Tami Curtis - A Bold Vision
A Louisiana artist beloved for her dynamic paintings opens a new Bay St Louis gallery and launches a new children's book.
- story by Denise Jacobs
“If I see something in a dumpster that I need,” she says, “I will get in the dumpster and dig it out. I have no shame.”
Originally from Louisiana and greatly influenced by the musical culture of New Orleans, Curtis has a collection of work that includes the original artwork for three French Quarter Fest posters featuring Pete Fountain, Kermit Ruffins, and Little Freddie King.
Also, she was commissioned to create the 20th annual Blues Masters at the Crossroads poster, the Satchmo Summer Fest poster, and two Legendary Blues Cruise official posters.
For as long as she can remember, Curtis has been creating.“My love of art has been lifelong,” she notes. “I remember drawing a duck when I was two years old—a tiny, little picture of a duck. I still remember the smell of graphite and the way the pencil felt in my hand.”
Curtis earned her first degree in art education and her second in art design. Her father has been her lifelong mentor. “He was an outdoorsman, and as we walked the woods, my father would draw my attention to the outdoor world. He would point to a crow and ask me what color it was. I’d say black, and he would say, ‘Look again when the sun highlights the feathers.’”
With a built-in appreciation of both nature and animals, she enjoys painting animals as much, if not more, than people (making her the perfect sponsor for the Shoofly Magazine's Shelter Stars column).
“Animal faces captivate me,” she says. “Some people say that if you’ve painted one golden retriever, you’ve painted them all, but that’s just not true. If you study animals, you will find that they are all different. The distinction might be as small a thing as a bump on the nose, but it is not insignificant.”
Painting pet portraits is rewarding for the peace they bring to clients whose pets are no longer alive. When Curtis paints the portraits of animals still living, she visits the animals and takes photographs to guide her painting. Then, for the cherry on top, clients are encouraged to bring their pets in for the final stage of the pet portrait, the addition of the pet’s paw prints.
The artist has made her own imprint on New Orleans, where she taught art in the greater New Orleans area and implemented an art-based curriculum, Artworks, through the New Orleans Museum of Art. In 2004, Curtis went into art full time, opening a gallery on Magazine Street in 2014, which she operated for four years before falling prey to the charms of Bay St. Louis.
“The move to Bay St. Louis, finding a home at Century Hall, and finding a house for my husband and me took three months,” Curtis says, noting that everything “fell into place for us.”
“Bay St. Louis is the perfect fit,” she notes. “It’s art friendly, and I’ve always loved it.” Also, the Bay is a perfect middle ground for traveling to Gulf Shores, Alabama, where her husband, children’s writer Perry Guy, runs a kayak rental business, and to New Orleans, where Curtis teaches art lessons to private clients as well as to women housed at the New Orleans Family Justice Center (via her church’s prison ministry).
It’s a lot to balance, but Curtis says that whatever she’s doing, art is on her mind.
“If I’m running errands,” she says, “or doing something mundane, I’m thinking through my layout, my color palette, the potential size of a project.”
Curtis’ latest project, The Mardi Gras Boat Parade, is a collaboration between herself and Perry Guy, illustrator and writer, respectively. The children’s story reflects Curtis’ childhood love of Beatrix Potter. Guy has written a song by the same name as the book, as well. To order The Mardi Gras Boat Parade online, visit Tami Curtis's website.
As Curtis looks to her future in the Bay-Waveland area, she would like to begin offering private art lessons here. “When you create something yourself, something with personal meaning,” she says, “you can come home at the end of a hard day, glance at it, and find peace.”
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