In 2008 I emerged back into the world of fine art after 25 years dedicated to children and family.
People knew me as Missy Varner, growing up in Claremore, Oklahoma. I attended Claremore Junior College and then on to Tulsa University on art scholarships.
I then found myself needing to make a living and so went into apprenticeship type jobs to learn graphic and commercial design skills.
It's always come in handy to know how to design logos and layout brochures and portfolios and those kinds of things for our family's business and now for my own Melissa Gates Fine Art Studio.
I know I am blessed to yet again have a chance to try something new and exciting at a different phase of my life. I have a studio and the time to paint and I'm not counting on every penny I make to feed my family. That is a huge blessing!
I have been able to use my graphic and artistic abilities to promote our Women's Ministry program at my church and I've painted and auctioned off some paintings of Uganda's orphans to raise funds to run the Lulwanda Children's Home in Uganda that my church helped found. That has given me tremendous fulfillment in using my talent for God's work. After all He is the one who blessed me with this talent.
I met and married my husband, Gary Gates in Claremore and worked at the Tulsa World and Tribune Newspaper as an artist then Art Director of "Western Promotions", a small cattle and horse publication and ad agency. I displayed and sold artwork at the Golden Egg Art Gallery in Eureka Springs, Arkansas and did commissioned portraits of people and their horses during that time.
In 1986 we moved to Houston with a toddler and a newborn. We found our oldest child; Sarah had mental retardation during our first year in Houston. Raising a handicapped child was a new challenge for us. When our daughter and son were 7 and 5 years old we started adopting children, eventually adopting 11 children in a ten year period. Raising 13 children was another challenge for us, and still is quite often.
With most of our kids grown they are now more able to spare some of my time to return to my artwork. I now have a studio that I can shut away from creative little fingers. The local Art League, Art League of Fort Bend County has moved into our office building, The Gates Fine Art Center in Rosenberg, Texas. We have set up the inner part of the building as the "5th Street Gallery" where the members can hang and sell their artwork.
I have plunged into oil and pastel painting as my favorite mediums. Working with color is not easy after my favorite medium "bc" (before children) was graphite, high contrast black and white. I had some training in oil painting in college when I attended Tulsa University but my major area of study was in printmaking.
I did my first pastel painting the summer of 2008 on our camping vacation in Colorado. I wanted to take something on our vacation to work on and thought that would travel better than a wet oil painting and so bought my first set of soft pastels and nupastels and jumped in with both feet. I love them. Something about drawing yet still painting just makes me lay awake at night anxious to get back to work the next day.
The pastel painting of my gelding Tex when he was only a day old brings such sweet memories to me I can hardly bear to part with it. I know it is the passion that shows in my paintings that draws people to them. I want to share my passion with people so I'm very excited that giclee printing is available and of such high quality that I can now consider making prints of the paintings I really love so I can make them available to others at reasonable prices.
I also work in oils and graphite pencil and colored pencils and have taken workshops from many fine artists in our area. I have artwork in the Downtown Art Gallery in Brenham, Texas; the Holland Street Gallery in Bellville, Texas; the 5th Street Gallery in Rosenberg, Texas. I am a member of the Art League of Fort Bend, Brenham Fine Arts League, International Equine Artist Guild and Downtown Merchants of Rosenberg, Texas.
My passion in this part of my life has reverted to my passion from as early as I can remember - horses.
My earliest memory is at 3 years old, riding a summer camp horse that my Uncle kept through the winter at his home. I still remember the warmth and sense of "being where I was supposed to be" on the wide back of that big paint gelding. From that day on I was inseparable from my rocking horse or my "Thunderbolt and Flame and Johnny and Jane West" figures. Just the other day my mare, Little Bit nuzzled her face into my shoulder and her warm smell of horse gave me such a sense of comfort that nothing else can. Those of you who love animals know that feeling.
I feel blessed to be able to merge my passion for horses and the relationship between people and their companion animals with my passion for drawing and painting to create beautiful heirloom portraits for others. I love doing commisssion portraits of horses, pets and people and seeing the pleasure they bring to my clients.
If you would like to commission a portrait of one or more of your 'significant others' you can contact me on my "contact the artist" page to do so.