@story ANITA PADDOCK
@images THERESA RANKIN
Late on a January evening, when I was feeling a little bored, I logged on to Facebook and started looking at the latest posts. As I scanned through page after page, I came across a picture of a painting by an artist that made me say “Wow!”
I clicked through several more images by the artist, Theresa Rankin, and I continued to be amazed.
Did her art speak to me? I’d say it did, and I was determined to find out more about her. I found her bio and read that she’d only recently begun to paint full time, that she’d worked at a variety of jobs to support herself and her five children. That she grew up in California and played behind the Beverly Hills Hotel, attended Catholic schools, moved to Hawaii and spent a summer in a tree house on the beach, drove a log truck in Oregon, and spent almost ten years driving trucks in the Midwest.
I wanted to meet this woman who painted so beautifully and could also drive a log truck!
I contacted her, and she invited me up to Carthage, Missouri, where she’s been living for the last four years.
Theresa lives in a 100-year-old Victorian home that she and her partner, Max, are in the process of remodeling. At the street, in front of the sidewalk, the surname of a long-ago owner named Platte is chiseled into a concrete marker where horse carriages were once parked. It’s a fine two-story house with many stained glass windows.
Theresa is warm and welcoming and likable. We sit in the parlor, a handsome room furnished with antiques, Tiffany-styled lamps, carpets on the wooden floor, and her paintings on the wall. A piano sits in the corner, partially covered by a fringed piano cloth, and home to framed pictures of relatives from generations past. Among the pictures is one of her great-grandmother who died in the Spanish flu epidemic; she is in her coffin as relatives stand on either side. “I’ve always been fascinated with genealogy, and I’ve traced my history back to the late 1600s,” she explains as she points out various ancestors. She raises her eyebrows and smiles. “I’m also related to Gypsy Rose Lee.”
I ask about the first painting she sold and she smiles. “Oh, I remember it well,” Theresa says. “It was a still life that one of my students bought for $375.” Theresa teaches at Sky Horse Studio in Grove, Oklahoma.
The sell was about more than money. It validated her belief that her work was touching other people. She got serious about her painting in 2006 when she entered shows and won prizes. Once she started selling paintings, she found that they sold almost as fast as she could paint them. Then she started getting commissions, and then some of her clients wanted a series of pictures.
Her work is lovely, from her portraits to the still life, where lemons shimmer in a crystal bowl.
As we walk through her house, she talks about her technique. “I like to keep things realistic yet painterly. I like a mixture of very thick to very thin oil paint and everything in between. I have a high regard for color, and I try to capture light and emotion. The subject matter is often unimportant; it’s the mixture of mystery, longing, and a bit of unreachability that inspires me to paint.”
Theresa’s favorite artists include John Singer Sargent and the early California impressionists. “I am always trying to improve, and I have attended workshops with national artists. I’ve received two scholarships to attend Scottsdale Artists’ School, and I’m a member of Oil Painters of America, American Women Artists, and The American Impressionist Society.”
Theresa is also a fine photographer, and some of her favorites hang on the walls. “I use my camera as a tool,” she explains. One painting I particularly love is of an old woman behind the counter at a down-and-out bar. Her posture, her clothes, her hair tell me her story, that she’s worked behind that bar for a long time, that she’s heard more sad stories than any of us can imagine, and her life ain’t never gonna get no better. I took lots of pictures of that woman,” Theresa says, as she mimics holding a camera to her face, and snapping her forefinger. “I take pictures of anything that interests me and causes an emotional pull.”
Other lovely paintings take place outside. The French word is plein air, which means out in the air. Her favorite flowers in her garden are roses and lilies, and often they are depicted in a vase with the petals falling onto a table or still in the ground with one of her beloved cats hiding behind the blooms.
Before I leave I take one last look around and see one more painting. It is of a monkey. And not just any monkey. This one was her mother’s pet.
I thank her for the visit, hug her good-bye, and climb into my car. I turn on the key and shake my head in wonderment at this woman who grew up with a monkey as a playmate, drove a log truck, plays classical piano, restores 100-year-old houses, and paints like a dream. Some women have all the luck.To see more of Theresa’s work, log on to theresarankin.com.