Once a month, we feature local small business owners and artists who are using their creativity to make the homes and businesses of Roanoke beautiful.
This month, our spotlight is on artist Bonnie Mason. Bonnie’s paintings of landscapes, cityscapes, and animals are predominantly inspired by that of the Roanoke area.
A Sense of Serenity: Bonnie’s Artwork Style
A sense of calm is palpable both when speaking to Bonnie and when looking at her paintings. Her oil paintings, in which she captures the beauty of nature, bring peace to those who view her work. “A lot of people tell me that they get a peaceful feeling, that it’s serene, and that’s one thing I love to express in my work,” she said. “They tell me the landscapes are a place they’d love to go and be.”
Bonnie describes the style of her artwork as “painterly realism.” That is, she prefers to paint something she is seeing in real life rather than painting from a photograph. “I like to actually go a place and condense what it is I love about it, rather than what you would see in a photo,” she said.
Bonnie has lived in the Roanoke area, specifically Salem, her whole life. In the beauty of nature in and around Roanoke she finds inspiration for the majority of her paintings. “I love the people and the mountains, the rivers, all of it,” she said. “I think it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth.”
The Importance of Community: Bonnie’s Story
Bonnie has been creating art all her life. “I remember my dad always carrying drawings I had done around with him in his wallet,” she said.
Her mother was always interested in art and encouraged Bonnie to pursue it. As a child, Bonnie took lessons at the YMCA, and painted her first oil painting at age 12.
Bonnie went on to earn her Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art. After years of doing office work for her husband’s business, and with more time available as her children got older, Bonnie was able to become a full-time artist in 2008.
One thing that gave her the courage to make the leap to full-time was the community of artists in the Roanoke area. She joined the League of Roanoke Artists and found immediate support. “It was so helpful to be able to learn from other artists about how to progress,” Bonnie said. “There were so many people encouraging me. They said I should take my work to a gallery, and when I did, I started selling things right away.”
Now, in addition to her involvement with that group, Bonnie is also involved with a small group of artists called the Double Line Painters of the Blue Ridge. They go once a week to different places within driving distance of Roanoke and paint together. “It’s been so great to have people to go paint with because I don’t like to go by myself,” Bonnie said.
In addition to painting together, these groups work together to find locations for art shows. In fact, Bonnie has two upcoming shows. With the Double Line Painters group, she’ll be doing a show from April to June at 2nd Helpings. Through the League of Roanoke Artists, Bonnie will be doing a show with another local artist at WVTF from August through October.
Bonnie’s work is also featured in galleries across Virginia. A solo show at a gallery in Lexington last year was one of her most successful to date. One thing she really enjoys about the shows is getting to meet people. “I have people that keep coming back for another piece. They say ‘you’re going to make us bankrupt, but we love it.’ People are so sweet. I’m blessed.”
While she has typically sold most of her artwork through galleries, she did see a shift for the first time in 2017. “I mainly paint what I’m inspired to do and take them to galleries,” she said. “Most of my sales are through those, but last year was more through private sales and I’m selling more through my website too.”
Bonnie also enjoys doing commissions and gets a lot of requests for landscapes in a specific color scheme. “It’s fun playing around with the colors and trying new things,” she said. “I like working with people and making them happy.”
The importance of community is evident in Bonnie’s journey as an artist. As she continues to paint the beauty of her beloved Roanoke community, it’s the people—those in her community of artists and those that she paints for—that she seeks to bring a sense of serenity to.
“When you take that piece and hang it in someone’s home, and they say ‘wow,’ or they tell you how it cheers them up when they wake up every morning and see it, that means a lot,” Bonnie said. “It’s amazing to think my work is out there in thousands of home and businesses and that it can inspire the people who see it.”
When she’s not painting, you can find Bonnie using another creative outlet as the piano player for her church. Bonnie also enjoys spending time with her family. She has two grown children and three young grandchildren.