By Stephanie Butzer
Of the 125 paint-by-number sets Dolly Vipperman, 80, has completed, she said the most recent one was the most challenging.
The painting, titled “Manhattan at Night,” shows the city skyline, brightly speckled with lights and stars, against a late colorful sunset. The illuminated Brooklyn Bridge runs along the lower right corner, a restaurant’s shine reflects off the water and the Twin Towers, glowing with hundreds of individual lights, stand in the middle of the canvas.
“I started painting on it Christmas Eve,” Vipperman said. “It took me a little over three weeks to paint it.”
When Vipperman and her daughter Donna Hedington asked Alexandra Drakakis, the assistant collections curator at the 9/11 Memorial Museum, if the museum would accept the donated artwork, Drakakis accepted.
“I said the only thing I want is if there is any kind of news article in the New York paper (about it), I want a copy,” Vipperman said. “That’s all I ask for.”
The paint-by-number will go on the 20th floor of the museum, which is still under construction. A plaque with Vipperman’s name and hometown will go underneath the art.
Vipperman said she hopes to leave more than just a piece of artwork in the museum. Both she and her daughter wanted to mention the name of a member of the New York City Fire Department who died on 9/11.
David Fontana was one of the men who passed away in the tragedy. When the list of the fallen was released, Hedington read that Fontana, who shares the same first and last name as her brother, had died in one of the towers.
“She’s donating (the painting) in remembrance of all who fell on 9/11,” Hedington said of her mother. “But I would like them to mention, somewhere, that a David Fontana, the same name as my brother, died on that day. He died on that day at 37 years of age.”
Vipperman said when she saw the World Trade Center paint-by-number set, she thought about how much she would love to paint it to honor the fallen, including Fontana. She had been eyeing the kit on Herrschners.com, a quality craft website, for a long time.
“She sees them and she knows right away,” Hedington said. “I could just tell she had been itching to do that Twin Towers one.”
Hedington buys all of the kits for her mother, so when Vipperman’s birthday rolled around in late December, Hedington bought the set. By late-January, it was finished.
Vipperman had painted thousands of numbered spaces, many of which were extremely small. When necessary, she cut the paintbrushes down to two hairs so she wouldn’t go outside the lines.
“You have to have a steady hand and a lot, a lot, a lot of patience,” Vipperman said.
Hedington said, after watching her mother paint miniscule portions at a time, she would not have been able to complete it. But, she is very proud of her mother, she said. She hangs many of her mother’s pieces in her salon. When she hung “Manhattan at Night” in the shop, it received a lot of attention.
“It just got people in there,” Hedington said. “I had people taking pictures of this thing with their camera.”
Among family and friends, Vipperman has also given some of her paint-by-number paintings away to some of Hedington’s clients. Between all the recipients, her paintings are spread all over the United States, from Florida to New Jersey.
“My mother is one talented little woman,” Hedington said.