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Local artists work inspired by nature
web Schilles Mrs. van Gogh
Artist Marjett Schille explains one of her paintings recently at Uncommon Grounds coffee shop in Hinesville. - photo by Randy C.Murray

She sees the intricate details many people overlook.

She sees things like the varying color patterns in a sunset on a coastal Georgia marsh or the effect the wind-blown sand and crashing waves have had on a large tree trunk washed ashore on Jekyll Island.

Local artist and high school art teacher Marjett Schille sees these tiny details, then incorporates them into her drawings, paintings and sculptures, allowing us to see what she sees and hear what she hears, giving us a greater appreciation for Georgia’s natural beauty.

“I think Georgia is a beautiful state,” said Schille, whose work is displayed in art galleries throughout the Northwest, where she lived until moving to Ludowici in 2003. “It’s a different natural beauty than what I’m used to from living in Idaho, Washington and Oregon, but it is beautiful here.”

Schille, who has a bachelor’s degree in art education from Boise State University and a master’s in fine art with a major in drawing and painting and a minor in ceramic sculpture from the University of Idaho, teaches art at Liberty County High School. Teaching art helps her as an artist, she said, while at the same time allowing her to inspire and guide a new generation of artists.

“I am a teacher and an artist,” she said. “I feel that my being an artist helps my students. I’ve had students every year that go on to attend art schools, including (the Savannah College of Art and Design).”

She relayed her personal experience in learning how to show her artwork at galleries, experience she said had to gain the hard way. Her professors’ artistic background was limited to academics, not exhibition, and didn’t prepare her for that.

“I didn’t know I was suppose to ask for an appointment (at the gallery), or that I should have visited the gallery first to see what kind of art they were showing,” she said, admitting she wasn’t even aware how to dress when she walked into a gallery wearing faded jeans and a flannel shirt. “They told me, ‘Just leave the paintings over there,’ thinking I was just somebody delivering someone else’s artwork. There was even some concern that maybe I had stolen the artwork I was carrying.”

Schille’s work is now displayed in a dozen galleries in Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho, as well as Gallery 303 at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. She has been featured at invitational shows and juried shows throughout the northwest and more recently in Georgia. Her students and the community now benefit from her talent and experience.

Schille said she came to coastal Georgia through her sister and brother-in-law, who accepted teaching positions at Georgia Southern several years ago. Her mother soon followed. After several visits here, she and her husband, Mike Lewis, accepted teaching positions here and moved to their new home in Ludowici.

“I started doing ‘en plein air’ (meaning, “in the open air”) drawings and paintings here,” she said, explaining that she had participated in “art residencies” at Creighton Island, a private island in McIntosh County, and with another group near the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. “I was challenged at first. I’ve always loved nature and all my work reflects my love for nature and the outdoors. I found I can do open air painting in a few hours. My other works though are recollections of my experiences, my feelings. They take a lot longer, sometimes months to complete.”

Schille showed several of her nature drawings and paintings, including a marsh scene, called “Sunset Sentinel,” depicting a lone, bare tree standing guard amidst tall marsh grasses and a setting sun.

Another work she called “Mrs. van Gogh” depicts a young woman wading in a sea of sunflowers. This painting, she said, is one of those recollection works she uses to express her thoughts about artist Vincent van Gogh, whose life was marred by unsuccessful relationships. She suggested that if van Gogh, whose work often incorporated sunflowers, had only met the right woman to encourage and support him, what mightier works he could have done.

“I’ve never really done anything else,” Schille admits, explaining that where she grew up, there were no other children her age to play with. “I began to draw to entertain myself. And since I loved nature, outdoor themes became the focus of my drawings.”

 Several of Schille’s prints are on display at Uncommon Grounds in Bradwell Park, where she recently donated one of her paintings, “Puss in Boots,” to support a trap/neuter/release program for cats in downtown Hinesville.

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