4 Local Artists Share Their Inspiration

Even the most artistic souls need fresh inspiration from time to time. Four local artists share their go-to sources to kick-start creative thinking.

Local artist Maggie Stickney posing with cup of coffee in front of her artwork
Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

Maggie Stickney

Describing herself as someone who “finds beauty in the ordinary,” Maggie Stickney’s life and art are anything but mundane. A mother of three daughters, Stickney finds time to paint in the rare moments of quiet when everyone is otherwise occupied or out of the house. She grew up on Long Island and then earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in printmaking from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Ultimately, she moved to Fairhope, where her husband grew up, and has been raising her family along the Bay ever since.  

For years, Stickney used her artistic vision to create fabric designs for baby carriers but recently returned to her love of painting. Whether exploring the “edge of two worlds, where land and water meet” through her coastal landscapes or revealing the beauty in simple items such as a houseplant or butterfly, her colorful works remind us to take the time from our busy lives to appreciate the magic all around us. Her work can be found at Sophiella Gallery
in Mobile, Purple House in Gainesville, Georgia, and Jenner McGinn studio in Atlanta. 

Local Artist Maggie Stickney's inspiration mood board

10 Things That Inspire Me

1. Artists
Other artists are always a great source of inspiration for me. There are so many I love. Alice Neel, Fairfield Porter, John Singer Sargent, Henri Matisse and Richard Diebenkor are just a few.

2.  Color 
Color is a constant inspiration. In nature, textiles, books, food, architecture – really everywhere. If I see a color or combo I like, I try to file it away. I get really excited about relationships with color. Color is magic. I love color! I enjoy trying to match and mix colors to my color-aid paper chip.

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3.  Nature
The natural world is a huge inspiration. I’m constantly snapping pics while walking my dog or when we drive the backroads to the beach. I can find something I want to draw or paint anywhere. I like to play games like: where is the painting?  

4. Composition
Playing with composition is a huge thing, too. What makes a painting work has a lot to do with the composition. So I like to tinker with this and see if I can take something really boring and make it interesting with just composition and color.

5. Lines  
I enjoy lines and form. Sometimes I just see something with really cool lines and I want to draw it. Recently we were at the beach with some friends down at Fort Morgan, which has all these brightly painted houses on stilts. The bright colors were fun, but the stilts were the initial pull for me to paint that setting.

6. Edges 
The edges of where things meet is something I’m always drawn to. I love where water and land meet. I also love the juxtaposition of the natural world and man-made — like houses on the dunes or the masts of boats in the sky. 

7. Plants
Houseplants are a kind of mundane beauty. I appreciate the lines and forms and incorporate them into interior spaces.

8. Sky
The color combinations in the sky are literally endless. I relish the challenge of sorting out what the colors truly actually are, and recreating them in my work. Often with clouds there is very little white — even when they appear white. Clouds are a hard thing to paint. It’s hard to make them feel authentic, but I like the challenge. 

9.  Light
Light and shadows are really fun for me. I love creating simple still lifes in my house, arranging fruit with interesting shadows and painting them. 

10. Drawing
Anything with a shape I like, I want to draw it. That can be a chair, scissors, a bunch of bananas, a houseplant, a stack of books, a crumpled napkin or a bag of lemons from the grocery store. I’m always reminded that anything can be a
good painting if it’s painted well.

Local Artist June Reddix-Stennis posing infront of her artwork
Photo By Chad Riley

June Reddix-Stennis

At an early age, June Reddix-Stennis discovered her passion for art and social justice. She was raised on a farm in Vancleave, Mississippi, where she joined the Jr. NAACP and won the state art competition at the young age of 6. With no formal art education available, she became “the class doodler and hobby photographer,” while remaining an activist throughout her younger years.

Reddix-Stennis enrolled at Tidewater Community College to study commercial art, and then mass communications and advertising at Norfolk State University. Eventually,  after “bouncing around a bit,” she landed in Mobile where she had a 20-year career as an award-winning graphic designer.  

