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Inside the Artist’s Studio: Dana Cargile

dana6 copyBy A. C. Slaughter

Alright ladies hike up your skirts and show some ankle ‘cause this month’s artist is all femme! A southern belle who paints like a lady, markets herself like a pro and smiles all the way to the bank. Red headed and full of sweetness, Ms. Dana Cargile is making moves and making history right here in lil’ ol’ Tyler, Texas.

Dana and her family moved here five years ago from Jackson, Mississippi and she dove right in. Helping to grow the art scene in East Texas, Dana has been on the board of the Heart of Tyler for five years. She immediately started showing with Gallery Main Street when they first opened and since then has shown at 8th Street Boutique, Larry Lotts Interiors, Regions Bank downtown, Gold Leaf Gallery, Salon Verve, and has participated in the downtown ArtWalk every year it has been put on. For the last six years she and her dear friend, Cherie, share a booth at a show called “Handworks” in Jackson, Mississippi where they have built quite a following. This past holiday season Dana participated in Mistletoe and Magic, one of Tyler’s best known holiday extravaganzas. Dana says she intends to do the show again this year. “It’s a labor of love,” she says about her painting. Doing all these shows takes time. “When do you have time to paint?” I ask, and Dana laughs. “I am out here [in her studio] all day Tuesday and Thursday and Monday, Wednesday, Friday afternoons.” With three boys and a husband it is amazing that she is able to do what she does. “Sometimes I forget to do the wash,” she says but I think that is a small sacrifice for such a successful body of work.

So let’s talk about the work …..

dana7 copyDana’s loose, fun, child-like style has roots in realism. Her bright colors and bold brush work is a treat for your inner happy place. You can see her background in realism in her genre pieces. “I started painting when I was little. My grandmother always painted.” Much like many artists, Dana’s parents did not encourage her painting. They wanted her to pursue a career in business or something that she could support herself with. So Dana got her degree in fashion merchandising. It was a compromise between business and art. Not ever really doing anything with her degree and having a strong desire to do what she pleased regardless of who or who didn’t support her, Dana continued to paint for her own sake.

Twelve years ago she and her family moved to Jackson, Mississippi where, for the first time, Dana found her support. She joined an art guild. Hosted by some of the elders in town, she met Cherie, who sits in a rocker in the corner of Dana’s studio chiming in while we do the interview. They both had children the same age and because they were younger than most of the other members, the two belles quickly became friends. “You had to be tough as nails,” Dana recalls. The group met once a week and held critiques. “You could paint whatever you wanted and sometimes we would watch videos and have a discussion. They [group members] were very helpful.” Much like a classroom environment Dana found a place where she could paint what was on her heart and then have it drug through the dirt by many discerning eyes. This builds character. If you have ever been in a critique situation, you know. It hurts when you first hear that someone doesn’t like your piece, or aspects of your piece, but you get over that soon enough and if you don’t, you quit. But when they DO like your work, you may find yourself on cloud nine for days to come.

After having been through tough critiques, Dana and Cherie felt it was time to start doing art shows, sharing booth rentals and finding their niche in the Jackson art scene. Their success was quick to come and continues to build to this day. Even distance can’t tear these two apart. In 2009 Dana and her family moved to East Texas just in time to get in on the ground floor of all the new art happenings in Tyler. Dana immediately started having success here in Tyler. She started receiving commissions from shows, then shows from commissions. People see her work, like her style and ask her to paint something for them. Starting out in realism Dana painted, “A lot of landscapes. The more you paint the more your style changes. My style kept getting looser and looser.” Then Dana took a portrait class. “Once you can do people you can do animals. People love cows and pigs here in Tyler!” In addition to Dana’s local success she has been asked to paint images for a website that sells images to churches for church bulletins. Additionally, she was asked to paint the poster image for the 26th annual Festival on the Square and she has also illustrated a children’s book titled “Pet Fairy” written by Christie Joy.

dana1All of Dana’s success can be directly attributed to hard work and a good attitude. People love to buy art from people they love and Dana is a lovable Southern gal. Did I mention her studio is called the “Doll House” and rightly named? While interviewing Dana at the “Doll House” we had tea service in porcelain tea cups served alongside dainty tea cookies. The southern charm just does not stop and neither does the femininity. There are dolls all around the studio as well as paints, brushes, rocking chairs and lots of windows bringing in all the good ol’ East Texas light. There’s even a fireplace. Dana’s studio is inviting, comfortable, eclectic and beautiful. It’s in her own backyard, separate from all her boys, a special place just for her and the gals.

