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Interview with Sally Bullers, October 17, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Sally Bullers, October 17, 2007
October 17, 2007
Phys. Desc:

Interviewer: Hayes, Sherman. Date of Interview: 10/17/2007. Series: Arts. Length: 60 minutes

Bullers: That's correct.

Hayes: Is there a full name there, Sally?

Bullers: Well it's Sally Ann, but only my old aunts call me that.

Hayes: Is there a maiden name?

Bullers: Robinson.

Hayes: Sally Ann Robinson Bullers.

Bullers: Right.

Hayes: Great. And you're part of UNCW Randall Library's Oral History Project related to artists. And my name is Sherman Hayes, University Librarian. And also with me is Ashley Shivar. Did I get that right?

Shivar: That's right.

Hayes: Who is acting as camera operator and participant, and we're here today to kind of talk about both your interest and career in art and other things related to perhaps Wilmington as you're a Wilmington resident. And you've been a Wilmington artist for how long? You've been here?

Bullers: About ten years.

Hayes: Ten years. And did you come here in retirement in the sense, or?

Bullers: More or less.

Hayes: More or less, sounds good.

Bullers: Yeah. I had been retired a couple of years before I moved down here.

Hayes: Good, but before we jump into your Wilmington years I thought we could get some context of where you were at in your life. Where did you grow up and, you know, get started and so forth? I mean, you're not from Wilmington. Where are you-- where do you consider home and so forth?

Bullers: Well, I actually grew up in New Jersey, but haven't been back there really in many, many years. We gradually moved west when we were married and lived in Pennsylvania when I was first married.

Hayes: And you're married to?

Bullers: Bob Bullers.

Hayes: Bob Bullers, good.

Bullers: He is from Pennsylvania so we lived in his hometown actually for about ten years when we were first married. And then we moved to Colorado and lived there about ten years.

Hayes: Moving because of his work or your work?

Bullers: Well no, a combination. We just sort of pulled up stakes and moved west.

Hayes: We're you looking for better artistic materials?

Bullers: No, it didn't really have anything to do with that at that point. A part of it was my husband had his own insurance agency in Pennsylvania, and where we were was getting economically depressed, and the insurance industry was sort of changing the way they operated, and we just thought there was more opportunity out there. So we sort of threw our three kids and the dog in a U-Haul and went.

Hayes: So tell me the names of the three kids. You have three kids?

Bullers: Well, Susan Bullers who's connected with the University as I'm sure you know.

Hayes: Okay, she's professor here in?

Bullers: Sociology.

Hayes: Sociology.

Bullers: Right, currently running the Women's Resource Center.

Hayes: Director of Women's Resource Center. Okay, good. That's Susan.

Bullers: And we have a son Bob in Little Rock, Arkansas, and another daughter who is in Denver now, Jamie.

Hayes: Okay, good. So you ended up west actually in Denver, or?

Bullers: Yeah. We were there for about ten years and then we moved from there to Montana.

Hayes: Whoa, that's real west.

Bullers: Yeah. And we actually lived there for about 18 years.

Hayes: And where in Montana?

Bullers: Missoula.

Hayes: Missoula.

Bullers: Are you familiar with that?

Hayes: I have been through there.

Bullers: It's a really nice town. It's funny, but we sort of compare it to Wilmington in that it was a college town, had lots of arts, lots of writers there, you know, had snow instead of the ocean. But the flavor of the town was a lot like Wilmington.

Hayes: Well, I want to come back to that because I think that'll be a really good contribution. You've been a few other places and you can compare and contrast. Part of our project is to both talk to individuals, but the overall effort is to kind of get a sense of the visual arts community as a community. So that will be good to come back to. So when did art become important to you?

Bullers: I think I always enjoyed it from the time I was really little. I was always drawing, and my dad actually encouraged it a lot. He was a little something-- he as actually more of an engineer or draftsman, but he always liked that aspect of drawing. He always bought us all kinds of art supplies and stuff, my sister and I when we were little, and we both grew up liking it a lot, and participated in things in school that had to do with art and so forth. So I always liked it.

Hayes: And did you-- for all these moves were you a practicing artist or an amateur or what?

Bullers: You know, I-- well, I was-- I had a regular career. I was working, but I did always take classes at night and a lot of workshops, and I always worked at it even so.

Hayes: And never the college degree or never thought about going that route as far as...

Bullers: Well, I probably might have thought about it, but it was like gee you've got to be so good to do that that it just seemed like that was beyond my capability to really pursue a career that way. But I took a lot of college art classes.

Hayes: Oh, really?

Bullers: Well, mostly art history and that kind of thing.

Hayes: So what was your college background?

Bullers: Well, I have a-- my undergraduate's in education and my graduate's in library science. I was a librarian for 25 years.

Hayes: Oh great, in Montana?

Bullers: Maybe you didn't know.

Hayes: No, I didn't know that. Now I ________________.

Bullers: Well, actually in Colorado and Montana.

Hayes: Excellent. At what level? What kinds of libraries?

Bullers: Well, I've worked in all of them I guess you could say. I worked as a school librarian when I started out, and I was getting my degree at night more or less while I was working at the school. And then when I finished up I worked at the law school, law library which was pretty interesting. That was at the University of Denver. And then when we moved to Missoula I worked in a law library up there a little bit, and then I switched to the university library, and I ended up in a public library. So it's just better jobs kept coming along so I jumped.

Hayes: Were you in the technical or public service? Which side were you in the public library?

