Bonnie Blue's career in art 'all about making people smile'

 

On the southeast side of Houston, not too far from Hobby Airport, there’s a  post-World War II neighborhood on a dead-end street. The houses are well-kept, and the lawns are tidy. But, it’s the one yellow-and-white frame house with fanciful flowers, vines and butterflies painted everywhere that immediately catches your eye.

This is the home of artist Bonnie Blue, who has lived here 21 years. But, just this past January, she started seeing her house as a new canvas. 
 
Painting the house is a project she said she never intended, but it’s a work in progress that keeps revealing itself to her as she paints. It’s also part of a bigger picture that includes two women-centric art cars in the driveway. 
 
“The neighbors seem to love it,” Blue said, and her husband, Robert, is encouraging her to do more. 
 
Now that she has finished painting a garden on the front picket fence, Blue is focusing on adding a wall of colorful lizards on the back and painting the figure of a man around her electric meter so he can be a true “meter man.” 
 
“I love sharing outdoor art. My cars are outdoor art,” Blue said. “When you travel around in an art car, you’re sharing your art with the world. I have compassion for people who will never enter a gallery, but in an art car, everybody who passes by you is getting to view art.”
 
Inside the house on Colgate Street, Blue runs a boutique where she sells her affordable art. She calls it “art that makes you smile.”  Wine glasses, bras, boots, shoes, hats and salvaged items are all adorned with flowers and women’s faces. Mermaids are a recurring theme because she loves them, and they sell very well in Galveston. 
 
“It’s not fine art; it’s fun art,” she said.
 
Blue will even customized wine bottle labels with portraits –– a popular service she offers for parties and events, along with caricatures on rocks. 
 
It’s the rocks that earned her national attention on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Blue had painted a picture of the comedienne/talk show host on a rock and, somehow, that ended up on the show. Blue said the television exposure propelled her career ahead by 10 years and, suddenly, she was booking parties every week. 
 
Painting women’s faces on rocks was a serendipitous turn in her art career. She has owned and run Blues Restoration since 1978, and it was the first photo restoration company to go digital. When everyone else went digital –– including amateur photographers with access to computer editing programs –– she found her market dwindling and knew she had to find her next path. Fortuitously, art answered the call. 
 
Blue was walking along the banks of the Blanco River in Wimberley when she noticed beautiful river rocks, each one unique.
 
“All of a sudden, I saw women’s faces on them,” she said. “And, it was an inspiration –– a visitation. I don’t know what you call it, but it was very profound. So, I started painting women on rocks. People love them, and I’ve sold hundreds.” 
 
The ladies on the rocks are everywhere in her shop, and they’re an important part of Blue’s message about honoring empowering women. Even on the hood of her Women Rock Artcar –– the one with ever-changing portraits of women like Mother Teresa, Maya Angelou, Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball and Princess Diana –– she has painted this message: “The Women Rock Artcar was created for women by a woman to honor women, because across the miles, continents, barriers, laughter, abuse, tears, rich, poor, destitute or skin color, we are all connected at the heart.”
 
Her website, www.womenthatrocks.com, shows just a sample of how the Women Rock car’s side panels have been changed to showcase 36 different faces –– of famous and not-so-famous women. 
 
Since 2002, Blue’s art cars have been viewed by thousands of people in art car parades and other events in 15 states. She has won eight first- and second-place awards in Maryland, Kentucky and Oklahoma, and in Houston’s Autorama and Orange Show Art Car Parade. 
 
It’s obvious that Blue’s heart is in creating art, and she’s both self-taught and prolific.  
“My maiden name is Green, and my married name is Blue,” she said. “It seems I was born to be an artist.”
 
Deborah Quinn Hensel is a free-lance journalist and staff reporter for Houston Woman Magazine.
 
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