Every morning, Riverton resident Woodine DeMille wakes up and has breakfast. Then she cleans up, heads downstairs and picks up a paintbrush. She covers her canvas with colorful oil or acrylic paint in swirling brushstrokes. Sometimes, she uses photographs that one of her four children has provided. Other times, she uses her photos or combines elements from a variety of images to create a magical landscape. More often than not, she paints until someone informs her it is time for dinner. Somehow, the day has gotten away from her. She puts down her paintbrush and retreats from the world that has occupied the majority of her day. DeMille repeats this routine six days a week.
At age 83, Utah painter is ready for her first solo show
"I never thought in my whole life that at this age I'd be painting," DeMille, 83, said in a phone interview with The Tribune. "I thought that I would probably be resting. I must have been born with a paintbrush in my hand."
DeMille is a self-taught artist gearing up to display her art for the first time in an exhibit opening Monday at the Old Dome Meeting Hall in Riverton.
A fan of Vincent Van Gogh and Giuseppe Bertini, DeMille has painted anything that piques her interest, but it is landscapes and animals that have her heart. Viewers can expect to see images ripe with color on exhibit at the Old Dome.
"I don't like sparrow colors," she said. "I don't like a painting that's mostly all brown or mostly all black or any solid shades of one color."
She began painting as an adult in 1975 after her uncle, a former artist, painted a picture at her request.
"I went to pick up my piece of artwork from him and it was terrible," DeMille recalled. "I said to my mother, 'I don't paint, I've never even tried to paint, but I know I can do better than that.' "
Several months later, DeMille received her first set of oil paints for her birthday. She sat down and painted a picture of two dogs in a kennel.
"That was a disaster. I found out really quickly that I couldn't paint two dogs," she said. "But I thought, 'I'll bet I can do better.' "
Shortly after, DeMille and her family moved from South Carolina to New York. In between teaching piano and voice lessons, she frequented the local library, where she pored over books either featuring images of famous painters or offering instructional guides on painting.
"The library there had this whole wall devoted to framed prints that famous people had painted and I had an absolute ball painting," DeMille said. "I learned most of the things I do to paint a decent picture from painting those pictures. I kept going to the library and reading books on painting and adding to my oil paints. It all just fell into place. Now I paint just about anything I think about that I might like to do."
Since she decided to start painting, DeMille has taken only one class, but it left her unimpressed. She decided learning through books was the better route.
"She has an innate talent," said her daughter, Joni. "She has grown tremendously over the years."
Joni DeMille encouraged the art show because she sees her mother as an inspiration.
"Your life doesn't end as a senior citizen," the younger DeMille said. "It only ends when you quit living your life and quit saying yes to the opportunities that come along. As long as you are still breathing and you have dreams and passions, anything can happen — and sometimes it does."
Decades and hundreds of art pieces since Woodine DeMille ventured into the world of painting, she encourages others to not be afraid to try something new — especially if deep down, it is something one has aspired to do for some time.
"Go to the library, research the subject and go for it," she said. "Don't be surprised if your first time doing it doesn't turn out as good as you expect it to. You just keep trying until you get what you want."
Joni DeMille hopes her mother's art show will be the first of many to come. "Even if you don't have the training, if you have that dream, you can pursue it yourself," she said. "If you have the dream and the passion, you can do what you want to do and achieve your dreams."
In her nature to paint
Woodine DeMille’s first solo show is titled “Vibrant Nature: A Kaleidoscope of Color.”
When » Monday, July 17, to Aug. 16; an open house will be held Tuesday, July 18, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Where » Old Dome Meeting Hall, 1452 W. 12600 South, Riverton
Tickets » Free; http://bit.ly/2ujUMWN for more information