Bullers: A little bit of both because, well I was head of technical services at the public library at first and then-- but we all had to work in the public area too because it was small, you know, so you always had to work the reference desk and do that kind of stuff too. You had to sort of do everything.

Hayes: Back to the artwork then.

Bullers: Yes.

Hayes: So if I said to you today, "You're an artist, but what type," in other words are you a painter, a sculptor? I mean, tell us about the ________.

Bullers: Well, they call it two dimensional, right, as opposed to three dimensional. That's what they-- so I work, yeah, paint, I paint.

Hayes: You paint.

Bullers: Yeah, and I use either watercolor, acrylics sometimes oils, but not too often. I actually started out with oils, but I sort of drifted away from that for some reason.

Hayes: You don't know why you drifted away.

Bullers: No, I think it was...

Hayes: Was there concern about the chemicals at that point?

Bullers: Not at that point. Maybe there is now. There's a lot more concern about that now, especially working inside. I do think about that a lot.

Hayes: And of course acrylics have become so good.

Bullers: They're pretty, you know, I don't know what you call it, inert or neutral, you know, I don't think there's anything very toxic about them.

Hayes: And the variety of colors you can get are just amazing that are on the market. Was it always that way? Did you always feel like you had good raw materials, or has that been a change in your lifetime?

Bullers: I think they've gotten better. I know a lot of colors they used to say were fugitive or they weren't very stable or that, and now...

Hayes: And what-- you used fugitive.

Bullers: Well that they would fade in time. And now a lot of them made with new chemicals and so forth I don't think you have to worry about that too much. So there really are good products on the market now.

Hayes: So let's talk about when you were in Missoula you mentioned the art community. What was that like there? In other words was Montana State there or University of?

Bullers: University of Montana.

Hayes: University of Montana, okay.

Bullers: Well, they had-- mostly they had more, probably more writing and theater, but they also had a good art department at the school. One thing that was pretty remarkable at that university is the university bookstore had the most marvelous art supply store. It supported the curriculum and the community, anybody could go there and they had everything under the sun, and the latest thing, and anything the students would want right on campus.

Hayes: For supplies you're saying.

Bullers: Yeah, for supplies.

Hayes: That makes a big difference.

Bullers: It's great. It's great.

Hayes: I think people forget how pivotal that is.

Bullers: Well, they forget how much students have to buy, you know, it's not easy and it's expensive. But having a wonderful art supply store right on campus was a big benefit, I think, to the students there.

Hayes: You took courses there, you said. Were those college courses or more from a what, a community workshop?

Bullers: Yeah, community stuff like continuing ed. Yeah.

Hayes: Any notable visiting artists that we should know about?

Bullers: Not that I can think of off hand. We had-- they had more drama and music stuff come through. So I worked with one woman there that, you know, I took classes from pretty continuously while I was working, but it was a night, you know. I had to go seven to ten a night after working all day. I don't think I could do it today, but it kept me going. And then we had-- they had the, you know, Montana Watercolor Society, you know, that would have shows throughout the state, or Montana Art Association.

Hayes: And you were a part of that?

Bullers: Yeah. I would-- yeah, uh-huh. They would meet in Missoula occasionally and they'd sponsor workshops in either Missoula or other towns around. Actually I did take a workshop from-- Irving Shapiro came out there. I don't know if you've ever heard of him.

Hayes: What was the first name?

Bullers: Irving Shapiro.

Hayes: No, un-un.

Bullers: He's now deceased, but he taught workshops all over the country for a while like a lot of these artists do. And I'm trying to think if anybody else that you would know came out there. But, you know, they'd run a week long workshop and we would do that.

Hayes: Well, this is something that I've run up in many of the interviews, and you might want to go tell us a little bit about the flavor of that because I don't think that other people realize the kind of continuing education element that artists feel they need. And it's from a one to one teacher, right, or maybe a group, small group.

Bullers: Uh-huh, small group.

Hayes: What happens at a, I mean, what happens at a one week workshop?

Bullers: What happens at a workshop?

Hayes: Yeah, I mean...

Bullers: Well, usually they start out with a demonstration. The instructor would probably bring some of their work to show you what they do, but usually you know ahead of time what kind of work they do, so that determines if you want to take their workshop. And they'll do a demonstration. They might talk a little bit about where their work fits in historically, you know, what got them to the place that they're at. And then usually then people work on their own, and if the instructor's good he comes around and visits everybody and talks to them about their individual work and lets them know how they're doing and gives them pointers.

Hayes: Are these geared mainly to technique, or subject, or color, or?

Bullers: It depends on the instructor. They can be very different but, you know, some basic ones they start right out with the technique, and brushes, and color, mixing and all that, but then others that I've taken are more about your self expression. What are you trying to say with your painting regardless of your medium, regardless of what you're doing? You could use any medium you want but the whole thing is what are you trying to say? You know, so that's probably a little more advanced than one that you go that, you know, this is how you mix the colors and this is the step.

Hayes: Yeah, you get past that though after a few goes, you're...

Bullers: You do, yeah.

Hayes: So what were your outlets to show your work in Montana? I mean, that was the-- there is the challenge right there.

Bullers: Right. Of course I really-- well, I was in a little gallery for a while there and entered a few shows, like statewide shows and we would have local shows. So that was kind of-- which is sort of similar to here.

Hayes: Yeah. Well, given, you know, whomever happens to be looking at this maybe from anywhere in the world, give us a sense though, was your subject material living in Montana radically different than here or was it the same? I mean...

Bullers: I don't know that it was different. I did do more what they call plein air, you know, scenery, painting outside.

