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Dot Courson
“On Hidden Creek”
Courson works on an oil painting in her studio in Pontotoc.
“A Beautiful Day”
“Snow Shadows”
Courson works on a painting in her studio in Pontotoc.
Courson’s place in Pontotoc serves as both an art studio and an art gallery.
Courson mixes oil paint on a palette.

Food & living editor
Dot Courson
“On Hidden Creek”
Courson works on an oil painting in her studio in Pontotoc.
“A Beautiful Day”
“Snow Shadows”
Courson works on a painting in her studio in Pontotoc.
Courson’s place in Pontotoc serves as both an art studio and an art gallery.
Courson mixes oil paint on a palette.

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PONTOTOC – Artist Dot Courson considers herself a lifelong learner, probably because her early education was limited. She didn’t begin school until the second grade, and after eighth grade, she left to get married.
“When you don’t go to school, your mind has to be somewhere,” said Courson, 69. “You become creative.”
Even as young as 5, Courson was drawn to art.
“The smell of color crayons was just something that set me off like a recess bell,” she said. “It was an immediate reaction.”
Her father is the one who taught her how to draw.
“He was very talented,” she said. “He was deaf and tongue-tied, but I was so proud of him. He showed me perspective. We were both night owls, and we’d sit at the kitchen table with a paper sack between us. He’d draw our house, or a car or a toy.”
Courson’s father worked long hours in a factory and her mother had some mental issues, so Courson was put in foster care at an early age.
“I married at age 16 to get out of foster homes,” Courson said. “At 18, I went to work in a hospital as a nurses’ aid, and I got my GED. At the hospital, they wanted me to go for my RN, but I didn’t think I could do it. The hospital paid for me to go to nursing school.”
Courson earned her degree as a registered nurse, and then went on to get her bachelor’s in nursing from Mississippi University for Women, and her master’s from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“I really, really worked hard for that RN degree, and I saw that as an opportunity to better myself,” she said. “I just kept going.”
While she was in college, Courson took every art elective she could, and even enrolled in a few art classes. She bought some art supplies of her own and began trying to learn on her own.
“I was working as an artist part time, but people didn’t know me as an artist,” she said. “They knew me as a nurse.”
While working as a nurse administrator at a home-health agency based out of Columbus, Courson starting taking private art lessons at night from Mississippi artist Billy Kirk, who had studied with master artists.
“I just wanted to learn technique,” she said. “I hunger for knowledge because of that early lack of education.”
Kirk started her with watercolors, then acrylics, then oils.
“When I got to oil, I didn’t ever go back to anything else,” she said. “I love painting with a palette knife.”
The first painting Courson ever sold was a still life of flowers. It went to a beautician who was in Courson’s home, saw the oil painting, and liked it. She sold the first portrait she ever painted to the model who posed for it.
“I took the money I made and bought more supplies,” she said. “It was like feeding my habit.”
When Courson and her husband, Jackie, whom she married in 1986, built their home in Pontotoc, she used a bonus room upstairs as her studio.
In 2017, they added a studio and gallery behind the home so she could paint, teach workshops, and display her art.
“I teach one or two workshops a year,” she said. “My desire now, though, is just to paint, and not teach. You don’t stay the same as an artist – you morph over time.”
Courson considers herself a Southern landscape artist. She paints scenes from the woods around her home, from places she’s been and childhood memories, and sometimes purely from imagination.
“I still like to paint cotton in the Delta,” she said. “That was such a special time in my life, falling asleep on the back of a cotton wagon at the end of the day, or laying on a cotton sack between rows in the field, smelling the dirt. That’s what I think about when Im creating my work. I know a lot of people relate to that.
“My paintings aren’t playful, there are no shocking colors,” she said. “They represent a time of day, a place, a time. Many of them are nostalgic. I used to be apologetic about that, but not anymore.”
Courson works two to four hours a day, four days a week in her studio. Some canvases are as small as 5-by-7 inches; others are as large as 60-by-48 inches; but the most common is 30-by-40 inches.
“Starting a painting is really quick,” she said. “I can get 90% of one done in just a few hours. It’s the finishing that takes a while. I spend the most time on the last 10%.”
Lately, Courson has been trying an artistic style called Tonalism, which was started in the 1880s  and made popular by artists like George Inness and James McNeill Whistler.
“I’m kind of in that mood right now,” she said. “It’s reduced detail, a narrow range of value. You go for more of an emotional impact. The color values are limited, and there’s not a lot of contrast. Since COVID, I’ve become more uninhibited. I’m not scared a bit to go out on a limb and try things. I’m doing things people don’t usually associate with me.”
But Courson always stays true to one thing in her art: She paints what she knows.
“I don’t care about going to France or Italy to paint,” she said. “Why on earth would I want to paint France? I don’t love France. It’s not part of me. There’s something so authentic about painting what I know and what I love.”
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What: Dot Courson Studio & Gallery
Where: 63 Hidden Creek, Pontotoc
Time: Open by appointment
Info: Call (662) 617-3100 or find her at www.dotcourson.com
Food & living editor
Ginna covers food, entertainment and lifestyles for the Daily Journal.
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