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Inside the Artist’s Studio: Betty Briggs

Inside the Artist’s Studio: And so become yourself.

Lifelong Learning: Betty Briggs

By Derrick White

“I guess you could say retirement actually lead me on the path to being an artist. I have always loved art but life kept getting in the way, family, practical priorities, but now at age 70, I can pursue my interests. TJC is once again there for me, as it has been for the past 36 years. I think the Audit Program is a wonderful opportunity for seniors to continue to learn and enjoy the many diverse classes our community college has to offer,” encourages artist Betty Briggs. This article celebrates the non-traditional student actively involved in studio art classes and enriching the creative learning environment. Lifelong learning is seeking continuous experiences building knowledge and skills during one’s life. This is an excellent use of the fine arts for staying healthy and well mentally, emotionally, and physically. It is great for a creative studio environment to have students ranging in age. At TJC, these students discuss and exchange ideas, work socially, and volunteer collectively, and it is always interesting to see different approaches to ideas and materials. “While waiting to enroll, I enjoy visiting with seniors, and we share our interests. Besides art classes, seniors sign up to exercise at the Ornelas HPE center, while others enjoy auditing government, english, voice, history, etc.,” explains Briggs.

Betty Briggs enjoys abstract and landscape painting in acrylic and watercolor. She also works in clay and enjoys creating with her hands. She is a valuable asset to have in the studio and around campus. She is helpful and encouraging to other students. Briggs first started college in 1965 at Oklahoma State University. “I just wanted to be a housewife and mother. I was always interested in art but never got any encouragement, so I eventually dropped out and became a secretary,” recalls Betty. Eventually, Betty and her young family were brought to Tyler. A family friend suggested Betty check out TJC because it was sociable and rewarding. So when her youngest started kindergarten, she enrolled.

“Tuition for six credit hours in 1982 was $25. It was so rewarding, and I signed up for six more hours in the spring. My teachers were so encouraging, and I enjoyed learning so much I decided to go for my associate’s degree in general studies. By the time I graduated, my teachers were emboldening me to continue my education at UT Tyler. Since I didn’t have a major, I decided to major in journalism,” states Betty. Adding, “I was never urged to pursue art. So, as I worked towards my degree, I promised myself I would come back and take all the art classes I had been longing to take.”

“I occasionally returned to TJC to take classes interesting to me, from tennis to real estate and, of course, art,” informs Briggs. While adjusting to a new and independent life and taking a free TJC career workshop, the director of career planning encouraged her to go back to college and get a master’s degree. Betty earned her master’s in just over a year while working part-time at the local newspaper and adjunct teaching journalism at TJC. All of this happened because her journalism professor had come to an art exhibition and was interested in buying her ceramic piece. “I was so excited, and when I updated her, she got me a job at the paper and hired me to teach mass communication. After I received my master’s, Linda Ziegler told me there was an opening as alumni director and encouraged me to apply,” states Betty. Years later she retired and among the things on her bucket list was to come back and again take more art classes. “That is exactly what I am doing,” claims the artist. By the way, Betty had given the ceramic piece to Ziegler as a gift of gratitude and years later, after Linda passed away, her daughter contacted Betty and sent the piece back to her. “That is an example of how art changed my life, that and my very special journalism teacher. And my ceramics teacher, Nancy McCain, who taught me how to throw on the ceramics wheel,” explains Betty.

Betty finds inspiration in travel and enjoys visiting museums. She has been to the Louvre, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Getty, the Legion of Honor Museum, and the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History. On a trip to Italy, she had the opportunity to saunter the streets, explore the churches, statues, ancient buildings, and magnificent fountains. Betty is a member of the Tyler Museum of Art and enjoys going to the exhibits and attending events showcasing artists.

“These classes have me painting and working in clay again. I always say I’m going to paint at home, but I never do unless it is for class. My brother-in-law, Rodger Helt, is a very talented artist who has made his living as an artist and my daughter Kristin Clement is an elementary art teacher in the Dallas Area,” states Betty. Besides starting her career at 50 as TJC’s first Alumni Director, Briggs has volunteered for everything from Blue Bird leader to fifth grade Art Mom. She has been in charge of the TJC Charitable Giving Campaign. For many years she also organized TJC employee volunteers for the United Way Day of Caring and Ringing the Bell for the Salvation Army. Betty has served on numerous boards including United Way, Sister Cities, ARK, Tyler Executive Women’s Network (TEWN), Champions for Children, and Women of Tyler.

“I enjoy being on campus again. Seeing old friends and making new friends with the students in my classes. It is always such a diverse group. Some of my classmates are very talented art majors, and some students have managed to squeeze in a fun class among their required core classes. This fall, when I once again signed up for my art classes, the TJC lady assisting me said, “I bought one of your paintings, and it’s hanging in my office,” I felt like I had just won the grand prize,” she exclaims.



