Had you asked Artist of the Month, Debbie Bruce, several years ago if she were an artist, you’d likely have gotten a strange look. She’s been a nurse. An interior decorator. A gardener. A mother. But an artist?
If you ask the 28-year old resident of Troup County the same question today, you’ll get a big smile. It was two and a half years ago, on a day Debbie credits to divine timing, that she first walked into a Highlands, North Carolina, shop and met Joann Williams Walker. When Debbie questioned Walker, a landscape painter whose works sell in galleries across the South, about how she became an artist so late in life, the straight-shooting painter spoke point blank: “If you give me three workshops to teach you to paint, I can teach you to paint.”
With the clear-eyed support of her husband Jim, Debbie took Joann up on her challenge. “A few months later, I bought the supplies and headed back to North Carolina,” she says. “With a lot of self-imposed fears.”
“What I found was a group of people I didn’t know but who shared a love and awe for Joann,” Debbie remembers. “Honestly, that first workshop in North Carolina was really tough. It was all new to me, but I found something I was immediately passionate about. Painting was like fresh air.”
In the months that followed, Debbie has steadily built upon the basics of painting on canvas, most often prompted the beauty in nature. To this day, whether on her farm, in her flower garden, or at the beach, Debbie feels her growing passion for art has changed the way she experiences the visual world.
“There are colors in tree trunks I have never seen. I see red, turquoise, pinks, blues,” she says. “A single petal of a single flower possesses a multitude of color. So, as you take time to ‘smell the roses,’ I would add, take time to see the roses.”
Perhaps the most surprising consequence for Debbie’s life in painting has little to do with a color wheel or a still life, but rather, everything to do with people. “I am amazed at the friendships I continue to discover with like-minded, creative people,” she says. “It’s truly a blessing.”
One such friend is a man named Guido Frick, an internationally renowned painter originally from Germany. Frick, a road-tripping artist who teaches week-long seminars across America, has twice traveled to LaGrange for classes. On both occasions, Debbie and Jim have hosted Guido. Every day during the open-air classes, more than a dozen painting stations huddle near hay bales and pecan trees, a plein-air sight Debbie never imagined until these last couple of years.
“I am thrilled to witness all the art that’s taken off in LaGrange,” Debbie says, specifically mentioning her friend, local painter Signe Grushevenko, and all the partners at the Artist in Residence house on South Greenwood. “Signe was the very first person to cheer me on,” Debbie says.
“If you want encouragement by seeing what artists in LaGrange are doing, I urge you to go to Artists in Residence this December. You’ll be blessed to see all the talents in this town, and how God can give a gift of art to a ‘mom’ at the perfect time, and allow it to blossom.”