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Portrait of an artistT RACY D ONALD
SHARES HER TALENT WITH
OTHERS AS PAINTER , TEACHER
TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY LAYLA ESSARYIn a West Hattiesburg art studio usually bustling with budding child artists, there are a dozen canvases positioned on easels, ready to be painted by novice adult painters. This particular evening art class at Bristles features artist Tracy Donald as instructor. An inspiration photograph, depicting a Mississippi Delta sunset, is tonights subject. In the next hour, Donald is tasked with providing a lighthearted tutorial on the basics of oil painting, and those 12 canvases will come to life with the brilliant colors of twilight. Its my first time to teach an art class for adults, and I want these women to go away not only with a nice painting they could be proud of, but also some knowledge of the basics, said Donald, who dabbled in painting while attending the Art Institute of Dallas years ago. After a 13-year career in graphic design, Donald pursued painting more seriously about five years ago after her family moved to Hattiesburg. Long before delving into sunset paintings, Donalds first creative subject was one she knew quite well a portrait of her oldest daughter, Laine. It didnt take long for requests to start piling up from people wanting their own children depicted in her unique painting style. Tracy does these wonderful, unique portraits unlike any Ive ever seen before with such minute detail, said Hattiesburg Arts Council Director Patty Hall, who met Tracy when she participated in an emerging artist show at the Hattiesburg Cultural Center a couple of years ago. But Hall cautions against attaching the label of portrait artist too tightly to Donalds work.
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Patty Hall, above, displays Donalds art at the Hattiesburg Cultural Center.
As an artist, she is so versatile in her subject matter and style of painting. Along with the portraits, Tracy will turn out some fabulous, very contemporary pieces and I find myself really drawn to that work also. Not to mention the painting shes done of a pear thats so luscious, you could just slice right into it. Hall invited the artist to participate in a seven-week display at the Hattiesburg Cultural Center this summer, featuring a collection of almost
30 paintings. I got to know Tracy a couple of years ago shortly after she moved to Hattiesburg, Hall said. I admired her work and she had a few paintings in our emerging artist exhibit which is held each December. Thats when I really got to know her and spend some time with her. Shes been on my radar, thinking now thats a young artist I really would like offer a full show. Donald said she was thrilled to be offered a chance to show-
case her work. This has been a great opportunity especially in this space because it is such a gorgeous place to have a show, said Donald. Im so grateful to the Arts Council because without them, I probably wouldnt have gotten this opportunity. Giving artists a venue for exposure and inspiration was exactly what Hall and others with the Hattiesburg Arts Council and the City of Hattiesburg had in mind when they began renovating the old
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Hattiesburg public library building years ago. We were hopeful when talks began for renovating this space that they would give us permission to maintain an art gallery here and that has now happened, Hall said. Weve been blessed to participate in introducing new, emerging artists who have gone on and enjoyed a successful art career. Its been nice to see them in the early stages of their careers and watch them develop themselves as artists. Often as a public space we have events and wedding receptions here so artists are introduced to a wide array of audiences by virtue of having their work on display. And that can lead to a work of art getting sold to someone in the audience, or just getting their name out even beyond this area. So its mutually beneficial for the city to have the space enhanced by the work and we believe its also a great service to the artist. Hall said that the space doesnt come without a few challenges for artists. It isnt always easy to have
a one-person show in this space, because of the heights of the ceiling, it seems to be almost too consuming sometimes, Hall said. But Tracy paints with such large canvases sometimes so that her work is able to fill a space. And the opportunity prompted the oil painter to explore new areas of interest. Ive done quite a few flowers, some still lifes and landscapes, but one of my favorite areas is abstraction and I figured this was a great chance to explore that genre, Donald said, adding that she wants to continue exploring the abstract style of painting. In my opinion, abstract paintings are the most difficult. You are relying on your mind for inspiration and not looking at a photo or subject per se. Meanwhile, what started as an alternative to dinner and a movie among friends has turned into 12 unique pieces of art. We started the adult painting classes as an opportunity for women who might not otherwise pursue painting to see
into the window of a painters world, and I wanted Tracy Donald to be a part of this opportunity, said Lissa Ortego, local artist and owner/instructor of Bristles. Tracy did a great job demonstrating the medium of oil painting and giving everyone a basic glimpse into a skill she knows very well. I found it interesting to see how she works stylistically, and I believe others did as well. Donald said each person can find ways to explore their artistic side and have a good time doing it. I wanted them to have a great time being creative and I think they all did. Hall said not every artist is so eager to share their creative talents with others. She has such a heart for what art can do for a person, how it can enhance a life, Hall said. Its wonderful to work with someone who is eager to give back to the community with the power of the arts and thats certainly the case for Tracy.
To find out whats on display at the Hattiesburg Cultural Center or to schedule a mini-gallery talk with the artist, call the Hattiesburg Arts Council at (601) 583-6005. Information on Bristles Art Studio is available at www.bristlesstudio.com or by calling (601) 450-ARTS.