Sense of Place Activities

Let’s draw it with Mary Helen Maskill, WFMA Community Engagement Manager! You’ll need crayons or color pencils and white paper of any kind.

Share your work of art with #wfmaartstories.


Another Cloudy Day

drawing of storm over mountains

Another cloudy Monday of quarantine…let’s draw it with Mary Helen Maskill, WFMA Community Engagement Manager! You’ll need crayons or color pencils and white paper of any kind.

Storms are an inherent part of North Texas weather. For inspiration, read below American artist Miner Killbourne Kellogg’s description of a Texas thunderstorm in the 1870s. Then, create your own version of a storm or the weather you see, using color. Think about how color can describe a place and a time of day. How do artists use color to create a mood in an artwork?

Kellogg saw in a Texas thunderstorm:
– an impromptu musical event takes place
– the poetry of the scene—with a half-moon now and then eclipsed by dark clouds passing over the clear starry vault of bluish grey
-three grand and graceful cumuli (large clouds) in close company charged with electricity and frequently emitting lambent (luminous) flames defining their exquisite forms overlaying each other as do scenes in a theatre
– a vivid flash would add vigor to the bugle’s (small trumpet’s) blast
– blinding circular and angular and perpendicular sharp and cutting lines of fluid (rain), as variation to the hilarious passages of the most noted and popular of operatic music

Wow, he saw all that! What do you see?!

#wfmaathome #wfmamsutexas #wfmaartstories

Kellogg Citation: Friend, L. (1967), “M. K. Kellogg’s Texas Journal 1872,” Austin: University of Texas; and Powers, J. & D. (2000), “Texas Painters, Sculptors and Graphic Artists: a Biographical Dictionary of Artists in Texas before 1942,” Austin, TX: Woodmont Books; www.askart.com.


The Value of Place

Polly Cox, M Priddy Home, 1976, Watercolor, From the Permanent Collection of the Wichita Falls Museum of Art at MSU Texas
Polly Cox, M Priddy Home, 1976, Watercolor, From the Permanent Collection of the Wichita Falls Museum of Art at MSU Texas

As we ‘shelter in place’ we can discover the value of our place through art! 

Award winning watercolor artist from Wichita Falls, Polly Hoffman Cox (1921-2005), did just that, to identify and understand the culture of our area. Through her careful observations, she recorded land, historical places, and moments in time. As an active member of the Wichita Falls art community, she served numerous terms as president of the Wichita Falls Art Association, which named her Outstanding Woman in the Arts and an honorary lifetime member. Her work is included in the Let Me Show You This exhibition at WFMA.  

Polly Cox’s watercolor paintings of historic homes and buildings are captured in a book titled Wichita Falls in Watercolor 1880-1922published in 1982. Of these paintings she says: “The illustrations are of the earliest versions I could find, and the colors are either those actually used, or the most probable….These are only a few of many fine old buildings in Wichita Falls. Their preservation would enrich our future. Like antiques they can only grow rarer with the passage of time.” (Cox, p. 36) 

At Home Activity 

How would you respond to life in the Wichita Falls area through art? By observing your surroundings (house, yard, or favorite place), draw, paint, or build a creative piece to preserve your personal experience in this place and time. Post to our Facebook page or, better yet, to your teacher! 

Painting of the WFMA

See the full activity “Documenting Life, Land and Culture,” [TEKS: Art 7.2 (A) (C)] designed by the UNT Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts (now Onstead Institute) with support from the Priddy Foundation in 2011. 


The Place in Which We Live

Mary Stephens, Trees
Mary Stephens, Trees

Today we meet another “sense of place” artist, Mary Stephens. Born and educated in Oklahoma, this quiet, astute artist learned from each of her life stages and represented them in her abstract art works.

Her earliest memories were sketching on her father’s wonderful yellow writing pad, and from there she moved, with disapproval, to shading on the walls. Finally finding teachers who understood her artistic talent in college, Stephens learned about the art element of value (darkness or lightness). Not using black or white for values, she was taught to use yellow for the light value, red for the medium value and blue for the darker value. This you can see in her later mixed media work titled “Trees,” in the current exhibition “Let Me Show You This!”

