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Sharing his vision: Wise County artist’s work over 40 years to be featured

By Austin Jackson | Published Wednesday, July 18, 2018
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Covering the Years

COVERING THE YEARS – Decatur artist Byron Watson career capturing Wise County will be featured July 21-28, at the Decatur Visitor’s Center. Watson’s paintings, including the ones pictured will be displayed. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Decatur artist Byron Watson was on Deer Park Road, going home like he had thousands of times before when he noticed something different in that old familiar field by Rann Elementary School.

Watson saw a beautiful story – one he knew he could capture. He hit the brakes, and was in the brush, traipsing toward his vision as an unbridled youth.

For as long as Watson can remember, the prairie was peppered with an ornery field of North Carolina bluestem grass plants. In years past, landowners tried to eradicate the indomitable bluestem from their property.

Time after time, it bounced back, surviving droughts and ice storms. Through time it would just recede further away from the road. Finding a way.

“They would spray it. Tear it up. Mow it down. Push it back. They thought they had it,” he said. “It just kept coming back. It endured.”

That day, Watson translated the little patch of coastal grass plants he saw in the pasture on the canvas. It’s how he saw it that day. It’s what spoke to him.

Now the pasture that became art is but a distant memory, replaced by layers of bulldozed topsoil adorned with recently churned piles of dirt and gravel.

But the indomitable bluestem dodged mortality, again.

This week, Watson’s untitled expression of the bluestems in the prairie will be showcased among his extensive mosaic of work, as the Wise County Art foundation honors his prolific career capturing the area.

Watson’s work spans 40 years, focused on a similar subject – Wise County.

The showing highlight Watson’s insight and perspective through time in the county. Like an alternative history, reflected through the eyes of a man looking for art in the world around him. His work will include his take on ranch life in the modern age, big fields with bigger skies, pick-up truck cattle drives and non-native coastal grass.

Watson said he’s forgot some of the work he’s done. The journey of collecting and reliving those days has been reward enough.

The untitled painting, along with over 40 years of area-inspired art will be showcased July 21-28 at the Decatur Visitors Center. A reception will be held this Saturday at the visitors center from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Presenting decades of work and the art he found in the town he grew up in has brought him back to those days as well.

“They asked me last year, and I didn’t want to do it. It’s deeply personal, and I had gotten away from painting,” he said. “But revisiting it all it’s been a great. I’m having a blast tracking down stuff and getting to visit my youth. That’s what I’m going to show. It’s comprehensive. 40 years worth of painting and drawings, sculptures. I have stuff from when I was 17 years old.”

Watson studied art at the University of North Texas. The program had him working at his peak, drawing and painting upwards of 10 hours per day while also taking classes for his degree. Recently, Walton’s work hung in the Student Union Building at UNT.

At college, a classmate started funimation, an animation studio startup based out of Denton and the Metroplex. The studio introduced many Americans to anime, particularly Dragon Ball Z. Watson spent much of his time doing on the fly voiceovers and censoring violence to comply with FCC standards. In his time, he designed a few VHS covers. An accomplishment that he said dates him a little with the kids. Watson said his life pursuing art and graphic design was a thrill ride. He worked on the fly, and was judged on a ‘what have you done for me lately basis.’

“I was always judged on my last at bat it seemed,” Watson said.

Watson has a stable life, now. Something he has grown to appreciate after a career spent turning art into a living, both digitally and with a brush as a painter and graphic designer.

He found success, but he also found that a normal job and a normal paycheck wouldn’t be too bad. He’s worked as a teacher for the past seven years at the Keller Learning Center.

“I’ve seen some kids drawing, and it’s hard to get on them to focus,” he said. “I was kind of in the same spot when I was in high school.”

At first, Watson said he thought teaching science in Keller would put him on an easy road towards getting an adjunct professor job at the university level. A means to an end of teaching art or graphic design. But that changed.

Watson said he found peace teaching physics and math at the Keller Learning Center.

He’s found a chance to raise a family, too. He still paints, but not with oils and not in a studio. The fumes were hard on his wife, but Watson still captures his vision, but only on watercolor for the most part.

He gets to pass on his knowledge at times. But only after the work is completed. Rules are rules. The fundamentals in art and eighth grade are always paramount, Watson said.

“I have to be strict, but If they get all their stuff done, I like to talk with them,” he said. “They ask about my art sometimes. Some of them think it’s pretty cool. They’re into the digital stuff, they like the paintings, but a lot of them watch Dragon Ball Z. If they want to talk about it yeah, I share.”

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