Hartselle Courier Journal/ Jennifer R. Hill
Painters Forrest Long and Michael Ballew are featured at The Hartselle Fine Arts Center for the month of February for the second installment of the center’s Artists of the Month. Above, Long, at left, and Ballew, at right, discuss their works.
In an effort to propel more aspects of art into the city, The Hartselle Fine Arts Center will be featuring Artists of the Month galleries. In the second month to display artists at the center, February will feature two local painters.
Forrest Long a watercolor artist, and Michael Ballew who dapples in mixed mediums, have two different styles yet one common goal, to bring attention to the fact that Hartselle is full of artists.
“We want to let people know what kind of an art community we have here and build some interest,” Long said.
The local public knows the center for plays and productions, but adding gallery pieces introduces the diversity of the fine arts, Ballew said.
Long and Ballew set up galleries with samples of their works in the entrance of the Fine Arts Center on College Street. Their works are available for viewing during regular center hours and events.
Forrest Long, 61, lived in Nova Scotia for most of his adult life. The influences of the small coastal province of Canada can be seen in his work.
“For me painting is a sense of getting my vision out, expressing it in a way that’s tangible,” Long said.
Long said he began painting in his late 20s. He had always liked art and had the opportunity to take art lessons. His work is mostly in realistic watercolor painting, with some abstract pieces.
He likes to capture structures such as old barns, abandoned houses and lighthouses. Painting captures their history before they are gone, he said.
Long and his wife, Patsy Carlberg, moved to Alabama about 8 years ago and they have been Hartselle residents for four years. They are both Methodist pastors. He is a part-time pastor at Johnson Chapel United Methodist Church in Danville, and she is the pastor of Forrest Chapel United Methodist in Hartselle.
Long also is the co-owner of the Red Door Art Gallery, recently opened on Main Street in Hartselle. He has also been implemental in the on-going effort to have a permanently gallery at the Fine Arts Center.
Hartselle native Michael Ballew, 47, has been painting and displaying his work for about 15 years. He lived in Birmingham for nearly 15 years and then moved back to Hartselle to raise a family.
Ballew was first introduced to art at the age of 5 or 6, he said, with classes from local watercolor artist Gail Strider.
He got into black-and-white photography about 15 years ago when his first child was born. Then he began to work with Polaroid transfers, which developed into what he does now, he said.
Ballew’s pieces now are mixed medium, including acrylic paint on top of a special putty mixture he developed. He uses the putty by spreading it onto wood, carving it and then painting it from there, he said.
Most of his pieces are inspired by nature, and his family’s Native American background. The pieces are warm vibrant colors imitating landscapes.
Ballew’s work also includes Southern folk art pieces, where he focuses on people, angels and churches.
Each year Ballew also works with Camp-Artselle, an annual children’s fine arts camp, held at the Fine Arts Center, that features week-long instruction from adult artists in painting, theatre, music and more.
“By bringing local artists in and showing the displays, it really shows them the variety of art we have here,” he said.
Ballew said in the same way Camp-Artselle introduces art to area children, he hopes having artists of the month featured at the center will help introduce another aspects of art to the community.
“I think there’s a common misconception about galleries. A lot of time you can go into a local gallery and buy an original work that is no more than what you would pay for a nice framed print,” he said. “Art is reachable, affordable to anyone who has an interest.”