Grace Guthrie's Art Exhibit at Rock Castle

Who knew in 2012, that the introduction of a retired graphic illustrator turned-local artist and a Realtor/Property Manager and published author would turn into what was destined to become an Artistic match made in Heaven? 

Dick Elliott is a well-known local artist who was a graphic illustrator for the State of Tennessee. He designed license plates and transportation stickers for 18-wheelers, when the TWRA announced a contest for a Duck Stamp. His was the winning entry. Originally selling for $2.30, this stamp now fetches up to $175 from avid collectors. His works also include paintings for Ducks Unlimited, for which he was named the 1992 Ducks Unlimited Artist of the Year. Grace Guthrie, originally from Ecuador, was teaching fellow Rotarians Spanish when she was introduced to Elliott and when she offered to teach him, he accepted. Initially, meeting at her church, they soon realized they needed somewhere with less interruption and noise. The first time she walked into his home she was astounded by the beautiful paintings she saw, but even more so when he admitted that he had painted them, as a hobby. She immediately asked if he would teach her to paint. His response, “Only if you will be committed to it, because I am not about to waste my time!”

Always wanting to paint, Grace admits, “I couldn’t even draw stick people.” However, Dick says, “Everybody needs something they can get lost in… something they have a passion for. The light came on for Grace and that’s what attracted me to her artistically.” Never having had formal training to teach, he admits, “I’m not a teacher, but when I saw the passion she had for art, I decided I would teach her to paint.” This was just a few months before her world would be turned upside down with the diagnosis of a very rare form of Ovarian Cancer, something Dick was unaware of simply because she didn’t talk about it. But, it wasn’t until she began chemotherapy that their story truly began. After a chemo treatment, she would be unable to paint for several days and he felt as if it were his mission to help her through this phase by promising he would not die until she learned to paint, and he made her promise that she would not die until he learned Spanish. “Painting became my healing therapy,” says Guthrie, and “Dick Elliott, my new 83 year old friend, became my God given angel of creativity and art.”

Guthrie shares that she has also learned wisdom, simplicity and discipline from him. While she has gotten him out of his comfort zone and not by his choice, he has taught her discipline. His structured life has taught her to not be so ‘all over the place.’ He admits that he is learning much more from her than she is from him, because she is fearless. When asked how they got along through this journey, he says they’ve never had a cross word. “But,” he laughingly adds, “I did have to finally tell her to stop squeezing the paint tube in the middle and now Marty (her husband) thanks me for teaching her to squeeze the toothpaste correctly!”  While painting has been her therapy, his friendship with her has taught him much more than he thought possible. “All good things come from above. My friendship with Dick and my cancer diagnosis have been a good thing and a God thing,” she says, “because I am no longer afraid of the dark.”

Three years and over 100 paintings later, Mr. Elliott decided it was time to showcase Grace’s talents. Having not shown his art in many years, he did agree to include a few of his pieces, but he said, “I want this to be about Grace, not me.” Mike Fussell, friend to both, arranged an art show to be held at Historic Rock Castle on Saturday, July 18, 2015 from 10 am until 3 pm. Ms. Guthrie will have 15 paintings on display, some of which will be for sale. Elliott will have several pieces on display, including the famous Duck Stamp painting. There will be prints of some of his work for sale, too. When asked if he was bringing his masterpiece to the show, he pointed to Grace and without hesitation said, “She is my masterpiece.”