Dana is what all artists aspire to be and few ever accomplish – she is a true working artist. How does one become such a thing you ask? “You learn from every painting. You keep learning, and you keep learning, no matter how old you are.”

For more info, go to Facebook.

So there you have it. To all of you who are struggling, deep in the throws of being an artist, take a lesson from an angel of wisdom and work hard, keep at it, market your work and believe in yourself. Because believing in yourself in the key. If you don’t believe in yourself no one else will and you must believe that what you are doing is unique and special and that it is the right thing to do.

There is no substitute for good mojo.

Dana’s work can be found online at “MyBackPorch” on Facebook,, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and now on Etsy. It has only been in the past five years that Dana has promoted herself online. “It works,” she says. “It’s the modern world. I had a lady in Austin who I’ve never met see a piece she liked and wanted one similar, so now I am painting one for her.”

Well that’s it for September’s issue of Inside the Artist’s Studio. Remember to send us artists that you like and would like to see featured in Inside the Artist’s Studio to

Now it’s back to my studio to work…’cause art just doesn’t come out of the blue, you have to work for it, and work hard. Stay classy East Texas and until next month, MAKE ART!


15th Annual Life in Tyler Photography Contest Now Seeking Entries

Ad Eguide

The City of Tyler Parks and Recreation Department is seeking entries for the 2020 Life in Tyler photography contest. Entries will be accepted from March 2nd to 10th.

Photos will be exhibited at the Rose Garden Center during the 2020 Azalea Trails, March 21st through April 5th. Ribbons and prizes will be awarded for the Best of Show entry as well as first, second and third place for each of the 12 categories.

Registration forms are available online at, at the Parks and Recreation office at 2000 W. Front St. or at the Rose Garden Center, 420 Rose Park Dr.

For more information, please call Debbie Isham, special events/recreation manager, at (903) 531-1214 or email

About the Tyler Parks and Recreation

The Parks and Recreation Department provides oversight for the City’s open spaces, athletic complexes and recreationally oriented programs for the use of all residents and visitors. Staff members diligently maintain a proactive maintenance program for over 26 park areas including oversight of maintenance activities on 23 playgrounds, traffic islands and medians, landscaping at City buildings, cemeteries and the downtown square. They also provide for the propagation of seasonal and perennial plant materials utilized in the Parks beautification programs, as well as the maintenance of trees in the Parks system. The mission of the Tyler Parks and Recreation Department is to improve the quality of life for our residents and guests by providing superior parks, cemeteries, recreational and tourism opportunities. Our vision is to provide residents and visitors with attractive outdoor spaces that are well maintained while continuing to be fiscally responsible. Learn more at

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Bloom Where You are Planted, Buy Local


By Derrick White

Glasstire is an online art magazine covering topics in Texas contemporary art. They produce thoughtful art criticism and are the journal of record for our extensive Texas visual art community. The website’s name is a reference to the glass tire sculptures of East Texas native Robert Rauschenberg (1925 – 2008), who was from Port Arthur. Glasstire holds the belief that great art can come from anywhere. In the last few years the website has expanded into the realm of podcasts. In their podcast titled Art Dirt: The Personalities of Texas’ Art Cities, Publisher Brandon Zech and Editor-in-chief Christina Rees discuss what makes each of Texas’ distinct art regions tick and the potential for success for visual artists. 