Hayes: Okay, well tell us what that is, plein air. What is it?

Bullers: Well, probably you've heard that term from other artists.

Hayes: Right.

Bullers: All it means is that you're out in the open air. You're not painting in your studio from a photograph or something. You're out there painting what you see, and you pretty much do it kind of fast because light changes. You might work for a couple of hours and that would be it. You might take it back to the studio and touch it up where you think it needs a little help, but that's the idea is painting on the site. So I did a lot of that out there. And my more recent stuff I've gone into more abstract work now, but of course I do that in a studio. I don't do that outside. But I still to plein air because I like it. It's fun to get outside.

Hayes: Yes. Well, I'm just thinking, I mean, were you drawn to the mountains or the snow or...

Bullers: You know, I just paint what's there. I mean we didn't move there for the scenery. The scenery was beautiful, I have to say. I think it has it on this scenery a little bit but, I mean, you can do so many seascapes and, you know. So, you know what, when you go out to paint, like they say, you just paint what's there and try to make something interesting out of it.

Hayes: So that's your kind of artist motif, you want to make something interesting out of it.

Bullers: Yeah. I mean, I don't have like a big message, or I don't paint out of a sense of social justice or something like that.

Hayes: Okay, which are all valid ways to do it, but yours is to-- for personal...

Bullers: Right. It's just creating something that I enjoy doing and I hope somebody else will enjoy it too. I don't want to-- I guess I'm not into painting ugly. You know, like tragedy or sad events that you see a lot.

Hayes: So in Montana you're in a representational mode, but your goal wasn't to make it exactly the same. In other words you...

Bullers: Right. Right. I think I like the impressionists as far as painting landscapes or outside. I would definitely lean toward impressionistic.

Hayes: Well, you use that term as if we all know what that is. What would you say impression...

Bullers: Well, more like I say trying to capture the light which is what it's more about than to paint every single detail. It's just giving-- so you look at it and it looks like a moment in time.

Hayes: Within the mediums is there one that's...

Bullers: You see the light around here you see everything.

Hayes: Well, and we're going to take later some shots for the record of some of these, and I see one over here on the wall that's a-- is it a fishing boat? Is that what that-- is that...

Bullers: Yeah. That's actually my daughter in her kayak up on Morris Creek.

Hayes: Oh, okay. And that's representational and yet as we look at it, it isn't, like you said...

Bullers: I didn't paint every leaf on every tree.

Hayes: Every leaf. In fact there's hardly any leaves. You have to kind of-- so for an impressionist the person who's looking at it is kind of providing the detail in their own head.

Bullers: Yeah. That's a good way to put it.

Hayes: So I'm saying in other words because we know it's a kayak because of the shape, but I'm not worrying about whether you got every, you know, the bolts right or something like that.

Bullers: Right. Right.

Hayes: Now, within-- for that particular pattern was watercolor better, was acrylic better, it didn't matter to you? I mean, some people are, you know...

Bullers: Actually that's acrylic on paper.

Hayes: Acrylic on paper, oh.

Bullers: It looks-- it's done like watercolor.

Hayes: I, no, I thought-- didn't you think it was... Yes.

Bullers: It's thinned down like you would use watercolor, but it's painted on wet paper with acrylic which is a technique I learned in the workshop, decided to try it out.

Hayes: That's good. So I think I wanted to talk a little bit about watercolor technique because I think that now I've seen lots and lots of watercolor that's like dynamic color or intense color and yet my-- as an amateur looking at it I had this image of watercolor as the washed kind of on the paper, but it seems like it's no longer valid.

Bullers: That's true. Well, it's valid, I'm sure, but they're getting away from it and trying a lot of different things with watercolor. And I guess I, you know, talking about taking different workshops I took one where we used watercolor very thick and opaque and really laid it on there. And it's neat because you can still sort of push it around on the surface and it was a really interesting thing to do. And that was with Skip Lawrence, actually. And he's a, you know, one of these nationally known instructors. And that was just sort of his way of working and I just took a workshop to try to...

Hayes: Well, it sounds to me like maybe the categorization isn't inaccurate when we are trying to categorize by material because it sounds like artists are using it every which way.

Bullers: They are.

Hayes: Because the acrylics some people, you were saying, do it thin, some do it thick or some people even almost physically globing it. That's all I'm saying is...

Bullers: Well, a lot of people even with oils now will start with an acrylic base to get maybe their base colors in and then finish it in oil.

Well, is that because of how long it takes oils to dry?

Bullers: It can be, yeah. It's nice to just get a base down first, you know, and lay it down.

Hayes: So some of our divisions where we go I was thinking of grouping some of the tools based on, you know, painting versus sculpture versus maybe subsets of watercolor or mixed media that those are kind of breaking down as far as what they mean, because if you say watercolorist I kind of think sometimes of your plein air at the ocean.

Bullers: Right, very light and delicate.

Hayes: Yeah, around here anyway it's plein air, or even if you said oriental watercolor then the subject matter and the style fits.

Bullers: I think that style really is still the same.

Hayes: Is still-- is the same.

Bullers: Yeah.

Hayes: There's a tradition to say it should be like that.

Bullers: Right.

Hayes: But watercolor doesn't mean...

Bullers: Watercolor is changing a lot.

Hayes: Yeah, it doesn't mean as much. And acrylic doesn't mean anything, right? Acrylic is paint.

Bullers: Yeah. Yeah, because it can be thick like oil or thinned down like water color.

Hayes: Yeah, right. Is there another? Are those the three products you mainly use or is there another pigment based product out there. What about charcoal, or?