More about the artist:
Mary Stephens’ sense of place was a deep conviction as she portrayed her childhood cultural community – the Kiowa Indians – in her earliest work. As time went on she stopped this practice, feeling it infringed on their culture.

Dabbling for a while with the textural elements in sculpture, she came back to her lesson in value as the most important part of her art. In this last stage, Stephens would take parts of well-known objects – such as architecture and nature – to make the viewer laugh or think more about the subject. She humbly felt that replicating well-known objects showed others’ artistic genius.

“Sense of Place” Activity by Mary Helen Maskill:
How do I know this? Because Mary Stephens was another of those local artists with whom I talked for hours about art and the place in which we live. So make the best of your cultural education right here at home! See if you can create something of your “place” with a Mary Stephens flare. Here’s my expression, as I have sheltered in place.

painting based of Mary Stephen's painting called Trees

Feel Closer to the Natural World

As the weather warms, we want the outdoors. Being outside inspires us to create art in the style of nationally known artist Andy Goldsworthy and get to know the art elements shape, line, color, and texture!

Andy Goldsworthy profile picture

About the artist:
Andy Goldsworthy is a naturalist, meaning all of his art is related to nature. Born in England in 1956, he grew up as a farm laborer. After graduating with an arts degree, he began creating sculpture inspired by the natural world. His art uses twigs, icicles, roots, and rocks, and is made all around the world, from Australia to Scotland to the United States. We most commonly see his art in photographs because most natural elements change with time and photographs preserve the artwork in a certain moment. Learn more and see examples of Goldsworthy’s art at https://www.theartstory.org/artist/goldsworthy-andy/

Sense of Place activity with Mary Helen Maskill:
If you’ve been looking for a way to feel closer to the natural world and to express your feelings by making art, your family will enjoy this activity. Next time you’re out for a walk or even in the backyard, pick up those loose objects (not disturbing nature) that look interesting to you. Kids always find ‘treasures’ to bring home! Now arrange them in a pattern on paper, on the sidewalk, or even in the grass or dirt. By some estimates, 90% of all animal life on our planet is insects, so I decided to create my art like an insect. Notice how the shapes and colors make you think it could be real. Do texture and lines invent a bug you have ever seen? The Insect on the left is Andy Goldsworthy’s, and mine is on the right.

Take a picture of your creation and post it here or tag us at #wfmaartstories. Then come back to see a whole new world of “creepy crawlie art animals”!!

creepy crawlie art animal

It is Never Too Late

Today, let’s look at art by cubist-inspired artist, Jeannette Heiberger, a heritage member of the Wichita Falls Art Association in our current exhibition, “Let Me Show You This!” Following the spirit of ‘it is never too late,’ Jeannette began seriously studying art in her mid 50s, producing her personal creative style for 39 more years.

The early part of her life was standard for the time – she grew up in Oklahoma, married, and raised her children. At this point she decided to take her art to a remarkable level. She enrolled at Maryland School of Art and Design in Baltimore, where she studied with Oscar Chelminsky and graduated earning a BFA with honors. As she developed her figurative abstract style, her process was to mix colors, sketch, push paint on her canvas, and sketch more. At one point she filled 30 sketchbooks in pursuit of her goal of “pushing paint to reach my objective: ambiguity between abstraction and image.”*

Jeannette Heiberger was inspired by her “sense of place.” Having grown up familiar with Native American history and tradition, she gained a passion to document the vanishing native Texoma history and culture, particularly public ceremonies and their color and movement.

Jeannette was another regional artist that I was fortunate to befriend. Hours were spent discussing how she achieved such expressive work. I am even the proud owner of her reference library and her well-used painting brushes. Despite starting her career in her 50s, these personal pieces show her natural talent in capturing her love of Native American culture and her passion to paint in the abstract figurative style.

*The Art of Jeannette Heiberger: Honoring Native American Contributions to Texoma Culture; Pride of Place (educational curriculum), https://wfma.msutexas.edu/…/08/Pride-in-Place-curriculum.pdf (2013).