It all started with a little people watching on the pier.
Alice Bennett’s watercolor painting “Fish Tales,” which won the Roxie Remley Award in the recent Statesboro Regional Art Association Juried Exhibition, was inspired by a photo that Bennett took while on the coast of Georgia. She said she noticed a group of people on the pier talking, and she snapped a photo. Later on, as she looked over the photo again, she realized there was a story there and she just had to paint it.
“I realized the sun was right, the light was right, it had a bit of a story going, and I like the challenge of painting new things,” she said, adding that painting people was fairly new to her at the time.
Born in Kentucky and raised in South Georgia, Bennett and her husband moved to Statesboro after they both had retired. Bennett’s background is in teaching, and she was able to incorporate her degree in commercial art into her classroom and in everything she did there.
“From the bulletin board to everything we did in the classroom, I was able to use my creativity to enhance my teaching for the children, and I really enjoyed that,” she said.
The Bennetts were drawn to the area because of the art scene.
“One of the first things I did when I moved to Statesboro was to join the art association and to get a membership at the Averitt Center. One of the reasons I moved here was the cultural events that are here and all the art that is here. We wanted to just jump in,” she said. “It was a good way to get my feet wet in a new town.”
Bennett served as treasurer of the SRAA, and is now the acting president. She says becoming a member was a great way to get to know the community and make new friends.
During the gap between when she retired and when her husband retired, Bennett went to Armstrong College and took all the ceramics courses they offered. She works with clay and paints with watercolors.
“I’ve always enjoyed art, even if it’s just sewing. I feel like it’s a creative outlet. I just feel like I need that in my life somehow,” she said.
Bennett got into painting when she was in college, having taken courses in watercolor and oil painting. But it was watercolor that captured her imagination.
“It’s kind of magical. The water makes the paint flow, and you are not always in control, but you know what effect you want, but sometimes you get something else, and you’re still delighted with it. It has a spontaneity that some of the other mediums don’t have,” she said.
She adds that the same is true of clay.
“There are so many steps to get to the finished glazed product, where things can change and what you expected you were doing did not come out the way you wanted,” she said. “But sometimes it comes out exactly like you wanted, and that’s like Christmas morning when you open the kiln on those days.”
As for winning the Roxie Remley Award, Bennett says she was very surprised, and that she was just there to support all the SRAA members, their artists and their work.
“I had kind of picked out the one I thought would win, so I’m sitting in the audience waiting on that name to be called, and instead mine was called. That was a real surprise and a real honor, because we have so many talented artists in the group,” she said.
Bennett typically paints a lot of florals and animals, but it just depends on what she’s interested in at the time. In the fall, she paints leaves; in the spring, she paints flowers.
“Whatever draws me at the time,” she said.
As for what inspires her, Bennett says without hesitation that it’s light.
“The way the light hits things, the reflections, the shadows. To me, shadows are so important in making the painting look real, but there are always challenges with both of those,” she said.
Colors also inspire her. She tells the story of a recent trip to the grocery store where she was stopped in her tracks as she was struck by the array of colors in the produce section.
Bennett says that painting “Fish Tales” wasn’t her first foray into painting people, but “it was one time that things came out really well.” She added the pelican to the painting, and notes that she painted sunglasses on everyone but the pelican.
“No one’s eyes are visible but the pelican’s, so you wonder what he might do. It tells a story. You wonder what’s going to happen next, because this story isn’t over in this painting. It’s just kind of set the stage,” she said.
Currently, Bennett said she’s working on some scenes with pumpkins for the fall, as well as some leaves on a sidewalk. She often paints from the photographs she takes, and follows the weather and the season. She says she prefers to paint in her studio at home, where the light is just right.
Bennett’s work can be seen on the SRAA website, and she will be entering other shows as well, such as an upcoming show with the Georgia Watercolors Society. She also has pieces hanging in the Rosengart Gallery at the Averitt Center. Many pieces by SRAA members are on display at the gallery, and can be viewed Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In addition to painting, Bennett hand builds clay platters and trays, and she uses underglazes to paint on them in a watercolor style.
For more information on SRAA or to view Bennett’s work, go online at www.statesbororegionalart.com. You can also find the SRAA on Facebook.