Bullers: Well, that's mostly for drawing or sketching although I don't suppose it has to be. You could do a finished product in charcoal, certainly. And a lot if it I see a lot in pencil which they call graphite, you know, maybe colored or maybe just black and white which is really remarkable, you have a lot of stuff.

Hayes: And crayon or in other words...

Bullers: Well, there's pastel, of course, and there's oil pastels.

Hayes: What is pastel? I don't know what that is.

Bullers: Pastel is like chalk, but the colors in that are remarkable. You get beautiful colors in pastel.

Hayes: Have you dabbled in that or not really?

Bullers: Just a little.

Hayes: Just a little.

Bullers: Because I won a set one time as a door prize so naturally I did try it out, but it's not something I've done a lot of. That's another thing that they worry about the dust being toxic. You have to be very careful with that. And I know people who have quit using it because of that. You'll see people do it and then blow it, you know, get the dust off. Not a good idea.

Hayes: Now, you said you were moving to more abstract and I'm looking up and we'll later get this. And are the same materials, or does that drive a different...

Bullers: This is totally different because of the paper it's done on. It's done on yupo paper. I don't know if you ever heard of that.

Hayes: No. Spell that for us.

Bullers: Y-u-p-o. It's like painting on plastic. The paint sits on the surface and it doesn't soak in at all. And you can push the paint around on the surface, you and add it and you can lift it.

Hayes: Are you still pushing with the brush or something else?

Bullers: Yeah, or you can use tools. I've use like a piece of mat board, a piece of cardboard, push it around. You can blow it with a, I don't know, you could blow it through a straw and get it to go, or you can squirt it with water and it'll go make puddles. It's very exciting, I think, and it's something I've been working on a couple years.

Hayes: And the medium is acrylic still?

Bullers: Watercolor.

Hayes: Oh, it's watercolor, think watercolor. And then it's a plastic ________.

Bullers: But it does stick, but is does stick. I mean, if you put the watercolor on it like that with a big brush it's on there, but you can also go back with Q-tip or another brush and pick it out and make shapes.

Hayes: Interesting.

Bullers: It's very interesting. I've actually-- well, I took one workshop down at Springmaid in South Carolina where this instructor George James was working on that. And I've gone and worked on it a lot and I've actually taught a couple workshops here in Wilmington using that.

Hayes: Where did you teach the workshops?

Bullers: Well, one for the Wilmington Art Association, and they run just one day workshops at the arboretum every month. They have a different artist. And for that Make Art, which is like a new little art school that's opened up.

Hayes: Yeah, tell us about that. Somebody else mentioned that. Who's involved in that?

Bullers: Loulie Scharf is the owner and manager.

Hayes: The first name?

Bullers: Loulie. She was an art student at UNCW, and I'm not exactly sure, she just graduated last year or year before and decided to open this art school. She has a lot of kid's classes. They bought the old Christmas store up there on Oleander.

Hayes: Oh, that's right, I've seen that. Yeah, we'll have to talk to her.

Bullers: It's really neat.

Hayes: Yeah, we have to talk to her. That's a great concept.

Bullers: Yeah. Yeah. And she wants to get into more adult classes and she's got a lot scheduled, and...

Hayes: Let's say you're teaching this-- the Wilmington Art Association is logical because the participants are probably members. They're other artists who want to do advanced and most of them know something. Okay, now what do you think you're going to get if you're teach for, say, this independent school? Who will be the audience for that?

Bullers: Well, it was people that have painted before. They're curious about yupo and how to work on it and want to try something new.

Hayes: And people say that, yupo? I mean if you say that in the lingo that's what people...

Bullers: Yes. It's hard to attract people to the class because they don't what it is to begin with which makes it a little difficult. But I think it's catching on. More and more people are using it. And several people that have been in my workshop got paintings in the spring show that the art association has every year, so I felt pretty happy about that.

Hayes: But you wouldn't have to do abstract with it?

Bullers: No, oh no. You can do...

Hayes: Some people are doing...

Bullers: I've done more realistic stuff with it too, but it's still pretty loose looking. It's not super detailed.

Hayes: Because it's movable as you work on it.

Bullers: Yeah.

Hayes: That's interesting.

Well, how long does it take that to dry?

Bullers: It dries right away.

Right away?

Bullers: Well, maybe a little longer than regular watercolor because it has to evaporate because it doesn't soak in. It depends on how thick you put the paint on. That's why I have that hair dryer up there. I do dry it with a hairdryer.

Hayes: Oh, okay, good, a few rules of your trade. So it's not your hair that you're using it for.

Bullers: No.

Hayes: Well, that's interesting.

Bullers: Well, I've found it real exciting. I've been doing that for a couple of years now.

Hayes: And did a company develop this paper?

Bullers: They did.

Hayes: That drove the...

Bullers: Uh-huh. And they never intended it for watercolor. It was for signage, I believe, or drafting. You can draw on it with a very fine ink pen and get real fine lines because, of course, it's perfectly smooth, but somebody along the line decided to try watercolor on it, I guess, and it's caught on.

Hayes: That is great. And once it's dry it's...

Bullers: It's pretty stable.

Hayes: That was my question.

Bullers: Because I have them stacked, you know, upstairs and they're okay, but you could scrub them off if you wanted to, and I've done that when I didn't like something. Put it in the tub and scrub it off.

Hayes: Scrub it off, oh my goodness.

Bullers: Yeah you can, although-- or you can give it a light spray, a fixative that will keep it from coming off, but when it's under glass I don't know that I'd hang it in the bathroom and get it all steamed up.

