Mercedian's art might be top 49er pick

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comJanuary 31, 2013 

BEA AHBECK CASSON/bahbeck@mercedsunstar.com Merced artist Judith Burton, 73, with dog Paloma, a 9-year-old maltese, and her original paintings of the 49ers, in her Merced home Thursday. (1-31-13)

When the San Francisco 49ers called for artists to submit original work to display in the new Santa Clara stadium, Judith Burton's son insisted his mom apply.

After all, his mother's work is featured inside the Capitol in Sacramento, the Merced Multicultural Arts Center and the 9/11 memorial at the Mariposa Art Park.

"Oh, mom, you've got to do it," urged Burton's son, a 49ers fan. "You've got to send your work in."

So Burton got to work. After a few weeks, she unveiled three oil paintings, including one of quarterback and Turlock's Colin Kaepernick.

"Kaepernick is local, so that piqued my interest," Burton said. "Once I started painting football, I actually got into it and started watching games. Now I can hardly wait for the Super Bowl."

The second painting feature 49ers in a huddle, and the third is the moment dubbed "The Catch," when wide receiver Dwight Clark caught a pass by legendary quarterback Joe Montana to make the winning touchdown in the January 1982 National Football Conference Championship Game.

Burton submitted a photo of the huddle painting to the 49ers for consideration, and will complete two or three more paintings to finish the series.

The series will go to the Mariposa County Arts Council Gallery, which represents Burton as an artist.

Burton, 73, fell in love with art from the moment she picked up a crayon and began drawing at age 10.

Although art remained her first love, Burton had a successful career as a special education teacher and counselor for 20 years. After retiring, she found the time to pick up a paintbrush full time.

"It was always in the back of my mind," Burton said. "I was always thinking I wanted to do what I love when I have the time. It was a goal to work toward, something to look forward to."

Burton paints about four to five hours a day, or whenever she feels "inspired," which is every day. Her inspiration comes from a little bit of everything, but her favorite subjects to paint are flowers, cars and figures. Burton uses acrylic, oil, colored pencils, watercolor and pastels.

The 49ers are set to pick the contest winner in April. Until then, the 30-year Merced resident can go back to doing what she loves most.

"It's completely relaxing. All the day-to-day concerns melt away when I paint," Burton said. She is scheduled to release a book Feb. 15 featuring about 100 original paintings. "It's been incredibly rewarding, and I've been very lucky," she said.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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