Maggie Brittin has painted for 28 years. Until recently, her most visible work was the painted buffalo in Davis, which Brittin designed and helped create. It was that buffalo that caught the eye of an assistant to Rep. Tom Cole and led Brittin to her most auspicious project yet.


Maggie Brittin has painted for 28 years. Until recently, her most visible work was the painted buffalo in Davis, which Brittin designed and helped create. It was that buffalo that caught the eye of an assistant to Rep. Tom Cole and led Brittin to her most auspicious project yet.


Brittin was one of approximately 370 artists asked to create an ornament for the White House Christmas tree this year. As part of that honor, she and her husband, Donald, were invited to a special reception for the artists on Dec. 2 at the White House.


After that whirlwind visit, Brittin came back home to celebrate Christmas with her own family, knowing a little part of southern Oklahoma remained in the nation’s capital.


“I got a call from Tom Cole’s office asking me if I would paint an ornament,” Brittin said, adding that the honor left her “extremely surprised.”


“His assistant, Jill, had seen the buffalo in Davis and I designed it and I painted part of it, but I had help from friends at the Artists of the Arbuckles,” Brittin said. “She liked it, so she asked if I would paint the ornament.”


The Davis buffalo goes by the moniker “Rocky the Davis History Buff” and features paintings of Turner Falls and the castle there, along with an old steam train on the front. Brittin and members of the Artists of the Arbuckles found pictures of things from around the time of statehood at the turn of the century and turned them into art on the buffalo, including, “a farmstead as we expected it to look like in the spring and I did a town, my idea of what the town could have looked like,” Brittin said. “It was an artist rendering of a town when Oklahoma became a state.”


Brittin and the other artists who created the White House ornaments were provided 9-inch plastic balls on which to create their works of art. Brittin used acrylic paints to create a scene from the Washita Valley. The ornaments had to be completed and sent to the White House at the beginning of October. But there could be no press until the project was announced Dec. 1 by first lady Laura Bush.


Brittin and her husband left Davis on Thanksgiving Day to drive to Washington, D.C., for the Dec. 2 reception in the East Wing of the White House. The tree featuring the painted ornaments was on display in the Blue Room. The president wasn’t in attendance, but the first lady gave a speech at the reception, Brittin said.


“Everything was very, very nice. The decorations were fantastic and they had two big spreads of buffets that were just lovely,” she said. “One of the most interesting thing was that most of the artists were hobbyists. I don’t paint for money. I just do it because I enjoy it. I found out very, very soon that you can’t make any money at it. All of the artists, they were picked by people who were just interested in their kind of art or them as artists.”


Brittin, who started painting in 1980, is a member of the National Tole and Decorative Painting Society and several years ago, members of the group were invited to submit an ornament for the White House Christmas tree, but she didn’t participate then. Little did she know the offer would be extended to her again.


Brittin, as a member of the Artist of the Arbuckles, also teaches classes several times a year. She believes the craft can be done by anyone who has an interest. 


“It’s my opinion that anybody can paint, it’s just what level,” she said. “When you first start to do something like that, because you’re putting so much of yourself out there, some people become frightened. But you get over it. You have to turn off that logical mind that says 1 plus 1 is 2 and you have to get to a place where you can listen to music with no words and you get into a zone and that’s when you can be creative and can do just about anything.”