Hayes: Interesting how you've hung it. You've suspended it. Is that how many people are doing it? In other words...

Bullers: No, my framer did that. She came up with that idea.

Hayes: Yeah, interesting, to stress the physical...

Bullers: Float it.

Hayes: Oh yeah, floating, more of the physical nature of it as opposed to just a mat around.

Bullers: Right. And I don't do them all that way because I can't afford to. But I had a show at UNCW. You probably know, last January, and it was all these yupo paintings.

Hayes: Oh, good.

Bullers: I had about 20 of them in there, and I had a grant from the-- what is it? National Endowment down through the arts, you know, state.

Hayes: State Arts Council.

Bullers: Yeah, State Arts Council.

Hayes: Did you have to go through Fayetteville for that one?

Bullers: Yeah.

Hayes: Yeah, because we don't have a local one here.

Bullers: So I was able to write a grant for that for framing because framing 25 pieces is pricy. So I got a nice little chunk of money from them to do that which was great.

Hayes: Did you find a response? What was the response to the work, I mean?

Bullers: Well, everybody liked it. I can't say that I sold anything, but I think I got them out there and I generated a lot of interest. So I was pleased and it was wonderful to have the venue just to get your work out there, and so I was real happy about that.

Hayes: Let's talk a little bit about the art scene here in Wilmington because you at least bring some credibility of having seen other ones and so in comparison. You're active in the Wilmington Art Association, right?

Bullers: Right. Right.

Hayes: Give us a sense of what that group is.

Bullers: Well, I've belonged to that group ever since I lived here. We've sort of been shuttled around as far as a meeting place, which is a little bit disturbing because it's a big group. It's-- I don't know whether they have 200 members now, well over a hundred. It's fluctuated a little bit. But we used to meet at the Art Museum when they were downtown. And right now we don't have a place to call our own. We have to rent space, usually, to have a meeting. I believe they're going to meet at the arboretum. I think the arboretum is letting us meet there. I'm not sure if they pay rent or not, but anyhow...

Hayes: A meeting in the sense of a...

Bullers: We have a monthly meeting. We have, you know, a regular set of officers. I was president in '93 I think it was for a year. But they sponsor workshops. They also sponsor the Wilmington Gallery which is now located on Castle Street.

Hayes: It wouldn't be '93 was it?

Bullers: What did I say?

Hayes: You said 1993. I think you meant 2003.

Bullers: Oh, yeah. I must have meant 2003. Wow.

Hayes: You weren't here in...

Bullers: Right. Right. Sorry.

Hayes: That's all right.

Bullers: But anyhow they used to have the gallery down at Chandler's Warf and moved out of there for various reasons, rent and, you know.

Hayes: Some water problems.

Bullers: Leaky ceiling and stuff which was not fixed. So they're on Castle Street now. I don't have anything in there at this point, but I did when they first started. And I think it's a bit of a struggle on Castle Street.

Hayes: It is a struggle. You're not getting-- I mean, I think anybody would admit you just don't get the same walk traffic. You don't get that tourist who might be interested and so forth. So it's a nice space, but it's-- location is always a challenge. What's its purpose? Isn't it to support each other? Is that the main calling?

Bullers: It is. I think it is. It's to support the arts in Wilmington. It's certainly open to anybody. And I think the workshops have been a big draw and also providing shows. We recently had a show out at Landfall and it was in conjunction with the Landfall Foundation. It raised a little money for them, a little money for the art association. We run a big spring show which I'm sure you're aware of during the Azalea Festival.

Hayes: Now a show, you want to explain what that is? A juried show is inviting, what, a specialist in to...

Bullers: Right. They hire a juror to come in and select. People can usually submit, say, two pieces by slide or taking a picture in, and the judge picks what goes in the show.

Hayes: Now with the digital world are you starting-- are you accepting stuff...

Bullers: We did it last year. We did it by digital, but I think the judge for next year doesn't want to do it that way, so it kind of depends on the judge, how they want to deal with it. And some places do slides and some don't want to deal with that. So it sort of depends on your judge, I think, how they submit. It's a lot easier than hauling pictures in because everybody brings in their two pictures and the judge selects some and you've got store the others and, you know, it's a real hassle, but probably what they'll do...

Hayes: And do the painters then sell generally?

Bullers: Oh, yeah. That's sort of a big money maker for the art association. The framed pictures and at the same time you can put what they call bin pieces, unframed pieces which a lot of people buy. They're usually very good quality and a lot less expensive, and they usually go really well. So we make good money on that show.

Hayes: Let me ask you the question that, you know, I as an outside observer, the Wilmington Art Association has a mix of people in it, but many of them are people who love painting or some form of art, but don't necessarily have to make a living from it.

Bullers: Right.

Hayes: Do you feel that the professional artist, the person who's, you know, this is what they do for their existence doesn't participate in that or does or, I mean, what's been your experience?

Bullers: I would say maybe minimally. They might enter the shows occasionally, but for the most part I would say no.

Hayes: Virginia Wright-Frierson has always been, you know, supportive of that, or Mary Ellen Golden.

Bullers: Yeah. A lot of them join, you know, and support it that way.

Hayes: Yeah right, but it isn't their normal venue to get their work out.

Bullers: Right. They have other places.

Hayes: Now you mentioned that you had galleries. Do you have galleries now that represent you?

Bullers: Uh-huh.

Hayes: Who are your?

Bullers: Well, I have work at Corporate Canvas downtown. They have all the abstract stuff down there which is what they want, and they have an online catalog which-- art gallery online.

