Local Bette Schumann has been living, teaching and painting in Newnan for more than 20 years, and though the artist was not raised in the city, she has managed to depict in her paintings details of the small town many natives have long since overlooked.
Schumann explained that for each of her works, both landscape and portrait paintings, she commits fully by researching her subjects thoroughly – and learning more than a little history along the way.
“When I do a commission painting, I get as much information as I can to make it as accurate as I can,” explained Schumann, noting that several local businesses have purchased her paintings over the years, and a few have commissioned works from the artist.
Morgan’s Jewelers, located on the square in downtown Newnan, has commissioned two paintings by the artist. One of the works depicts the storefront as it was when the business opened in the early 1960s.
“Josephine Morgan is in the painting,” Schumann noted, “and the car the family owned when they opened the store.”
Schumann described her efforts to render the painting as accurately as possible, even counting the bricks on the building itself.
“I went to an auto dealership that sold paint for antique cars,” she said. “I was able to find the exact color paint of the car the Morgan family owned.”
The artist noted her disappointment in finding that the beautifully carved door that hangs at the entrance of the former jewelry store is not the store’s original front. The former Morgan’s Jewelry store is now home to a family-owned candy store, Let Them Eat Toffee. Schumann had imagined that depicting the candy store’s ornate, red door would be both challenging and rewarding.
“I found out the gorgeous red door was not there when the Morgan’s opened the store,” Schumann explained. “Instead it was purchased later by a photographer.”
Schumann explained that fine arts have always been a part of her life as her father was a professional artist and her mother, an art hobbyist.
“My mother did the most amazing leather tooling,” Schumann said. “My dad was a commercial artist. He designed the O’Henry candybar wrapper.”
Schumann’s father was also credited with the idea of wrapping chocolate bars in a foil-based paper that gave candy bars the look of a bar of gold or silver money, according to the artist.
“I loved painting, drawing and coloring growing up,” Schumann explained. “As a child, coloring books and crayons were far more exciting than most toys.”
Schumann tells a story of the year her father built her a dollhouse. For months, Schumann said, he painstakingly carved out the tiny shingles and shaped the outer walls of the house so that it appeared to have panels of siding similar to homes of the time. Mr. Schumann filled the dollhouse with miniature replications of Duncan Phyfe furniture and presented his work to his daughter on Christmas morning.
“I walked right past the house,” Schumann said, noting that she was instead in search of a gift of drawing materials she had received every year from her grandmother. “I broke his heart. I’m not sure he ever forgave me for that one.”
Though she has always created art as a favorite pastime, Schumann raised five children, received a nursing degree and taught nursing courses before ever devoting herself to the pursuit of art. In fact, it was right after she and her husband arrived in Newnan that she became inspired to begin painting, and joined the Newnan Coweta Art Association. Schumann has been part of NCAA for more than 20 years. She also has served on the organization’s board for several years.
Schumann is a full-time teacher and has instructed sixth-graders at Central Christian School even longer than she has been on the art scene in Newnan.
“I’ve had a wonderful life,” she said. “I love teaching, and I love being an artist in Newnan.”
The artist noted her pride in being a part of the art community locally, and added that NCAA stands out among other art guilds in the state as one of the largest and most active organizations. Schumann explained that an active art community has been proven to make a city or county more desirable.
“Coweta can be proud of our artists and all that they bring to the community,” Schumann said. “We support schools with scholarships, encourage the arts and promote young artists – all artists.”
In turn, Schumann added, the NCAA receives equal support from the community.
Schumann and several other local artists will display works in a popular annual exhibit held at the Donald W. Nixon Centre for Performing and Visual Arts beginning June 7. The 12th annual Juried Member Art Exhibit will remain on display in the Nixon Centre’s main gallery through June 20, with a closing reception open to the public on the final day from 6-8 p.m.
As for her artistic endeavors in 2017, Schumann said she is enjoying working on several commissions, many of which are pet portraits.
“I’m painting a lot of dogs and a few people portrait commissions as well,” Schumann said. “Also, I recently took a trip to Charleston, S.C. and returned with photos of beautiful buildings and doorways which I plan to use for future paintings.”
Schumann is also looking forward to painting in plein air as the weather continues to warm. She plans to join several other local, plein air artists including David Boyd Jr. in working outdoors, and will attend Boyd’s workshop on the topic this summer.