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Johnson Center for the Arts hosts Alabama artists

Artists Betsy Barrett-Hails and Jeffrey Babine were the guests of honor at a reception hosted by the Johnson Center of the Arts Thursday night.

“There was a good turnout for the reception for these two ‘Alabama artists,” said Brenda Campbell, JCA director. “Those who attended were really interested in the art and the artists.”

Campbell said the artists are vastly different in their techniques.

“Jeffery’s work is intriguing,” she said. “Some of his work includes coding and attempting to discover and understand the codes is not always easy.”

Then, there’s Barrett-Hails’ artwork, which Campbell said is “meticulous with crisp, clean lines.”

“When you look at Betsy’s work, you think it is a photograph or a painting,” Campbell said. “You have to look closely to realize the difference.”

Barrett-Hails is a contemporary realist specializing in oil paintings. Her award-winning works depict large colorful figures and still lifes.

“The name of the show, ‘Paintings I Meant To Do,’ is exactly that,” Barrett-Hails said. “The worse thing that can happen to an artist, at least to this one, is distraction of any kind because artists are usually so good at succumbing to it.”

So, Barrett-Hails said, with the combination of life’s general distractions, and the frustration of being constantly interrupted while trying to concentrate on very technical paintings, she decided to primarily focus on her major distractions, “my children.”

And, Barrett-Hails’ “major distractions” ended up being her very best work of art.

“Now that I can no longer use them as an excuse, I’m attempting to make up for lost time,” Barrett-Hails said. “And, also for ideas that have been in my mind for quite some time but haven’t made it to the canvas yet.”

Barrett-Hails said, for her, the creation of arts is a state of mind that really doesn’t change even though circumstances might.

“Hopefully, there will be many more to come,” she said.

Campbell said Babine’s “Portrait/Figurative Series,” captured the interest of those in attendance and he was more than willing to “look at” that drawings with them.

“It is amazing what he can ‘draw.’” Campbell said.

Babine explained that the coded images in many of his drawings are sometime drawn before coding and sometimes after. Either way, the coding of his work gives the impression of “almost having been crumpled,” one viewer said.

“I photograph my subjects and use the photograph for the drawings,” Babine said”. “I usually complete a drawing in about two weeks.”

The use of light is a trademark of Babine’s work.

He admitted that he has a heightened sense of perception that gives him the ability to show light and depth using a pencil. That, coupled with Babine’s amazing attention to detail makes his drawings amazingly intriguing, Campbell said.

Barrett-Hails earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Auburn University with a major in painting. Babine has a Bachelor of Arts degree in painting from the University of Alabama, Huntsville and a Master of Fine Arts degree in drawing from the University of Arizona.

He has exhibited his drawings in local, regional and national art exhibitions over the last 40 years.

“Paintings I Meant To Do” and “Portrait/Figurative Series” will be the featured exhibitions at the Johnson Center for the Arts through November 7.

Gallery hours are 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is free.