JEFFERSON - Rural Iowa and the beauty of this state's landscapes have been the inspiration behind many paintings done by a rural Jefferson artist.
Joe Murray paints his creations in his studio, a converted horse barn, in rural Greene County near Jefferson.
His Wayuga Art Studio is from a Native American word for serenity, he said.
-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Joe Murray, owner of Wayuga Art Studio near Jefferson, stands by one of his latest paintings, “Abandoned Dreams.” Murray focuses on rural culture. He unviled the painting during an open house in Jefferson on Dec. 2.
It's fitting, as serenity sums up what Murray is known for painting.
His art centers on rural culture, including barns, animals and numerous landscapes.
He describes his style of painting as "representational impressionism."
Murray uses gallery wrap watercolor canvas using watercolor and acrylic paint. This style of painting, he said, allows him to utilize the tonalities of watercolor and the brilliance of acrylics on a ready-to-display canvas, versus paper that requires a frame and glass to exhibit.
Murray's style is not only unique; it's the way he discovered his artistic talents.
He grew up near Cedar Falls, graduating at age 16 from high school in 1961.
After working for a year, he enlisted in the Air Force. After serving in Vietnam, he was honorably discharged in 1966.
He then decided to enroll at the University of Northern Iowa with the aid of the G.I. Bill and eventually earned a bachelor's degree in business marketing.
It was during his years at UNI when Murray dexperienced a "big change of passion in his life."
Murray said he never so much would draw stick figures while growing up and focused much of his extra-curricular activities in sports.
"I was never interested in art," Murray said. "I was a business major and had to take a two-hour elective art class. I thought if I could pull off a 'C' in this sculpting class that would be good."
But Murray said he discovered sculpting helped relieve some of the stress that accompanied him from serving in Vietnam.
With encouragement from his art teacher and mentor, Ralph Haskell (also a veteran), he took more art classes and eventually ended up with more than 12 hours of elective art courses.
"It ignited a flame in me that I hoped later I could pursue," he said.
Through the next 20 years, Murray said he honed his artistic skills by working and experimenting with his painting and some sculpting.
In the early 1990s, Alice Nipps, who owned a local gallery, heard Murray had done some painting and she invited him to show his work.
"I really didn't want to, by she insisted," said Murray. "It was after that I slowly and surely expanded and began showing."
Murray continued with his career as an independent ag marketing representative until 2000 when he and his wife, Joan, decided it was time for him to fulfill his dream and become a fulltime artist, while Joan continued to work for Midland Power. It was a decision they will likely never regret.
"If there was ever an opportunity, now was the time and we have never looked back," said Murray.
Images Murray paints come from rural culture, and are "centered around a belief system that we all seek an environment that represents serenity. A place where we can regenerate our soul."
Murray said he will do some custom work for clients. When it comes to painting a barn, for example, said it is more than just painting the barn for him.
"I'm thinking of their heritage, an essence of their soul," he said.
In addition to his painting, Murray said he will do some abstract sculpting, but prefers painting.
Murray credits several mentors who helped him along the way including Haskell, Jack White, Karen Vance and local artist Chris Lohr.
The Wayuga Art Studio is located at 835 230th St., Jefferson.
He can be contacted at (712) 652-3750 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Kriss Nelson at email@example.com.