Hayes: Are they aiming to a corporate world? Is that what they...

Bullers: Uh-huh.

Hayes: And do you find more willingness on the corporate side to...

Bullers: I don't know. I don't feel like I've sold a whole lot there frankly. But there's not a lot of venues to get that kind of work out. A lot of the galleries it seems what is successful are local scenes and bright colors, and it's very difficult, I think, to get your work out there.

Hayes: Yeah. Well, I think it is too.

Bullers: And sometimes these smaller shows you do as well as anything. Fortunately I don't have to make a living at it. It's nice to keep my head above water for all the stuff I spend on it, but. Like our show at Landfall was really successful. I almost always sell something out there. And they used to combine, well, like the arboretum show that they just had this past weekend, they used to combine Art in the Gardens where you could go out and paint in individual gardens and, you know, people would always buy that. They always buy their painting of their own garden. They love it.

Hayes: Do you do commission work at all? Many artists do.

Bullers: I have occasionally, but I really don't prefer to do that.

Hayes: Yeah. You like to do what you want to do.

Bullers: Do what I want to do. If they like it fine.

Hayes: But since you're not as driven to the economics of it then are you wrapped up in whether people do buy it or not? I mean it's important.

Bullers: Well, it is kind of because it's a real validation of what you're doing. It's, you know, it's nice to just paint and enjoy what you do. And I probably would do it anyhow, but it's a big motivator if somebody else buys your work. You think, boy, I must be on to something, or I must be doing something right, or they show their appreciation for what you've done. It's real rewarding.

Hayes: Are you comfortable that once they buy it they have control to do-- where they put it? I mean, some artists are kind of always alarmed at how people reframe it or change it.

Bullers: Oh, I don't care about that. I would be disturbed if they reproduced it and sold it which they're not allowed to do.

Hayes: Well, that's illegal.

Bullers: That's the only thing that would bother me. Other than that, enjoy it. If they like it in a, you know, some other kind of frame they should enjoy it and have it the way they want it. It's fine.

Hayes: You let it go then.

Bullers: Oh yeah. You have to. It's only happened a couple of times where I had a piece and it sold like almost as soon as I got it done, you know, and then you think, gee I didn't have a chance to enjoy that very much before it went, but mostly it's fine.

Hayes: Well, I think one of the dilemmas is the amount of time that you put in, and then the price you have to put on correspondingly puts arts in a kind of a stratosphere that many people can't afford, and yet if the artist gives it away it isn't fair. Have you toyed with the idea of the reproduction? Have you done ________ that?

Bullers: See that's what Corporate Canvas does. They're big on reproductions. And I don't know how I feel about that. I still waffle about that a little bit. But the thing is they would take like a picture like this and not reproduce it on paper like that where it would look exactly the same. Their idea is they blow them up on canvas and make a big canvas out of it. So it's a separate piece of art really. It isn't...

Hayes: Are they using the giclée? Is that what they're using there as far as...

Bullers: Uh-huh. Oh, yeah.

Hayes: So do you think some of yours will go bigger? Is what they're hoping to do?

Bullers: Well, they've done one that way and sold it on a big--

Hayes: What was your-- how did you feel?

Bullers: Actually it looked kind of neat. It looks like a whole different piece of artwork because it's on canvas. It's printed on canvas and it's bigger.

Hayes: Interesting. It changes it really.

Bullers: Yeah, which I really prefer than to sell exact duplicate of the painting because then if somebody buys the original and they see somebody else has it. But if they see it in a different, you know, medium almost they're not going to feel like that's their picture.

Hayes: Well, it is a different work really. It's a different size.

Bullers: So I like that idea better than reproducing it exactly the way the original is. It's a funny business and I'm still not sure how I feel about it, but the market is flooded with reproductions and mostly that's all people can afford.

Hayes: That's right, yeah that's right. Do you keep a log and record of all your sales over time and so forth?

Bullers: I keep a record of everything.

Hayes: So at least you know where they went and kind of the history.

Bullers: Uh-huh, and hopefully I have the name of who bought it.

Hayes: Well, that's great.

Bullers: Well, I use it for a mailing list. Any time there's a show or anything I can send them a card.

Hayes: Well, one of the reasons that we're hoping to put some of our work up on the internet is that it's my sense that the art world becomes lost. Most of your product goes into private homes, correct? I mean, that's-- now you said you did get a PPD through-- was that through the Raleigh dealer that contacted your dealer, is that...

Bullers: Yes. What is it, Artworks up there? No, contacted me.

Hayes: Oh, good. Good.

Bullers: But the dealer from Raleigh was doing all the purchasing for them.

Hayes: Were they interested more in the abstract or in more of the...

Bullers: The abstract. Although the one I sold them did have faces in it, but it's, I don't know, sort of floating faces. They're not-- I mean, you can't tell what the people are doing or anything.

(crew talk)

Hayes: A question that I had about Wilmington is kind of like do you see any change coming here. I mean there's so many people moving here, so many artists coming.

Bullers: There are a lot of artists.

Hayes: But is there any change in how people are approaching art or the structure?

Bullers: Boy, I don't know. You know, it's such a mixed bag in this town. Like you say, there's the Wilmington Art Association. There's a lot of professional artists that do not belong to that. There's the new GWAC which was the Arts Council, the Greater Wilmington...

Hayes: They're just trying to get going.

Bullers: Yeah. And they're trying to get off the ground and I don't know how much success they're having, and the galleries sort of come and go. We've had a lot of nice galleries in this town that have gone by the wayside.

