FROM READERS: How Bonnie Chasteen finds artistic inspiration in rural landscape

Monday, November 18, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:00 p.m. CST, Monday, November 18, 2013
A piece from Columbia artist Bonnie Chasteen's exhibit at Orr Street Studios called "Faces, Places, Figures, and Food."

Columbia resident Bonnie Chasteen is an artist and editor for the Missouri Department of Conservation. Her exhibit, "Faces, Places, Figures, and Food," will be at Orr Street Studios from Nov. 19 to Dec. 1. A reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 19, followed by the Hearing Voices/Seeing Visions program from 7 to 9 p.m.

My show at Orr Street Studios features paintings and drawings in various media, including oil, watercolor, gouache, charcoal, pastel, crayon and cattle marker. It's strong on portraits, figures, landscapes and still lifes.

I grew up in rural western North Carolina, and I spent many summers gardening or gathering berries in the mountains with my family. I later married a Missouri cattle farmer, and we built miles of barbed-wire and high-tensile fence. Although our marriage didn’t last, my love of the rural landscape and people at work on it did. My paintings reflect my personal history and the things I love: the human face and form, local scenes, dancing and food.

I don’t have an art degree, but I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon. In fact, I still enjoy using humble materials like charcoal, crayon and livestock marker. I’m amazed that we can use a burnt stick to create an image that has texture, depth and mood.

I’ve lived a lot of different places, and I’ve always sought out workshops or tutorials with local artists. Here in Missouri, Naomi Sugino Lear, Jane Mudd, Frank Stack, Byron Smith and Gloria Gaus, among many others, have influenced and encouraged my work.

The Columbia area has a great art community, and it’s easy to find drawing sessions, workshops and groups to work with. I did many of the drawings and paintings in my show at the weekend figure-drawing sessions that Frank Stack started at the MU art department back in the 60s. I did others from life in classes or in workshops, and I did a few from photos I’ve taken over the years.

This winter I’ll be working from several photos I took when my stepdad raised his timber-frame house in Iowa a few years ago. Lots of great shots of people hoisting beams and swinging hammers. Now to decide what medium to use …

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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