Then, after a life-changing injury, June realized that she could merge her passions to advocate for social change. Now, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Goddard College, June works from her studio in Central Arts Collective in Mobile. Her upcoming “SOIL” focuses on lynchings in Mobile and their modern-day legacy.” She describes herself as one who “creates for ‘them,’ the ones who are unheard, unseen, unnoticed.”

Local Artist June Reddix-Stennis' inspiration mood board

10 Things That Inspire Me

1. Dirt, mud, and clay

I grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast on a farm that had been in my family since my great-grandparents gained their freedom from slavery. That farm is still in my family today, and my dad still farms that land. I would dig up red clay and make little sculptures out of it and lay them out in the sun to dry. 

2. Strong Coffee
A lot of African-American children didn’t try coffee until adulthood because their parents would tell them “coffee makes you black” as a means to discourage them since coffee was expensive. But I’ve been drinking coffee since my earliest memory. My dad drank coffee all day. Now, I don’t know how to start my day without it.

3. Jack Daniels
It warms you up on those damp, freezing winter days and gets rid of colds. I heard it makes your hair grow and makes frown lines go away!

4. Southern Beaches and Coastlines
The spaces where the transatlantic slave trade dropped off their cargo makes me feel connected to my ancestors and gives me strength. I want to put my feet in the waters they traveled. I want them to know that what they endured was not in vain. 

5. Afrofuturism
I discovered Afrofuturism about twenty years ago at a George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic concert in Norfolk, Virginia. He mentioned Afrofuturism while performing in a white cloth diaper and gold combat boots. All I knew was he was stupid cool and I was feeling it. I ended up taking a course on Futurism at Goddard College  (Vermont) and it really had a big impact on my artwork. One of my sculptures ended up in an art exhibition about Afrofuturism at Carnegie Hall in the spring of 2022. 

6. Mary Lovelace O’Neal
The Mississippi native is an influential international painter and social activist, and also happens to be my first cousin! 

7. Poetry
I received a copy of the book “Black Out Loud: An Anthology of Modern Poems by Black Americans” by Arnold Adoff when I was about eight years old from my Aunt Lil who lived in Chicago. I still read from it. I also had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Maya Angelou while in college in Virginia, and my daughter is named after her. I am also a fan of Mobile poet Alex Lofton, aka “HuggyBear Da Poet,” he’s a state treasure. 

8. Memories of Granny
My great-grandmother was a midwife, delivering most of the African-American babies in our town until about 1965. She went totally blind from glaucoma shortly after. I would walk to her house to visit when I was a child, come in and not announce who I was. She would tell me to come to her so she could feel my face and instantly know it was me. I think about her when I paint and sculpt, and I wonder what did she see.

9. High Thread Count Sheets
I promise you, there’s nothing like them!

10. Gordon Parks 
I discovered his photography soon after my mom bought me a 35mm camera in high school.

Matthew Patterson

Local artist Matthew Patterson posing in front of a blank wall
Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

Whether traveling to far-flung destinations, going for a drive or enjoying the pleasure of a long walk, Matthew Patterson finds beauty in life’s journeys and the natural world. Beauty defines Patterson’s award-winning art as well, “beauty is not just the object of our attention, but the quality of how we think and feel,” he explains.

Patterson was raised in Ballinger, Texas, where he met his wife Amy. Art ran in the family, and Patterson was influenced by his mother, a landscape painter, and his brother-in-law, who introduced him to glass blowing. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Fine Arts at the University of Texas Arlington before relocating to Mobile and becoming a professor at the University of South Alabama, educating his students in the art of glass blowing.

Patterson’s works have been displayed in galleries, museums, and private collections across the United States. A busy, proud father of two children, Patterson still takes the time to appreciate the beauty of Mobile’s “frequent rain, lush landscapes, delicious food and people.” 

