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ART | tracy donald

Portrait of an artist




In 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 par-
ticular evening art class at
Bristles features artist Tracy
Donald as instructor. An inspi-
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 dab-
bled in painting while attend-
ing the Art Institute of Dallas
years ago.
didn’t take long for requests to
start piling up from people
wanting their own children
depicted in her unique painting
“Tracy does these wonderful,
unique portraits unlike any I’ve
ever seen before with such
minute detail,” said
ration photograph, depicting a After a 13-year career in Hattiesburg Arts Council
Mississippi Delta sunset, is graphic design, Donald pur- Director Patty Hall, who met
tonight’s subject. sued painting more seriously Tracy when she participated in
In the next hour, Donald is about five years ago after her an emerging artist show at the
tasked with providing a light- family moved to Hattiesburg. Hattiesburg Cultural Center a
hearted tutorial on the basics of Long before delving into couple of years ago.
oil painting, and those 12 can- sunset paintings, Donald’s first But Hall cautions against
vases will come to life with the creative subject was one she attaching the label of portrait
brilliant colors of twilight. knew quite well — a portrait of artist too tightly to Donald’s
“It’s my first time to teach her oldest daughter, Laine. It work.

48 a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i
Patty Hall, above, displays
Donald’s art at the
Hattiesburg Cultural Center.

“As an artist, she is so versa- 30 paintings. case her work.

tile in her subject matter and “I got to know Tracy a cou- “This has been a great oppor-
style of painting. Along with ple of years ago shortly after tunity especially in this space
the portraits, Tracy will turn she moved to Hattiesburg,” because it is such a gorgeous
out some fabulous, very con- Hall said. “I admired her work place to have a show,” said
temporary pieces and I find and she had a few paintings in Donald. “I’m so grateful to the
myself really drawn to that our emerging artist exhibit Arts Council because without
work also. Not to mention the which is held each December. them, I probably wouldn’t have
painting she’s done of a pear That’s when I really got to gotten this opportunity.”
that’s so luscious, you could know her and spend some time Giving artists a venue for
just slice right into it.” with her. She’s been on my exposure and inspiration was
Hall invited the artist to par- radar, thinking now that’s a exactly what Hall and others
ticipate in a seven-week dis- young artist I really would like with the Hattiesburg Arts
play at the Hattiesburg offer a full show.” Council and the City of
Cultural Center this summer, Donald said she was thrilled Hattiesburg had in mind when
featuring a collection of almost to be offered a chance to show- they began renovating the old

a cc e n t s o u t h m i s s i s s i p p i 49
Hattiesburg public library a one-person show in this into the window of a painter’s
building years ago. space, because of the heights of world, and I wanted Tracy
“We were hopeful when the ceiling, it seems to be Donald to be a part of this
talks began for renovating this almost too consuming some- opportunity,” said Lissa
space that they would give us times,” Hall said. “But Tracy Ortego, local artist and
permission to maintain an art paints with such large canvases owner/instructor of Bristles.
gallery here and that has now sometimes so that her work is “Tracy did a great job demon-
happened,” Hall said. “We’ve able to fill a space.” strating the medium of oil
been blessed to participate in And the opportunity painting and giving everyone a
introducing new, emerging prompted the oil painter to basic glimpse into a skill she
artists who have gone on and explore new areas of interest. knows very well. I found it
enjoyed a successful art career. “I’ve done quite a few flow- interesting to see how she
It’s been nice to see them in the ers, some still lifes and land- works stylistically, and I
early stages of their careers and scapes, but one of my favorite believe others did as well.”
watch them develop themselves areas is abstraction and I fig- Donald said each person can
as artists. Often as a public ured this was a great chance to find ways to explore their artis-
space we have events and wed- explore that genre,” Donald tic side and have a good time
ding receptions here so artists said, adding that she wants to doing it.
are introduced to a wide array continue exploring the abstract “I wanted them to have a
of audiences by virtue of hav- style of painting. “In my opin- great time being creative and I
ing their work on display. And ion, abstract paintings are the think they all did.”
that can lead to a work of art most difficult. You are relying Hall said not every artist is
getting sold to someone in the on your mind for inspiration so eager to share their creative
audience, or just getting their and not looking at a photo or talents with others.
name out even beyond this subject per se.” “She has such a heart for
area. So it’s mutually beneficial Meanwhile, what started as what art can do for a person,
for the city to have the space an alternative to dinner and a how it can enhance a life,” Hall
enhanced by the work and we movie among friends has said. “It’s wonderful to work
believe it’s also a great service turned into 12 unique pieces of with someone who is eager to
to the artist.” art. give back to the community
Hall said that the space does- “We started the adult paint- with the power of the arts and
n’t come without a few chal- ing classes as an opportunity that’s certainly the case for
lenges for artists. for women who might not oth- Tracy.”
“It isn’t always easy to have erwise pursue painting to see

To find out what’s 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 or by
calling (601) 450-ARTS.