Story by Tommy Mumert
As an artist, Miranda Townsend knows she cannot improve on the beautiful world already created in nature. Instead, she prefers to work with that beauty in a personal way. ”Nature’s organic form inspires my compositions. I draw a lot of my color schemes from the environment,” she said. “The world around us is the ultimate artist,” Townsend added. “Assembling artwork to accent our own little worlds, our homes, is my goal. I want to bring some of that beauty from our environment into our homes in the form of art.”
Townsend also wants to help others bring that beauty into their own homes. A 2013 graduate of Arkansas Tech University’s art program, Townsend teaches several art classes at the River Valley Arts Center in Russellville. Included in those classes is a pallet painting class that takes wooden pallets, often discarded by many people, and not only gives them a new purpose, but provides an artistic touch to that new purpose.
The class, introduced by Townsend to the Arts Center, has proven popular and Townsend said the medium for the artists to work with, a wooden pallet, is part of the reason. “A pallet is such a raw material,” she said. “It’s not finished and it’s not polished at all. So because of the rawness of that pallet, it’s not as intimidating to students,” Townsend explained. Because of that, pallet painting “is a good way for beginners to get started with painting,” she said. For instance, the pallets used in the class “are not perfect. But we can use maybe a groove in the wood or a hole in the wood as part of the art. We can use the mistakes of the wood to enhance our art.”
Plus, she said, “others think of a pallet as trash but we make it into art.”
Pallet painting is certainly not the only form of art for Townsend, and she said acrylic painting is her favorite art form. She also enjoys watercolor painting as well as work with charcoal and colored pencils.
Townsend has had work exhibited in several galleries and has competed in several contests. “As I take part in each opportunity I become inspired by the public’s reactions and interest toward my creations.”
She discovered her own inspiration and love of art years ago at Pottsville Elementary School through the guidance of her art teacher, Lisa Jones. “Mrs. Jones really started the whole process for me,” she recalled. As she moved up through the grades, that guidance followed her. After Jones’ classes came those of Carrie Drake in junior high, before Townsend found herself in Jones’ classroom again in high school.
“I was really lucky to have two teachers who challenged me,” Townsend said.
She added to her solid foundation of art education at Tech where, she said, “I really expanded my self expression.” Her advisor was David Mudrinich, professor of art, and in his classes “you learned the way to accurately recreate what you were seeing in front of you.” Ty Brunson, associate professor of art, provided the instruction she needed in 3-D forms through sculpture and pottery. “That helped me with my shading in other art forms,” she said. And through the printmaking classes taught by Neal Harrington, associate professor of art, “I really got to learn the physical demands of some art forms.”
While in college she won several art contests and also got a taste of teaching, during an art education class taught by the department head in art, Dr. Dawn Ward. In that class the Tech students worked with students at Sequoyah Elementary School. When the opportunity arose to teach classes at the Arts Center, Townsend said she jumped at the chance.
In addition to the pallet painting class, Townsend is teaching a Holiday and Christmas Celebration Scrapbooking class. In early 2016 she will be teaching classes in acrylic painting and figure drawing.
In all her classes Townsend wants to challenge her students’ creativity, just as her creativity was challenged in her own early art classes. Townsend said she teaches the elements and principles of art, while providing instruction on how to incorporate those into the students’ art. “Don’t think about what you’ve got to create,” Townsend suggested. “We want to learn to avoid the barriers that are blocking our creativity.” When that is accomplished, then students can begin enhancing their own worlds, she said.
“God has already created his artistic arrangement in the world,” Townsend said. “We are just trying to create our own little arrangement within that world.”
Additional info. about Townsend’s classes or any of the other classes, events and exhibits offered through the Arts Center is available by calling 968-2452 or visiting the center’s website at http://www.rivervalleyartscenter.org.