The project “Painting Missouri” involves artist, Billyo O’Donnell, and writer, Karen Glines, who have journeyed for the past seven years creatively painting and writing about their home state – Missouri.
The “journey” has not been an easy one for it involved Billyo traveling across the state for years during all seasons capturing the right time and place to paint on location or “en plein air” each of the state’s 114 counties and the city of St. Louis and Karen spending many hours, weeks, and months researching, writing, interviewing and visiting regions across Missouri.
Missouri is one of the top states in the country with the largest number of counties and what better way to portray their beauty than to visit them and capture their presence on canvases and in words.
In Linn County, Billyo chose the “Dreaming Tree” in the town of Marceline, which is the location where Walt Disney modeled Disneyland’s “Main Street USA,” in Ralls County, his subject was the historical courthouse the community “saved,” and in Scott County in southeastern Missouri, a premier watermelon stand inspired him, where people from across the United States travel just to choose the right one that tastes like no others around. The stories go on and on stemming from Billyo talking to people in towns as he painted, and Karen interviewing contacts and researching unique features that often go unnoticed.
It was important for Billyo to “catch just the right moment” when he painted and he often camped hoping to paint an exceptional sunset or the next morning’s perfect sunrise. His experience outside included being in the midst of a snowy, icy night, or a humid, sweltering day – or anything in between – so that each inspiring season was significantly represented within the state.
Karen found herself working in her office with piles of books surrounding her or spending time at the library, wanting to give all the counties the respect and recognition they deserve. Each county is distinctive and clearly has its own personality with remarkable historical and geological features. She also visited with local residents hearing their stories that can rarely be found in a library book. It is the people within these counties who make each one unique and special – and consequently, Missouri the magnificent state it is. Read about the book, “Painting Missouri,” next.