’s ornament.

“The visit to the White House was marvelous and such an honor,” Breedlove said.  “We were treated so warmly and the First Lady was very gracious.  The tree was 18 feet tall and festooned with hundreds of ornaments from all around the country.  Frankly, we didn’t even expect to be able to see our ornament, but were shocked to find it front and center on the tree at eye level.  It was very lovely.”

Congressman Everett expressed his gratitude to Breedlove for the attractive design of the ornament.

“Jan really captured the essence of southeast Alabama and it is an honor for her work to represent us on this special tree.”

The White House Christmas tree, located in inside the Executive Mansion’s main level, can be viewed by public tours during the Christmas season.