When I was about eleven, I asked for and received a paint set for Christmas. It was a little box with tubes of oil paint and a few brushes. I didn't know what to do with it, so my mother, Dixie Kurrus, called an artist friend, who gave me instructions over the phone for how to get started. Later Mother found a woman who taught students in her home, and I went to her classes long enough to paint two or three copies of still life, and then quit going. Then we found Mary Totten Johnson, who was probably the best and the most well known artist in Sherman, Texas.
Saturday afternoon my best friend Betty Lou and I would take a bus from our neighborhood, carrying our paints and canvas, transfer to another bus downtown and ride out to 1210 E. Lamar to study with Mrs. Johnson in her home. She had a sunny room where we painted, and the Metropolitan Opera was always playing on the radio. About a year or so later she had a studio built in the yard behind her house, and I studied with her there for the next five or six years. She taught me how to "see" and how to relate what I saw in paint on canvas and so much more. She was and still is my inspiration.
After I married, I painted when time permitted. During that time I did at least two portraits for compensation. Raising children and working left little room for painting the next several years. We moved to Maryland in 1966 and I resumed painting while we lived there. We moved back to Texas in 1969. I was working full time then and for a long time I didnt paint at all. I retired in 2001. For my birthday that year my children gave me oil paints, brushes, and canvas. Their intent was to nudge me back to the easel, and it worked, because since then I havent stopped painting.
I paint only in oils, having tried watercolor and acrylic without much success or interest. Generally I paint from life or I use digital photography for reference, or both. Sometimes I compose in Photoshop. I paint mostly in my combination office/studio. For still life, I paint from life until the flowers die, then work from the image on the computer monitor. I use the monitor when working on landscapes or pictures of people. Scenes in pictures from my travels continue to inspire me.
Ive attended workshops and various classes during the past several years. Ive entered some paintings in juried exhibits. Herbs in Villa Window was accepted in Texas & Neighbors. That painting did take 2nd in show at an Irving Art Association exhibit. Galway Bay won an award in another exhibit. Goards and Lace received an award at an Irving Art Association juried show.
In 2010 a woman in the Houston River Oaks area contacted me by email seeking information about Mary Totten Johnson. She had bought a painting by Mrs. Johnson at an estate sale. She searched on the Internet for something about Mrs. Johnson but found nothing except a link to me, which came from my brief bio on the Irving Art Connection website. We corresponded about Mrs. Johnsons teaching studio and she sent me a photo the painting she bought by Mrs. Johnson. She also sent a photo of the back of the canvas, on which Mrs. Johnson had painted her name and address and the paintings title, Autumn. When I saw that picture I could tell exactly where in the studio it was painted, and it virtually took me back in time. Then I painted my own version of Autumn, using some of the elements in her painting for inspiration, plus flowers from St. Marks altar and persimmons stolen from a neighbors tree. While I worked on it, I felt as if she were standing behind me giving me encouragement and instruction.
In 2011, I entered two juried exhibits. My painting "Autumn" was accepted in Texas & Neighbors. "Caladiums in Pots" received the Asel award in Irving Arts Association show. In March 2011, I attended Marileigh Shulte's 4-day workshop and in March 2011 I was in Albert Handell's painting workshop. In 2012 the painting "Ben," a portrait of my grandson, was accepted in Texas & Neighbors exhibit and won Honorable Mention in the Oil & Acrylic division. "Canal in Venice" has been accepted in Irving Art Association 2012 juried show. Two paintings were accepted in Irving Arts Connection Member's Juried Exhibit 2012 - "Marie in 1942," which was given Honorable Mention award, and "Wonder." There are many more travel pictures in my computer that I will use as references for paintings. A trip to the Canadian Rockies in 2011 and a tour to New England in June 2012 yielded more travel inspirations. I am planning to continue family portraits. I'd also love to help some of the grandchildren get started in painting.
Every day, if possible, I spend a little time with art. My painting is generally representational, occasionally impressionistic, never abstract. My objective in every painting is to convey the beauty I see and feel in the subject.
Jene Gravley is a member of
Irving Arts Connection
Irving Art Association
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