Michael Brundidge: Inside the Artist’s Studio

Some People Call Me the Space Cowboy

By Derrick White

“You are free to do what you want! So go out and get it,” exclaims local artist Michael Brundidge. Michael is a cheerful, energetic, friendly, and laid back personality you are more than likely to encounter during your next visit to True Vine Brewing Company, where he works. His artwork may also be seen there, perhaps being displayed in a one-night, pop-up art exhibition or permanently installed in spots around the brewery. Michael’s art is primarily collages. This is something I personally value because about half of my own artwork is in the medium of collage and I appreciate it when I see it and when I see it done well.

The word collage comes from a French word meaning “to glue” and it is a prevalent and accessible visual art technique, where the composition is created from grouping different colors, forms, and images and creating a new, and sometimes very different, whole. Collages may include drawings and sketches, magazine and newspaper clippings, ribbon, paint, handmade papers, text lettering or phrases, photographs, prints, and other found objects selected and attached to paper, canvas, wood panels, or other supports. The ancestry of the process of collage dates back hundreds of years. 

Brundidge explains, “My main focus in style lately is mixed media collage artwork. Outer space has been the most prevalent theme and inspiration in my current series “Space Is The Place.” I like to mingle Pop Art, Surrealism, and a splash of Neo-Dadaism (an absurdist combination of daily life and art using playfulness, iconoclasm, and appropriation).” He goes on to add, “I use plywood as my canvases (or supports) and acrylic paint for the backgrounds. I love how the acrylic soaks into the plywood. I think the textures really visually pop creating a combination matte and glossy finish to my backgrounds. I use clippings and cutouts of various images found in old magazines from the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s. I really enjoy the textures and color palettes used in those decades. I juxtapose images of people, places, and things I find interesting onto my painted backgrounds. I like to call it manual Photoshop. The images most often reoccurring throughout my pieces are large ominous hands, planets, women, and astronauts.” After Michael creates his collages he then finishes them by creating a custom frame for each individual piece using weathered or repurposed wood, which adds to the charm and content of the work.

Other than elementary school art classes, Michael Brundidge does not have any formal training in visual art. He is a self-taught artist, sometimes referred to as an outsider or folk artist for the unique qualities of style and practice. When making art to make art, there is no critique deadline and no teacher to please. This is one of the open-ended concepts I love about creating art: the fact you can just decide to do it. If you feel inspired to start making, sharing, and selling art, you can put a sign in your yard today and become just as much of an artist as anyone else. No degree or certification, training, or experience required. This does not mean you will automatically have any success, be any good, or make anything interesting, but you might. You get to express yourself and your unique human experience to the rest of us however you feel compelled to do so. This concept applies to everyone, of any age, of any skill set, and by any means. You cannot do this with most other occupations. You cannot decide to randomly put a sign in your yard and start practicing dentistry, for example. Or as Michael Brundidge puts it, “You are free to do what you want! So go out and get it.”

What inspired Michael down the path of pursuing art was, as he states, “Honestly, it was loneliness and alienation. I know it sounds dismal and depressing but I was truly hard-pressed to do something. I did not feel as though I had much of an identity. Making art brought back vitality, confidence, and purpose in my life.” Adding, “It has developed my trait of persistence. Art has given me the will to continue on despite ridicule, hang-ups, and depravity.” What Michael finds frustrating about being an artist is, in his words, “Exclusivity and competition. I disagree and do not participate in any art based competitions. Art is extremely subjective. Critics and the upper crust held in high regard can make or break an artist. Anyone can make art. I dare and laud them to do so. I truly believe art is a party and everyone is invited.  Make art to make art. Elitism is too common in the art world. The idea that money talks and has unquestionable influence in the art world is a fallacy. Every artist matters and all content must be considered.” So everyone could, and I believe should make art. The process is emotionally healing and therapeutic. It doesn’t matter if you are interested in playing the game of the big money buying and selling art world, which is an economy just like every other commodity-driven economy in the world. Make art by you for you, and let the rest fall where it may whether you are a joker, a lover, or a sinner.

Speaking of jokers, Michael finds inspiration in the works of artist Ray Johnson, who was primarily a collage and correspondence artist. He was described as New York’s most famous unknown artist. Michael exclaims, “He was relentless and continuously persistent in his artwork. He was a recluse staying vigilant and persistent in his process. His media ebbed and flowed at his inclination. Johnson was a prankster in expectation. His content was his own and he did not sway his ideology and process. He even determined and called the shots when it came time for him to leave this world.” On January 13, 1995, Ray Johnson dove off a bridge and then backstroked out to sea in an apparent suicide or perhaps final performance art piece. Strange aspects of Johnson’s death involved the number 13 (date; his age, 67 (6+7=13); his motel room number 247 (2+4+7=13) … and the number of letters in “Me Space Cowboy”). Learn more about Johnson in the documentary film “How to Draw a Bunny.” Learn more about Brundidge by going to True Vine and having a beer.