Rees was the juror for the University of Texas at Tyler’s 34th Annual International Exhibition and witnessed some of the dynamic art aspects happening here. As you might imagine, the bulk of the podcast is devoted to the larger visual art market cities of Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston; but they also talk about the panhandle, West Texas, southern border cities, and East Texas gets a shout out towards the end.  

Christina states, “What happens if you go out to East Texas, with a place like Tyler, is you’ve got the universities, you’ve got schools, you’ve got faculty. They are there to stay. They make art and they are bringing up students through their programs and it’s sort of a ‘bloom where you are planted’ thing. Start your own art scenes. Have an art community, busy making work and making it for its own audience – you know, those aren’t necessarily places to move to if you don’t already live there but if you are there, there is a way to make something, however small, feel quite thriving and to have dialogue and to have a community, an actual working community.” 

Brandon Zech responds, “Or maybe they are places to move to depending on if you have this really cool idea as long as you can get local support and you can band together with people who also think your idea is awesome, especially if you are moving into a community you don’t know. But the real crux of this: it only takes one person to really change and make an impact on an art scene, be it in Tyler or in Brownsville, or really even in Houston.” 

Rees concludes, “Once you reach a certain age you will have friends who have moved to big art centers, New York or Los Angeles, and have burned out. They got up there and they had to work two full-time jobs and they stopped making their art because they were too busy making a living and paying rent. They want to come to Texas, or come back to Texas, or figure out a way to be able and have a studio and make work and live comfortably and be creative. I don’t think being completely stressed out by having to make a living all the time and not getting to make your work is necessarily ennobling. I don’t think it’s creatively inspiring, and I think this whole character building up exercise of moving to New York City and living in a (dump) and working sixty hours weeks and trying to get some traction is not necessarily the only way to go anymore. There are a lot of different art worlds and you can make your own art world. Things are changing rapidly.”

Things are changing rapidly. That statement struck a sympathetic chord with me and reiterated a belief I stated in a podcast interview with ETX Creatives founders Addie Moore and Lisa Horlander. “I like what is changing in East Texas and in our visual arts community and the arts community in general. It’s got legs and a driving force it hasn’t had before. East Texas, in general, is changing for the better and I think there are more opportunities coming for visual artists in our region than before. Sixteen years ago, if I had an aspiring visual art student in class, the best advice I could give them was … move. Go to Dallas, go to Austin, go to Houston, go to Abilene, all these different communities supporting their arts so much better than we used to. I really believe this is changing now better than it ever has been, and if we could introduce some of the money here in East Texas to some of our local creatives and get it all off the ground, then I think the sky’s the limit for what is coming in the future,” I declared. 

We are at critical mass for visual art. We have excellent regional museums, universities, and colleges with inspiring art programs filled with professional artists, and we have amazing emerging student artists who are sticking around and building supportive, innovative communities. We have support from new and established locally owned businesses and civic communes throughout East Texas giving opportunities to local visual artists. What we need is collector financial support, people willing to invest in budding talents here at home. Start buying original, local art.

There are many reasons original art brings fulfillment to those who collect. When purchasing art, you may think about décor and how it will fit into your home. Are you looking for an exciting piece, something comfortable and welcoming, or are you looking for something striking out as a room’s focal point? Whatever original art you choose, you will eventually find yourself enchanted by how it becomes a part of your home and a part of your life. By seeking out and supporting emerging artists, collectors may find the pieces they have bought increase in value as emerging artists become established. 

Owning original art enriches your life and has the potential to make you happy. You enjoy the satisfaction of having a good eye for what fits your personal aesthetic. You get the gratification of having helped and encouraged a local creative who may have depended on your purchase as sustenance they needed to keep going. You have added to the cultural enrichment of our region. You own one of a kind art not existing anywhere else in the world. 

Writer’s note: The Art Guys, a collaborative performance art duo based in Houston, sadly lost Michael Galbreth, who died in October 2019. Galbreth was married to Rainey Knudson, the founder of Glasstire. Condolences.


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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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