By Tim Woerner / Staff Writer
Before they’re finished, they speak to her, telling her what’s missing.
Once they’re done, she hopes they’ll speak to others.
A collection of paintings and miniatures by local artist Kay Gray are on display at the Corbin Public Library this month, the fruit of a lifelong hobby bolstered by imagery seen around the city.
“I paint whatever drives me craziest at the time,” Gray said. “I get into birds, I keep returning to flowers, I like playing with the different colors - the abstracts I know I’m going for blocks of color but after that it’s unplanned.
“I guess I hear the voices, but don’t tell the guys with the white coats,” she joked.
Of course, that the exhibit ended up at Corbin Library is rather fitting. Gray tried twice before to study art in a classroom setting and both times found teachers unwilling to work with a beginner who wanted to skip straight to oil paintings. Thus, lessons and ideas came purely from practice, imagination, personal observation, and of course, library books.
“It’s something that I have to do,” Gray said, “I don’t remember how I started.”
She can, however, remember getting in trouble as a little kid for painting on the side of her dad’s car.
“I learned to paint on the side away from the window,” she joked.
In other words, it’s always been about having fun and expressing creativity.
“People tell me I’d probably be more productive if I had a theme,” Gray said. “I have porch years and bird years, I guess. If I can’t keep it as playing instead of work, it won’t work. People put it down to artistic temperament and flair - the word I would use is lazy - I know if I force myself I’m gonna have to scrap it.”
That’s not to say that no work goes into her art. For one painting, she researched thousands of quilt patterns to ensure that a quilt in the background of a table setting would be accurate. For another, she checked out a birdwatching book to be able to draw a male and female cardinal.
But her efforts are pure joy, with no trepidation that others might not like them. (She said her harshest critic is her 3-year-old grandson, anyway.)
“I keep finding employees that have wandered in here and they’re still looking,” said library director Brenda Huff, who has backed the opportunity to convert a former storage room into promotional space for local creativity. “This room used to be a reference room, but when we turned it into a community room we had a room with bare walls. Friends of the Library allowed us to have the funds to put up picture molding and we’re quite thrilled.”
It’s worked out well for Gray, too.
“I’ve seen so many women get bitter - everybody has their sob story,” she said. “You need an outlet. The world is full of positive - find your slant on it.”
Tim Woerner can be reached at twoerner@thetimes tribune.com.