Artist Roster

Bell, John Jr.

My parents came from coal miners and farmers in eastern Oklahoma, but moved to Fort Smith to start a new life. I was born here along with my two sisters and a brother. All of our memories and influences are of eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas which is reflected in my art.

Born in 1937 I can still remember chugging T-models, the ice man, anxiety about the war, radio plays, back yard clothes lines with sheets flowing in the breeze, and those small things that form the foundation for your life.

I met my wife, Maxine, in grade school. We married years later while I was studying for my bachelors at the U of A. I supplemented our income by drawing charcoal portraits of students in the Union. I graduated in 1965 and our daughter, Lisa, was born that same year. It suddenly became more important to find work than to go for a masters.

I found it important to acquire a variety of skills in the arts in order to survive. In the beginning during the hard times, doing charcoal portraits quickly and efficiently helped to fill in the gaps between jobs. There were lots of gaps! You had to be quick to make any money at the local fairs, and even though it was something I didn't like to do I had gained a reputation large enough that J C Penney hired me to be a part of the grand opening of their newly remodeled children's department in Fort Smith and in Fayetteville. The customers would receive a free portrait after a minimum purchase of children's clothing. They declared the promotion a success when the kids kept coming and coming! I had decided this was not my favorite medium.

I had promised myself not to do any more portraits when I received a most unusual request: to do a portrait of the legendary country singer, Roy Acuff, on the back of a fiddle to be presented to him on stage at the "Grand Ole' Opry". Having listened to the show on radio, I couldn't refuse. It is still displayed with his other memorabilia in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Since then I have worked as a designer of model railroad kits- brand name "Master Creations;" furniture fabric designer; church window designer; silk screen designs on glass for the furniture industry. These jobs required different disciplines which provided me with unique insights to see my subjects more clearly, such as structures in architecture and over all design.

Now, I enjoy the freedom of freelance painting. I've had one man shows in Memphis, New Orleans, Washington D.C., Omaha, Little Rock and Fort Smith to name a few. The works you see on these pages are signed and numbered limited editions prints. Almost all of the originals have been sold and are in private collections around the country.

All prints are reproduced with light-fast ink on the best art papers and canvas.

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