Painted on muslin squares, the depictions of the places of worship were created by Roy Heggen. An 84-year-old retired farmer, the Dayton man said he stays busy by wielding his brush and oil paints.
“I’m not good at it,” Heggen said, “but it’s something to do and I like to do it. Someone else might say they’d do it this way or that, but this is how I do it. You can’t make another one like it.”
He’ll paint on any surface, from traditional canvases and simple wedges of plywood to burlap, window screens and the front of his white washed kitchen cupboards. Despite this willingness to experiment, Heggen still has his preferences.
“I like the muslin,” he said. “It offers more of a challenge.”
He chose the material originally because it was light weight, but he soon found certain colors bleed on it, and if the application of oils is too heavy it becomes obvious. Heggen also discovered the key to preparing the muslin squares is to coat them lightly with white spray paint.
“It was a lot of trial and error,” he said.
Ultimately, he painted 45 squares with churches. His sister, Ilene Warner, of Fort Dodge, used 30 of the pieces in the quilt and another four she turned into pillow shams.
Among the buildings Heggen painted are the Deercreek Lutheran Church, McGuire Bend Church, the Catholic church in Moorland, the Congregational Church near Barnum, the Old Swedish Lutheran Church from Stratford, the Baptist Church near Slifer and the mission church that used to be in Harcourt.
He also painted the Little Brown Church in the Vale, the Ridge Port Methodist Church that is now a home and a small country church near Waterloo. Heggen even painted an imagined log cabin style church just for fun.
“It just seemed to fit in.” he said.
His next project just might be a study of barns, Heggen said. He already has a couple started on muslin, and he has photos of others he is studying. But how far he progresses with the paintings will depend on his health. He was recently diagnosed with lung cancer.
‘‘We’ll see how it goes,’’ Heggen said.
Another project he’d like to tackle is the creation of a mural in his basement. He is working on crafting wood models of the buildings from his former farmstead near Harcourt and would eventually like to set the scene set against a painted landscape.
Heggen continues to paint pieces for his family and friends, and in addition to the quilt displayed in the Methodist Church, he has four scenes he painted on room dividers at the Lake Ole Cafe in downtown Dayton.
While always interested in art, it wasn’t until around 20 years ago that Heggen finally did something about it.
‘‘I’d take a pencil and doodle this and that,’’ he said, ‘‘but when I was younger I was too busy to do much with it.’’
Heggen’s perchance for painting developed after he encouraged a friend of his to attend an art class with him. The friend had cancer and was growing depressed. He needed something that wasn’t too strenuous to distract him and occupy his time, Heggen said.
After about a half dozen lessons, Heggen said he decided to forgo formal instruction and learn on his own. Still, he didn’t forget about his friend.
‘‘I told him in each painting I’d make two birds,’’ Heggen said. ‘‘One for me and one for him.’’
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-Messenger photo by Dawn Thompson
Roy Heggen, of Dayton, painted more than 30 country churches onto muslin squares that were made into a quilt by his sister. The quilt is on display in the fellowship hall at the United Methodist Church in Dayton.