Ivy Breen left many a painted pumpkin on the doorsteps of Coupeville businesses this fall. “They never saw me. I was like the Great Pumpkin.” Photos by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Coupeville merchants receive treats —and— tricks of mystery artist

Painted pumpkins puzzle proprietors

The Great Pumpkin is real.

And a pretty good artist.

Forgive Coupeville merchants if they experienced such a Charlie Brown moment this month upon discovering painted pumpkins on their doorsteps.

“I came in and there it was at my door,” Cove Cafe owner Michele Lynn said as she admired the shiny pumpkin with an intricate scene of the Coupeville Wharf, surrounding mountains and tones of blue sky and water.

“I want to say ‘Thank You’ to whoever left it, but I don’t know who that is.”

Enter Ivy Breen, an artist, newcomer and lover of all things Halloween.

She painted 36 pumpkins of all sizes and shapes at her kitchen table, each with a specific business or local scene in mind. After selling five to recoup the cost of the orange orbs, Breen gave the rest to neighbors and local merchants.

“I kind of have a soft spot for small businesses. My father owned one,” she said. “And I know they are going into their down season. Plus, people don’t know me here so it’s a way to introduce my art.

“I put them by the door early in the morning with a little note saying: ‘Just a wee gift this autumn. Hand painted by Ivy Breen.’”

An accomplished artist in many mediums, Breen is known for her landscapes and series of rusted pickup trucks in Idaho, where she moved from in May. She takes photographs, sketches and sometimes sets up an easel outside to capture scenes.

All kinds of Whidbey’s iconic images — orcas, sailboats, lighthouses, farms — shine through the ribs of the soon-to-be squishy squash.

Beverly Walton instantly recognized the lavender fields Breen painted on the Lavender Wind Farm store pumpkin. Breen delivered it the weekend she sold her art at the Coupeville Rec Hall.

“I caught her trying to sneak away very discreetly,” laughed Walton. “She’s a lovely gal. It was a great idea. She did a good job getting her name out there. We’re all talking about it.”

Breen taught basic watercolor classes in the past and hopes to start again. She’s passed on her passion for painting pumpkins in workshops during fall, her favorite time of year.

“I’ve seen people paint incredible scenes who’ve never even touched a paint brush before.” she says. “Anybody could learn this.”

This is, after all, art that rots —- eventually.

“This isn’t a masterpiece,” Breen explains. “You want to depict the impression of the place.”

Breen thoroughly scrubs “all the microbes off” the surface before painting, then seals it with a translucent coating. Still, she reminds her pumpkin-painting protegees it’s a fleeting fancy.

It’s seasonal advice but good year round, she said.

“Learn how to let go. Remember Halloweens when you were a child, a time when most people were happiest. But you knew it wasn’t going to last.

“So you enjoy the moment — just like painting on something that’s not going to last.”

Ivy Breen gave away 29 of 36 pumpkins she painted in the past month as tokens of good will. She featured scenes of Coupeville on each one.

There’s no price tags on her pumpkins, Breen says, because “that would cheapen the joy.” She sometimes leaves a surprise pumpkin for a ‘good deed doer.’

Among Ivy Breen’s many oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings are a series featuring old trucks.

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