Local photographer Aaron Horrell finds inspiration in nature

Monday, November 7, 2011
Aaron Horrell shows some of his work at The Painted Wren Art Gallery in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

Most people wouldn't think of a cold, rainy morning as a great time to go out and take pictures. But that's exactly the kind of morning local artist Aaron Horrell looks for when he heads out to photograph various creatures in nature.

"Sometimes I get my best photos when the morning dew is still on," Horrell says. "Insects move slower when they are wet. A spider web looks much more detailed when it's wet rather than when it's dry."

Horrell uses an unconventional bean bag as opposed to a tri-pod when he is photographing animals, birds and insects. A bean bag can be molded to fit into tight quarters like the crook of a tree branch better than a tri-pod can, he says. Plus, a bean bag blends into nature better than a metal tri-pod when he is trying to capture his subject in its natural habitat.

Horrell, who describes himself as a self-taught artist, has only taken one art class and that was more than 40 years ago when he was a senior in high school. Instead of formal training, Horrell says, he read everything he could get his hands on about all types of artwork from cave man art to art during the Renaissance period to early American art. "It was the use of colors that I was drawn to," he says.

Nature is where Horrell draws his inspirations from, and he enjoys creating surrealistic pieces such as a painting of a tree trunk that has various animal faces painted throughout it. "Everything I do is on a landscape format," Horrell says. About half of the artwork he displays in his gallery is paintings, while the other half are nature photos on canvas. Acrylic paint is Horrell's medium of choice, and he also enjoys creating miniatures.

In the corner of The Painted Wren Art Gallery, Horrell's gallery in downtown Cape Girardeau, is a table with coloring books that Horrell designed. All proceeds from the coloring books, which sell for $5 each, go to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Horrell is one of the many local artists who have galleries in the Bilderbach's Art Plaza at No. 5 North Main St. in Cape Girardeau. In Horrell's art gallery, you will find paintings and photos on canvas that Horrell has created as well as work by other local artists.

The Painted Wren, which has been open for about five months, has eight-foot walls, which Horrell rents to artists for $70 per month. Artists can share the wall space and cost with other artists or they can display their work individually. "Artists can rent the wall space for one month or several months at a time," Horrell says. "But I ask them to change the artwork each month to keep it interesting."

Fourteen artists, including Horrell, currently have artwork exhibited in the gallery. Horrell seeks out local artists who have never exhibited anywhere before. The artwork includes photos on canvas, acrylic paintings, jewelry, hand-crafted ceramic bowls, landscape photography, oil paintings and sculptures.

The Painted Wren, along with the other art galleries in the Bilderbach's Art Plaza, is open from 1 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday with extended hours of 1 to 8 p.m. Friday. The galleries also participate in the First Friday art openings from 5 to 9 p.m. on the first Friday of each month.

In his spare time, Horrell volunteers at the Mingo National Wildlife Refuge in Puxico, Mo. At the refuge, Horrell chairs a photo contest. The contest, which is in its seventh year, is open to amateur and professional photographers and children and adults are encouraged to participate. Categories vary from native wildlife to people in nature. More information about the contest is available at www.mingoswampfriends.org or on The Friends of Mingo National Wildlife Refuge Facebook page.

In addition to being heavily involved in the art world, Horrell also started a community garden in Chaffee, Mo. The garden, located close to the town's nutrition center, has grown sweet corn, sweet potatoes and yellow squash. The food from the garden is then donated to the Chaffee Nutrition Center and the Chaffee Nursing Home. "Volunteers are needed to help maintain the garden," Horrell says. Any individual or group who would like to volunteer may contact Horrell at The Painted Wren.

Along with his passion for art and volunteerism, Horrell has a weekly photo column, "Through the Woods," that is featured in the Good Times section of the Southeast Missourian every Sunday. He also writes "Nature's Corner" for The River Hills Traveler each month.

Whether painting, taking photographs, gardening or writing, one thread in Aaron Horrell's life remains true: He is always intrigued and enchanted by nature's beauty and he does his best to share his love of that beauty with others.

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