Brenda Morgan: From Hobbiest to Fine Artist

Story by Rita Chisum

The non-descript mobile unit sits only steps from the family home. The plain exterior of this abode turned “studio” gives no indication of what waits inside. After a knock on the door, I am greeted by a warm, friendly smile, and with that, Brenda Morgan introduces herself and invites me into “her world”.

Stepping through the doorway, I am transported. My visual senses and emotions come alive as I encounter the beautiful displays that showcase Brenda’s talent. Nature, wildlife, and equine art, rendered in oil, adorn the walls of this light and airy get- away equipped with the tools of her hobby, now turned full-time work.

As if visiting with an old friend, Brenda recalls her life and the journey to “Brenda Morgan, Artist.”

Paper seemed to be in short supply around Brenda’s childhood home in Oklahoma City, Okla. According to her mother, blank pages didn’t stay that way for long once she got a hold of them. Clean paper was fair game for her pencil sketches which, over the years, developed into very detailed drawings.

As witnessed by the dominant subject matter of the beautiful oil paintings that surrounded us, it came as no great surprise to me that her very first drawing at the young age of seven or eight years was a horse. Her early classroom art experiences consisted of coloring pages, of which birds were her favorite (but only because horses weren’t part of the selection).

It was in her senior year of high school that an art teacher sang her praises, encouraged her to pursue her impressive talent, and was the first person to call her an “artist.”

Although Brenda grew up in Oklahoma she fondly remembers their many visits with family here in Arkansas. Being a “city” girl, she loved the wide open spaces and the abundance of nature she experienced during her stays. Interestingly, Brenda attributes her comfort with working from photos to the fact that living in the city afforded her little opportunity to paint from real life models.

Her love of Arkansas, coupled with a very close friendship with an Arkansas cousin, influenced her decision to move to The Natural State straight out of high school. They became roommates and chose to bypass college (which she calls her only regret in life) to move straight into the world of work at Valmac Industries, now owned by Tyson.

A predictable life pattern followed with marriage and a child. A precious baby boy named Matthew gave new dimension to her life as well as a bit of challenge when he was born with Down syndrome. Now 29 years of age and still the joy of her life, Matthew attends Star Industries Adult Development and Work Activity sponsored by Friendship Community Care, Inc.

A more generous pay check necessitated a move back to her home town of Oklahoma City where Brenda worked as a draftsman for an oil company, putting her natural talent to work, mapping oil and gas fields. After a 12-year career, the Oklahoma City office was closed and Brenda was transferred to the home office in Houston.

Always having a desire to return to Arkansas, she saw an opportunity after the Oklahoma office closed. She continued to work in Houston as her application for poultry inspector with the USDA was submitted and under consideration. Nine months later, she joyfully accepted the position and returned to her adopted home state glad to, once again, be close to her cousin and best friend, Lavonda Ramey.

After seven years of employment with the USDA, Brenda and her second husband, Sam, decided to “jump from the frying pan into the fire” (she says with a chuckle) and bought a chicken farm in Havana.

Five years of ownership was long enough that when an offer to buy their farm came along, they opted to sell. Sam was in favor of going back to being a man with just one job instead of two. He maintains his work to this day with ConAgra and they made the move from Havana back to the Dardanelle area. For a short time, Brenda worked with Yell County Special Services in Ola where Matthew was a client.

Throughout the many transitions and challenges in Brenda’s life, she always maintained her love of art. On the job she often carried her sketch pad along, indulging her passion during even short break times. Although she held a passion for her talent, she explained, “Art had to be a hobby because I had to make a living.” And then it happened.

With years of ongoing encouragement from her husband and her cousin, best friend, Head Cheerleader, and biggest fan, Lavonda, Brenda finally took the leap from calling her passion a hobby to embracing the title of “artist.”

She’s getting used to the designation, given to her long before she was comfortable with accepting it. Now a year into her profession as an artist, Brenda is reaping the accolades of her God-given talent.

With art displayed at Art, etc. in Russellville, First and second place awards garnered in Hot Springs at the annual Diamond National Exhibit, an invitation to Ponca, Arkansas’ Color Fest Art Exhibit (invitation only), and a pending exhibit in March as Feature Artist at the Fine Arts Center in Hot Springs, it couldn’t get more “official.”

A small, portable, drawing table stands along-side the larger one in her studio. This is the constant companion that has traveled with her through the years, from home to home, providing a reliable surface to practice, what she once called “her hobby.”

Brenda recalled happy memories — she at her table with Matthew at her feet hand powering his toy cars. They played together, but each with their own favorite things.

But one of her most treasured memories? As she prepared for an outdoor Arts & Crafts Fair in Oklahoma City, her mother appeared with a three-year-old Matthew in-tow. They sat watching and as she finished setting up her exhibit, she heard the sound of tiny clapping.

Turning to identify its source, she was greeted by her son’s beaming smile and animated approval. With this memorable critique forever dear to her heart, Matthew is one critic that will be hard to displace.

 

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