Artist Natalie Ray, whose artwork adorns the walls of the SummerHouse showroom, took a minute to answer a few questions for us, despite the crazy busy summer schedule she’s juggling right now!
We loved getting a closer look into the life and inspirations of one of our favorite artists!
1) For those who don’t know you as well, give us a quick little “Natalie in a nutshell!”
I was born in Jackson and have lived here ever since. My parents, Jim and Linda Burwell, are both pretty eccentric/artsy people. As restaurateurs in the Belhaven area, they had many “artist” friends. They began taking my sisters and me to events like the Chimneyville Crafts Festival (by the MS Craftman’s Guild) at a very young age to see the works of their artist friends. Even as a young child, I was amazed by it all (glass, wood, metal, etc.).
I went to Millsaps College where I majored in Business Administration and minored in Art. I always thought I would paint “when I got old,” so I went into the technology sector after college and ended up over Operations of a local software development company. As many tech companies of that time,
the company was very short-lived. While I was looking for another job, I painted a few paintings. A friend asked if she could commission me to paint a painting for her husband for their anniversary. After that another friend asked, then another. I decided to give it a shot and officially opened my
business, Natalie Ray Designs, in 2001. In addition to painting, I teach private art lessons and camps to children.
My husband, Rand (also from Jackson), and I have been married for 18 years and have three awesome children: Bracken, Greyton and Ainsley. They are my everything 🙂 If I am not painting/teaching art, I am at a Basketball game, Soccer Game, Riding Lesson or some type of kid event.
2) How long have you been painting?
Although I began drawing at a very young age, I did not pick up a paintbrush until I took my first painting course at Millsaps. I was hooked at day one and have painted ever since.
3) What is your favorite medium?
My favorite medium is acrylic (especially on masonite… I love the way it soaks up the paint so quickly). I’ve tried using oils, but I am too impatient to wait for the drying time. Anyone that knows me well, knows that I am pretty ADD so I need to see results pretty quickly or I get bored (ha!) I also use charcoals, and watercolor quite a bit in my work.
4) Can you recall the first or most momentous experience that inspired you to really express yourself on canvas?
When I was in college, my art professor asked us to create a painting from something that inspired us. As I was walking back to my dorm, I saw an empty classroom with all the desks in rows. There were these big windows against one wall and several of the desks were off-center (from students leaving and knocking into them). I just had to paint it. I put my own “twist” on it by painting each of the desks a different (bright) color. There was something about showing the extraordinary in the ordinary that struck me. I still come back to that theory when I paint today. There is really so much extraordinary in the ordinary that people often miss.
5) What is the strangest request for a commission piece you’ve ever gotten?
Ok.. I really can’t think of a strange request… is that weird?? One of the greatest requests I have gotten, however, was from a friend whose 6th/7th grade son wanted a painting of the guitars/highway signs at the Crossroads in Clarksdale. As a fan of Robert Johnson (and the Blues in general), I thought it was about the coolest thing ever and was so much fun to paint!!
6) What is your favorite aspect of being an artist?
I thrive on change. Really. I hear people say that change makes them nervous. I am the exact opposite. I get nervous when things stay the same for too long. I love that I literally learn something new every day as an artist. You have to make yourself vulnerable as an artist and try new things. You have to put yourself out there. It’s kind of scary sometimes, but it is so rewarding when someone tells you how much one of your pieces means to them.
7) What else can you share with us?!
A bit of information that is probably not important to anyone other than myself… In addition to being an artist, I am a HUGE music lover. The Beatles will always be my absolute favorite (reminds me of my childhood.. Mom and Dad had The White Album when I was young.. how cool is that??!!), but I love a little bit of everything- blues, jazz, alternative, funk… really into Americana/Folk these days. I do my best work (in my opinion) when I have my music playing.
Thank you so much Natalie!! Be sure to stop by the showroom next time you’re in the area to see her work with your own eyes — We feel sure you’ll leave inspired (and possibly in possession of a new piece of art!)