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For the Love of Art: Art Events, Classes & Exhibits

Discover your inner artist by taking a fun class ! These are for all ages and all experience levels!

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Lauren Pitre: Inside the Artists Studio


Painting the Town: Lauren Pitre

Derrick White

“I can say without a doubt art has brought me confidence. I always struggled with confidence growing up but it seems after each milestone I pass within my art career I gain more confidence, in particular with my murals,” affirms local artist Lauren Pitre. You may have experienced Lauren’s work even if you were not aware of it at the time. If you’ve been to the Longview Mall, downtown Mineola, The Discovery Science Place in Tyler, or the Lindale Candy Company, you probably noticed her dynamic and engaging murals. Lauren received her Associate’s degree in Art from Tyler Junior College and received a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from the University of Texas at Tyler, focusing on painting. She prolifically creates beautiful and enchanting still lifes of antiquated objects but during her time at UT Tyler she gained experience in painting murals. Now murals and commissioned portraits are Lauren’s full-time job.

“The Importance of Community Murals” is an online article from the website stating, “From the 30,000-year-old animal murals in France’s Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave to Banksy’s Balloon Girl, murals have been part of our cultural landscape for thousands of years. Community murals are a mode of expression for artists in every graphic style imaginable: abstract, photorealistic, surrealist, expressionist and graffiti, to name just a few. Most recently, murals have become community centerpieces bringing people together to celebrate the heritage and history of their home. They create vibrant neighborhoods people want to visit and live. Murals attract new local businesses, help bring customers to pre-existing locations, and boost the economy of an area. Murals encourage people to slow down and admire your surroundings. Part of slow living involves appreciating our surroundings and their beauty. Murals create important conversations and expand thought. They also act as collective thought spaces. A great example of a dialogue-provoking mural project is American artist Wyland’s Whaling Walls. Over a 30 year period, Wyland painted 100 life-sized whale murals across the globe to help people appreciate our oceans through art.”

Lauren has an excellent painting skill set, creating works quite capable of attracting and holding the viewer’s attention while provoking conversation and thought in her murals as well as her fine art. “My vintage still lifes are mostly painted on wood panels with acrylic paint. I use wood panels so I can get more layers and am able to lightly sand between coats to get a smooth surface I like. Acrylic paint works best with the wood. It dries quick enough to get more layers of detail,” Lauren describes. She adds, “The style of my pieces is realistic with an exaggerated use of color as well as the background behind the objects. Typical objects I choose to depict are old cameras, clocks, books, and radios. As far as commissioned portraits and murals I tend to stick to realism as well, depending on what the subject matter is, along with the look and design of the surrounding area I will use a specific color palette directed towards a particular style.” 

Lauren grew up always drawing people and facial portraits. After she graduated high school she began working at a local Goodwill store. It is there her fascination with distinctive items began to take hold. Lauren explains, “I enjoyed seeing different objects from different decades, mostly old cameras and clocks. One of the Goodwill tasks specific to me was creating displays for end-caps, toppers, and windows and I usually ended up using the older items, to give them a new life. I decided to collect these vintage items and make still lifes of them and paint them. Another one of my jobs was to paint the outside of the windows for holidays and special sales, the more I did them the more elaborate they became. It was then I felt this was where my path as an artist was truly starting.”

Lauren took a mural painting class at UT Tyler with Professor Alexis Serio Hughes: “We planned out and painted one of the exterior walls of the Discovery Science Place in Tyler over the span of one semester. After that semester I was hooked. I spent a later semester working on a mural there at UT Tyler in the Biology building. I was able to come up with a design, color palette, and work schedule, as well as assigning tasks to the three of us working on the mural,” she states. 

After graduating, Lauren was able to start her first large commissioned mural downtown in her own hometown of Mineola. Soon after she completed the mural in Mineola, she was commissioned for multiple murals in towns around East Texas. “As an introverted person, I never really saw myself branching out and doing large projects like city murals, but art has given me the confidence to do things like that. Although art has given me the confidence to branch out and do large projects around our region, it brings problems along with it, like talking to people, in particular groups of people. I can say the path to get my degree in art helped me tremendously in preparing to speak in front of people but I have noticed, as an introvert, it takes a while to get over. However, after speaking in front of crowds a few times I have come to see it gets a little easier each time,” describes Lauren.

Lauren finds inspiration in the work of other artists like Christopher Stott (contemporary still life painter). She states, “He uses a lot of vintage objects in his work and highlights all the formal qualities of the objects I find most interesting, like contrasts in surface texture in vintage cameras and the shadows they produce. He adds non-vintage objects like wooden chairs and pencils in his pieces, which add another element of contrast.” Lauren concludes, “I also have a favorite muralist, Anat Ronen, who does a lot of work throughout the Texas area and surrounding states. She is a massive inspiration to my mural work; keeping up with her and her work pushes me to keep expanding my work throughout East Texas.” 

For more information and to see examples of her work on Instagram, check out: @artbylaurenpitre


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