Local Artist Matthew Patterson's inspiration mood board

10 Things That Inspire Me

1. Long walks
I’m refreshed by green space, and Mobile has some jewels. I’m a frequent visitor to Langan Park, Treasure Forest and the Botanical Gardens. 

2. Travel
I love being out and about in the world. An exotic locale, a cross- state excursion or simply driving the back roads of Mobile and Baldwin counties is cup-filling.

3. Good Craftsmanship and Design

A well-made cup, an Eames chair, a Frank Gehry building, even a good grilled cheese sandwich
can be inspiring. 

4. Wedgeworth Creek, Sabinal Canyon near Vanderpool, TX 

When I think of the clear waters and the sound of the creek flowing through the limestone canyons, I feel at home and at peace.

5. My wife
and best friend, Amy Patterson.We’ve known each other since we were children growing up in small-town west Texas. Our relationship and our adventures together, keep me centered and motivated.

6. Nostalgia
I frequently revisit the places I’ve been, the people I’ve known, the experiences that have formed who I am. I look back so I can better understand and shape what lies ahead.

7. My Studio Practice
The process of gathering molten glass on a blow pipe and forming a bubble gives me unfettered joy. At that moment anything is possible.

8. My Mentors
Artists like William Gudenrath taught me craft, while others, like Therman Statom, taught me how to conceptualize my work. I frequently reflect on their lessons. 

9. My kids
To be a child is to see the world for the first time. They are so attuned to being imaginative, open, and free. They are practitioners of play and unconditional love.

10. The University Community
Being able to work with such a talented and diverse range of colleagues at The University of South Alabama has fostered and facilitated my professional development these past eleven years. Being a teacher, helping students grow and mature as artists, and knowing that I played some small role in their success inspires and informs my own work.

Kent Walsh

Local Artist Kent Walsh posing with her artwork

Kent Walsh is a painter, but she is not the type who sits quietly at an easel. Walsh’s process is a physical act, often leaving her breathless as she scrapes the canvas to create her distinctive works. “I refuse to plagiarize myself,” Walsh proclaims.

Walsh has been painting since her grandmother gifted her a set of oils when she was 5 years old. She graduated with a degree in studio art from the University of Alabama where abstract art was not a part of the curriculum. Despite this, she gained knowledge of color and expression that enabled her to develop her style, creating the abstract pieces that define her work today. 

Nearly 30 years ago, she donated 25 of her paintings to sell for an event, and all of them sold. The enthusiasm for her work made it clear that she had chosen the right profession.  

Now, she continues to paint and teach classes out of her studio in Point Clear, where she has lived for the past 20 years. She is an engaging mentor and teacher, who encourages her students to use their emotions to fuel their work. She takes pride in the relationships that her students form with each other on top of the instruction they receive.

Walsh’s works are displayed at the Sophiella Gallery in Mobile.

10 Things That Inspire Me

1. Willem de Kooning
His color and brush strokes are bold and intentional. I especially admire “Rosy Fingered Dawn 1963”

2. The Beatles Song “In My Life”
Lennon and McCarthy make me remember meaningful times in my life.

3. My Surroundings
I respond to the nature around me. I’m moved by high and low tides, sunsets, and squalls on the bay.

4. New Orleans
The color combinations on the houses in the French Quarter thrill me.

5. Port of Mobile
The ships’ simple lines and monochromatic palette remind me of abstract painting.

6. Mobile Delta
The moss on the trees, the cypress knees, the reflections on the water, all contribute to my landscape paintings.

7. The book “Ninth Street Women”
The story of five women who started a movement that changed modern art: Lee Krassner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler.

8. Elegant Parties
Flowers, candles, crystal and china can be seen in the background of my abstracts.

9. Bridges
I can stare at bridges forever. The way light expands and alters the architectural elements invigorates my imagination.

10. Mother
Everything my mother touched had style. She lived her life with elan. Her sense of proportion
had an effect on me.

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