Hayes: I know, it's tough.

Bullers: And they had really nice work, I thought, that Chase Gallery for a while and Simmons Wright. They had more contemporary big splashy stuff and I don't know why they couldn't make it. Because then I was down talking to-- I don't know if I'm supposed to name names or not, but at Walls Gallery yesterday and they have all these Russian artists in that have prices like out of sight and they're selling them. So it isn't like people aren't willing to spend money on art.

Hayes: Are they selling them locally?

Bullers: Yeah.

Hayes: Or nationally? Because he's both...

Bullers: Some locally, yeah.

Hayes: Well, I think one of the dilemmas is that people who can afford art don't necessarily look to a local gallery. I mean, they can have a contact in what, New York or Chicago or where they lived before, or. I mean, I wondered in Montana with all of that kind of Western art...

Bullers: Yeah, that's big out there.

Hayes: Was their market not even necessarily Montana. It probably was national and international.

Bullers: Yeah, could be. I think a lot of it was pretty similar as to what's here. You know, it's hard to push the local stuff and that other, you know, big western stuff had a big market there.

Hayes: Have you considered taking and going to trying to find a gallery like somewhere else so you're viewed as a, you know, a...

Bullers: Right. I think that's really important and it probably is what needs to be done. I just haven't made the road trip or whatever it takes to do it. It takes a lot of effort and, you know, maybe...

Hayes: To be in Raleigh or be in South Carolina or somewhere.

Bullers: Right, which I think is...

Hayes: You need to be exotic, right? In other words you would...

Bullers: Right. You'd be from someplace else.

Hayes: Some place else. I do think that local artists many times-- what's the old saying? You know, you're not appreciated in your own hometown. And maybe we are unwilling to pay the price sometimes thinking that it's a local artist.

Bullers: Right. Right. Right.

Hayes: That is a dilemma. Now the other one, of course, is the gallery system is a struggle because you give up a lot to a gallery. What's a relationship with a gallery you give up...

Bullers: Oh, a big percentage. It depends. It can be 30, 40, 50 percent, you know, and but they have overhead and they, you know, they-- you can't exactly begrudge them that because they're getting your work out there. It wouldn't be out there otherwise. So you have to...

Hayes: Understand that. They have a-- they're marketing, right?

Bullers: See what works for you. Uh-huh.

Hayes: And that's another form of validation to an artist, right, if they're represented because the person...

Bullers: Uh-huh.

Hayes: Now, have you used the internet as a tool at all?

Bullers: Well, I have a website which I built myself, but it works pretty well. But I don't really use it as a selling tool, but it's nice to be able to say to people that ask you about your work if you're at a show or something. You'd say, "Well, you can see more of my work here and see what I do." And I've had a few people contact me through that, but just about other things, you know, not necessarily to buy artwork, but questions or something like that. So I just think it's good to have it out there.

Hayes: Yeah. Yeah. Do you see yourself doing more of the teaching? It sounds like you enjoy that.

Bullers: I really did enjoy that a lot. I don't know.

Hayes: And it's not about the money as much as the interaction. Is that...

Bullers: Yeah. Yeah.

Hayes: Now, do you have a set of-- you know, one of the things I always notice, and maybe I'm generalizing here, but it seems like women in particular many times develop kind of an art support group of friends and so forth. Do the men do that too?

Bullers: Well, it's really kind of interesting. We have a few men in the art association and they're always there and they go to everything. They just put up with all these women, and it doesn't bother them. I think they like it. But their interest in art is the same as the women's interest in art. It is mostly women but, I mean, we all enjoy the men and they, you know, they just carry on.

Hayes: Who are the people you work with most closely?

Bullers: Well, I do have a group. There's like five of us that paint every week, and we go out usually on Thursdays. We usually do plein air painting. When the weather's nice we go outside and we just go out for a couple of hours and paint and have a good time.

Hayes: And who is that group?

Bullers: Dee Gallant, Angela Glasceone [ph?]. These people they're all in the Wilmington Art Association. Well, maybe not. Mary Smith. There's Mary E. Smith and, well Ruth Hodges [ph?].

Hayes: Now wait. Mary E. Smith is your person?

Bullers: Yes.

Hayes: Okay, good. I've seen her work around. I didn't know that she was local. So Mary E. Smith, okay. Ruth Hodges?

Bullers: Ruth Hodges when she's up to it.

Hayes: I was going to Ruth is a senior citizen of sorts.

Bullers: Yes she is, but she used to paint. We used to go to Southport for a class every week, and a whole bunch of us would go over there every week and do figure drawing. And she used to go but she's, you know, she's-- it's a long day is getting harder for her, but sometimes you go over to her studio and paint.

Hayes: Yeah. That's a great space.

Bullers: Yeah, and Kay Ballard and Kay Bilisoly, so whoever we can get together on Thursdays we usually go out and paint.

Hayes: You know, art is kind of an isolating process. Is this an attempt to reduce that?

Bullers: Right. Yes, I think it is. I enjoy that because, like I say, I really prefer doing this abstract stuff, but it is isolating. You're home doing your own thing and I like getting out with others. And we talk about each other's work and give each other a hand. And especially when you're painting outside it's nice to have a few other artists around. You don't feel quite so stupid out on the street painting. People come up to you and I just say, "Oh, there's a whole bunch of us here today."

Hayes: Well, I've seen lots of images of-- in Japan and Europe and so forth it's not uncommon to have large groups, right, of classes and groups and...

