Melissa Gates Bio & Artist Statement
My earliest memory is at 3 years old on the wide back of a big paint gelding, a summer camp horse my uncle boarded during the winters at his home in Pennsylvania. I knew then that was where I belonged. Growing up in Claremore, Oklahoma, people knew me as Missy Varner.
Majoring in print making and armed with an art scholarship, I attended Claremore Junior College and Tulsa University My favorite medium was graphite because of the high contrast of black vs white. An internship provided both a living and new graphic design skills as I produced logos, brochures and portfolios. Staff artist jobs at the Tulsa World and Tribune Newspaper led to a position as Art Director of "Western Promotions," a small cattle & horse publication and ad agency. Meanwhile, requests for commissioned portraits of horses and their people appeared and my artwork was selling at the Golden Egg Gallery in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
I met and married my husband, Gary, and we moved to Houston in 1986 with a toddler and a newborn to establish our family's business. That same year, we learned our oldest child, Sarah, had mental retardation. Raising a handicapped child was a challenge yet a blessing. When our daughter and son were seven and five years old, we expanded our little family through adoption, welcoming eleven more children into our home over a ten year period. Raising 13 children can be demanding, but the rewards are tremendous.
Graphite and colored pencils remain stable tools in my studio - but I fell in love with pastel paintings while on a family camping vacation in Colorado. It's like drawing -- yet still painting, and I still lay awake at night anxious to get back into my art studio the next day. I've plunged into oil and pastel painting, enjoying the new challenge of working with color. My early focus on black & white printmaking and graphic design have provided a solid understanding of composition and values.
Today,most of our 13 kids are grown, and I can devote more time to my art. I am blessed to have studio space in both Texas and in Colorado ... and the time to paint. Gary and I have established the Gates Fine Art Center in Rosenberg, Texas, which houses the Art League of Fort Bend and the 5th Street Gallery where members display and sell their artwork. In collaboration with our son, Travis - who is a chef, we have founded the Painted Pony Cafe & Gallery in Crested Butte, Colorado, where we have a second home. We have the best of both worlds in mild Texas climate in winter time and cool mountain breezes in the summertime.
I would love to paint your horse, your pet - and you with them! Thank you for visiting my website and viewing my gallery. Please let me hear from you soon.