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83-year-old self-taught painter gets 1st solo show in Riverton

83-year-old self-taught painter gets 1st solo show in Riverton

(Woodine DeMille)


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Editor's note: KSL.com does a weekly feature on artists in the community. If you have a painter, sculptor, musician or creative genius in mind, feel free to email your submission to ddewey@ksl.com. Please include a contact email for the artist, if available.RIVERTON — For an artist, earning the opportunity to have a solo show is quite an achievement. When you’re 83-year-old, self-taught artist, Woodine DeMille, you never dreamed it would happen.

“I never imagined this, I never imagined I’d ever do anything like this,” she said.

Growing up, DeMille said she had some sour experiences with critical art teachers in high school and again in college.

“I took a screen-printing class in college and the teacher told me I’d never be a painter because I was too focused on details,” DeMille said.

Inspite of that, as an adult she was on a quest to brighten up her plain white walls with a red painting that matched the family’s red velvet chairs.

“My husband and I bought each other red velvet chairs and I wanted something to match,” she said.

Not satisfied with her painter uncle’s interpretations and style, she set out to create her own masterpiece.

It was while living in Schenectady, New York, that DeMille found her inspiration from the library’s art collection. One piece that particularly caught her eye was “Head of Vengeance,” by French artist Pierre-Paul Prud'hon. DeMille unsuccessfully tried to locate a print for herself. When she discovered she could borrow the artwork for a month, she took the painting home to create her own copy.

"I already had the oil paints, so all I had to do was go get a canvas the same size as the piece,” DeMille said. “ I wanted to make a copy so I copied the mouth, the colors, the face and hair ... but the eyes, I did the eyes about five or six times before I quit. I never got them quite right, so I call it the 'Head of Terror.'”

After some false starts and some successes while teaching herself to paint by copying from the masters, DeMille was on her way, “dabbling” as she called it. She also started “devouring books and art magazines.”

Inspired by color and Vincent Van Gogh, DeMille finds it hard to categorize her subjects. She paints a variety of subjects ranging from flowers to landscapes to mountains, and even elephants.

“I love color. I look for things with color,” she said.

These days, DeMille doesn’t let her age keep her from painting. She feels like she has been much more active in her creative process, often getting so focused that the time just flies by.

“I paint almost every day," she said. "I try to take one day off a week, maybe take my little dog to the mall. I can paint all day, not get hungry, not get thirsty, and then I see it’s already 5 p.m., sometimes later.”

Despite a rocky road getting into art, DeMille advises everyone to follow their dreams — artistic or otherwise.

“If you think you might want to do something ... try it,” she advised.

DeMille’s work will be on display from July 17 to Aug. 16 at the Old Dome Meeting Hall, 1452 12600 South in Riverton.

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