Bullers: Right and it's really a fun thing to do.

Hayes: So some of it is social.

Bullers: It is for sure.

Hayes: And support.

Bullers: Uh-huh.

Hayes: But not competition?

Bullers: No, I don't think so because we're all sort of at different stages and we still all paint differently. I mean, we can all go out in the same spot and everybody's painting will be totally different, different medium. I'm usually using acrylic. A couple of them use oil. And one, Kay Ballard, always uses pastel or maybe oil. We go back and forth, but she's really good at pastel. So everybody's work is different.

Hayes: So at the end of the day and you all look at what you saw you all go...

Bullers: We always say, "Where did you get that?" Well, we just sort of are amazed how we could all be in the same spot and everybody's painting is different.

Hayes: Well, that is great.

Bullers: Which is fun.

Hayes: And that's kind of an interesting comment about why we could still have so many more artists because we never see all of it do we?

Bullers: Right. Right.

Hayes: It's a very unique product. Do you have people that you feel that you've followed or that you hold up in admiration in the art world, or in other words, is there some either mentor or model that you yourself like?

Bullers: Oh, I don't know, but I know you've interviewed Ruth Hodges and she really has been an inspiration. She is an amazing person, I think. She's well up in years, has been painting for I don't know how many years.

Hayes: Oh, probably 40 or more.

Bullers: At least, and her work has progressed, which she's changed a lot, which I feel I have too. Starting out much more realistic and now she's doing these big wild abstract things which I just love. And I've sort of done that, I guess, started out much more realistic and now I'm much more into abstract.

Hayes: Is one of your goals to keep growing?

Bullers: Yes.

Hayes: In other words I think people forget that.

Bullers: If I can keep going like she has I'd be pretty happy.

Hayes: But I mean growing as well as far as in your art.

Bullers: Yeah. Yeah.

Hayes: I mean, do you get bored after a while?

Bullers: Well, that's why I keep-- no I don't. That's why I keep changing. I try something new. I would imagine-- I can't imagine-- you see some artists where it's the same really through the years. They found something that sells. They found a thing that really works for them, and maybe they enjoy doing the same thing over and over, but I don't. I have to keep trying something new.

Hayes: I don't think many do. I think most people want to change. I'm going to end now, but I just want to give you a last chance about-- so what has art meant for you in your existence. We've talked about family, we've talked about other things and you had a career. Why is art so important to you?

Bullers: I don't know. I guess it's just something I really enjoy and it's just really hard to say. I get a lot of satisfaction out of it. I think it keeps your mind active because when you're doing that you're really concentrating. You're thinking the whole time, "Now, do I want to put this here, do I want to put that there, or how do I want to do this?" And I think it's just totally absorbing. And it's hard for me to say. I just enjoy doing it.

Hayes: Well, we're glad that you enjoy doing it. We're glad that you talked with us.

Bullers: Thank you.

Hayes: Well, thank you.

Bullers: It was a pleasure.

Hayes: All right.

(break in recording)

Hayes: Guess what? We're back. We just want to get a few pictures at the end for someone who might be viewing the tape, right?

Bullers: All right.

Hayes: So now we're looking at this recent work that was on this certain paper called...

Bullers: Yupo.

Hayes: Yupo. So just give us a sense of what you were hoping to capture here.

Bullers: Well, this is part of a series of four, and it's called organic progression. And when you see them all together they sort of flow together.

Hayes: Okay and I'm doing a close up here.

Bullers: They sort of have organic looking parts to them, maybe little critters and fern-ie stuff and possibly a little ________.

Hayes: What size are these, then? These are...

Bullers: Oh I think that's 20...

Hayes: Like a 20x30 or something like that? And this is the one we talked about where you used the technique of floating.

Bullers: Well, that's the way it's framed, right, ________. This is actually acrylic. This painting is my back yard.

Hayes: Interesting.

Bullers: And it had a whole lot of buildings in the back.

Hayes: And this is what you mean as representational that it's a fence and trees, but they're not as I get closer.

Bullers: Not totally.

Hayes: Yeah, no. I mean, not realistic. In fact if I got really close up and looked at it...

Bullers: You'd see brush strokes.

Hayes: I was going to say, there's no leaves. I'm getting closer and closer and closer and it just leaves. And so my eye is putting the context in. And the sky is a sky because we think there should be a sky, right?

Bullers: Right.

Hayes: But if I went extremely close, okay, and looking at the top of a tree it becomes abstract, right?

Bullers: Right.

Hayes: Interesting.

Bullers: They're all shapes.

Hayes: And the framing is wonderful. That's a gold frame. Makes a difference, right?

Bullers: People-- I've heard that a gold frame makes the best transition from the painting to the wall. Now whether that's...

Hayes: Okay, now we're back to...

Bullers: this is another abstract on yupo paper, watercolor.

Hayes: Okay, great. Different colors, much more brighter with some reds and oranges and.

Bullers: It actually has a little bit of iridescent gold paint acrylic on there, a few marks.

Hayes: Interesting. All right.

Bullers: That's also part of a series. There's four of those. They were all in that show at UNCW.

Hayes: Excellent. Okay, now this next one here is a little harder. I'm just going to be further away.

Bullers: Do you want me to take this ________?

Hayes: Yeah, if you could shut that off it would probably be-- could see it better. It's just the light from the window and that's okay.

Bullers: You want it on.

Hayes: I think we're just not really going to get this. This is the one you said your daughter doing the kayaking, but more traditional.

Bullers: Yeah.

Hayes: All right, wonderful and thank you again for showing us this.

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