Stark Artist Profile: Terri Howard

Each week we will be featuring a different Stark County artist. Get to know the amazing talent in our community.

By Laurie Fife Harbert

Though trained as a graphic designer at Kent State University in the late 1970s, after a two-year stint with a large ad agency, Canton native Terri Howard decided commercial art wasn’t for her. Instead, she sought out other ways to earn a living, all the while keeping art in her life as her passion and hobby. Her amazingly intricate drawing talent became her artistic focus, and though her main media choice of colored pencils and markers is relatively traditional, her preferred background for her art goes beyond the expected paper, stretched canvas, or wood. Terri’s ‘canvas’ of choice is dried gourds in a variety of shapes and sizes.

How did the artist choose such an unusual vehicle for her work? In a phrase, passions collided. An avid interest in backyard bird watching led her to make gourd bird houses as gifts for family and friends. The next obvious step was to apply her drawing skills to them, and the gourds then came into their own as true works of art. The outdoors has always been an important aspect in Terri’s life and is part of why she chose gourds on which to showcase her talent. “I feel a strong connection with nature and the outdoors and enjoy using a product in my art that originated from the earth. It is nature’s beauty, tenacity, and timelessness that inspires me each time I pick up a gourd and study its individuality. Nature has already created the art. I just take it to another level for people to enjoy,” she stated.

While gourds may seem limiting to others, they are viewed as a creative challenge by Terri. Shape, natural color, and size all play a role in determining the piece’s theme and purpose. In addition to stand-alone works of art, she fashions them into functional items such as vases, containers, lights, and ornaments. Though already dried when she purchases them from growers within Ohio, the gourds require much cleaning and preparation by Howard before she can begin to apply her artwork to the surface. Besides drawing on them, Howard may also enhance a gourd with carving, drilling, burning, staining, or painting. Her themes and subject matter can encompass anything from Native American and western motifs to animals and nature to abstract shapes and designs.

Howard’s gourd art is beginning to gain ground in the fine art community, with a following of avid collectors both locally and nationally. She has been showing and selling her colorful gourds since 2009 at various galleries, shops, and sales shows. One of her larger gourds, titled “A Tribute to the Canton Palace Theatre,” was accepted into The Little Art Gallery of the North Canton Public Library’s 2015 ‘May Show,’ a juried show notably difficult to get into. Her work is currently featured at the ROY G BIV Gallery in Columbus, the Wendell August store in Berlin, and this spring will available at The Shop on Canal in Bolivar. Terri may be contacted through her website: www.gourddrawing.com.

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