Powell’s ‘Journey’ makes stop at TASI

Artist to explore texture in November solo show

Alice Powell paints in her Beaumont studio.

Alice Powell paints in her Beaumont studio.

Alice Powell dips her brush in paint and washes it over the paper. The watery liquid pools and puddles, forming surface texture. Sometimes she places paper on top of the wetness and pulls it away, exposing the texture.

Powell scrutinizes the revealed image for something she recognizes.

“Sometimes I’ll see people,” she said. “I try not to do facial things. It’s more like they’re busy or their traveling.”

Each “traveler” revealed becomes another step on the journey, and the images revealed along that path will be on display at The Art Studio in November. “Powell’s exhibition, “Journey,” opens with a reception from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., Nov. 7 and runs through Nov. 28.

The Tulsa, Okla. native, who lived in Southeast Texas for 40 years, says that the exhibit didn’t start out to be a narrative.

“It just kind of happened,” she says. “I started painting and every painting I did, it was like a story and it progressed, and it came really quick — it was pouring out of me. I painted and it was like a progression.”

She has been working on the show for a year, with most of the pieces being brand new.

“No one has seen it,” she says. “I didn’t even want to post on Facebook.”

As far as the eponymous journey, Powell says it has a simple theme.

“I hate to say the circle of life, I hate to say that but it’s, like, you have turmoil and trouble, then things change and you have birth and death and progressing through life. At the very end of the story — well, it doesn’t actually end, you just start over.”

Her initial intention was “just to paint.”

The Thaw by Alice Powell.

The Thaw by Alice Powell.

“I just let it come,” she says. “I was trying new techniques, because I have always liked texture. I was trying some Casein paint. It’s got a very thick texture and it was making texture on my paper and I just loved the way it looked.

“It’s abstract, but I always see kind of something real, like people or tress or landscape — I see something real in each piece. I don’t paint from pictures or photographs, it all comes — I guess, from my heart.”

When Powell was a young child, she says was always drawing.

“My mother used to get mad at me because I was always sitting on the floor with a pencil, drawing and coloring,” she says. “It calls me. If I’m not finished with something, it pulls me back. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to quit. It just keeps coming.”

Powell has three sons and seven grandchildren, she says, before pausing to get an accurate count before settling on six grandchildren.

“Oops, I added one,” she says with a laugh.

Her sons are not artists — “It didn’t take with them,” she says — but two of her grandchildren are showing an interest.

Powell says she thinks her sons like her work and they have several in their houses.

“My oldest one hasn’t ever shown too much interest for it — I think I made him model too much when he was a child,” she says, followed by a laugh. “My middle son will call me and say, ‘Mom, I need a picture, come paint it for me.’ And he shows me some picture or idea he wants, he buys the paint and I paint it for him. The youngest one is very artistic — he just never pursued it. He’s always giving me projects, too.”

Powell says she has had a series of jobs, but never pursued a career as an artist.

“I should’ve — should’ve, could’ve,’ one of things,” she says. “I got married real young and had children, and pretty much waited until they were older to pursue and really start learning color and technique.”

Powell has had several businesses, including a guitar shop and a screen-printing shop.

“Ah, I’ve done everything,” she says, laughing. “I was a carpenter’s helper — I’ve always been strong so I’ve done a lot of physical work.”

Powell says she doesn’t regret waiting to really forge a path as a painter.

“I think I’ve studied and I probably know more than most people who’ve gone to school for it about certain things that I was interested in,” she says. “I’ve done a lot of studying on my own, a lot of trial and error, a lot of mentors — I think it was OK.

“And I teach (art). I got a little bit of that — enough to know I didn’t want to do it.”

With a full-time job as assistant manager at Goodwill, by the time she has cooked and done laundry, Powell says she doesn’t paint as much as she used to because she doesn’t have time.

“I do it anyway — I get up early or just stay up late and paint,” she says, adding that she prefers to work on a single piece at a time, rather than work on several at once.

“It’s usually pretty fast,” she says. “It comes one at a time, and a lot of small pieces because I’ve never had a large studio.”

As well as an apartment full of paintings, Powell also has a lot of drawings.

“I draw a lot,” she says. “I have several sketchbooks. I really believe in figure drawing and sketching, and keeping your line and sight.”

Powell says she has always been a painter.

“I had no formal education, but I had a lot of mentors along the way to help me and encourage me,” she says.

She cites Frank Gerriets particularly as a mentor. She worked at the Beaumont Art League for a long time and Gerriets was a driving force behind the league.

“Frank Gerrietts was awesome at line and color design,” she says. “And he could relay it to you, what you were doing wrong — and he wasn’t afraid to tell you, either, his old cranky self. He took me under his wing; I think he’s done that with a lot of people.”


Alice Powell surrounded by her work in the studio in her Beaumont apartment.

Powell, who has previously had solo shows at the Beaumont Art League and in Jasper, says that having an exhibition is analogous with singing.

“When you get up before a large audience, and you sing and pour your soul out — which I would never do, by the way — my artwork is from my heart,” she says.

“For a long time I couldn’t show anyone. It stayed under my bed for years and kept piling up. Then I guess you get a littler braver and more knowledge, you’re more secure with what you do. I think it’s from my heart, and I hope people can see that and read something into it and appreciate it.

“I’m singing loud.”

The Art Studio, Inc. is located at 720 Franklin in downtown Beaumont.

For more information, visit www.artstudio.org.

By Andy Coughlan

ISSUE editor