ELLEN VIRGINIA HUGHES (COLLINGE), my Mother
The first person I want to thank for encouraging me to become an artist is my Mother. When she was young, she had the looks and talent to become a successful entertainer. I personally think Hollywood would have been in her future. That is if she would have had the opportunty. Boy, could she sing, dance, and play the piano! As a single parent, however, she had to let go of those dreams to take care of me. If there were problems I didn't know about it, and I never once heard her complain. When she could, she sang with bands in nightclubs, danced when opportunities arose, and played the piano whenever there was free time. The rest of the time she was working at jobs to make sure there was enough food on the table; that I had decent clothes to wear, and that all the bills were paid, including art lessons. Late in life she produced several CD's, and published two books; one a mystery, and the other, a compilation of
short stories based on her life experiences.
I can't imagine having anyone better in my life while I was growing up. We were actually more like buddies, than mother and son. She taught me to respect others, and treat them like I would want to be treated. If I didn't behave, I was disciplined. We were always able to discuss anything, and when I needed advice, she was always there to listen and give wise counsel. There were good times, and hard times, but she was always positive and strong.
Over the years I have come across so many individuals who wanted to pursue their dreams, but never could, because they were discouraged or prevented from doing so by their family. As a result, I know how fortunate I've been. Ellen gave me moral support throughout her life until she passed away on December 4, 2017 at age 92.
JAMES JULIUS KILLOUGH (Architect, Collector, Entrepeneur, Art Dealer)
In 1975 while I was living and painting in Mexico, Sharon Neyland, a very close friend, told me about James Killough. He was known to everyone as just JJ. He had lived for a number of years in Hong Kong as an architect. When he returned to the U.S., he chose Houston as his base, and rented a large warehouse on Main Street. It was filled with a priceless collection of antiques and artwork, along with his classic white Cadillac, which he parked over a fine Persian rug. It was a unique environment featured in Architectural Digest in 1977. He was originally from a prominent family in Victoria, Texas.
J.J. was the first person to represent my work. He was also the first person to help educate me regarding antiques, conducting business, and the real world of art. He represented works by a number of well known artists, so I felt grateful that he decided to represent my work. When I returned from Italy, he gave me studio space in his warehouse until I could find my own space. One day when I came in, John Canaday, the well known art critic and author, was standing in my studio examining my work. With JJ's connections, you never knew who you might run into.
As a novice painter with very little money, J.J. had each individual who wanted my work arrange to pay $100.00 per month. After awhile, I had a monthly income that made it possible for me to survive and keep working until 1981 when I obtained my masters degree. I also felt honored that he added some of my work to his own collection. Unfortunately J.J. passed away in 2012, but I owe him a debt of gratitude for everything he did for me over those years. I miss his counsel, patience, wit, and sense of humor.
HARRISON ITZ (Owner, Harris Gallery, Houston)
In 1981 after receiving my MFA, I shared a studio in the Houston Heights with artist, Sharon Kopriva. One day I was visited by a man named Harrison Itz who was interested in seeing my work. I didn't know who he was, or anything about him. At the time, I only had one finished painting to show him. It was a rather unconventional painting; the first in what would be my transition away from figurative work into still-life. During that initial visit, Harrison informed me that he represented artists, and wanted to take my painting to his gallery.
Harrison initially opened the gallery in 1977 with his partner, David Harris. The building had previously been used as a gallery by Anne Harithas, a notable person in the Houston art community. Her husband, Jim Harithas, was the director of the Contemporary Art Museum, located directly across the street. David
Harris eventually decided to go into another business, and Harrison became sole owner, but kept the original Harris Gallery name. He successfully operated the gallery for 38 years, and finally closed in December of 2015 to retire. He represented my work for 34 of those years, and I have to credit him with establishing my professional career. When I decided to stop teaching and paint full time, he offered to pay me a stipend; something unheard of in galleries today. Harrison is a rare individual, a friend, and I owe him a huge debt of gratitude.
DENISE SMITH MCCOY, Artist (My Wife)
Last, but not least, I want to thank my partner in life, Denise. For over twenty years we have worked side by side, through thick and thin. She has been a positive force, and is a multi-talented artist in her own right. That is probably one of the things that makes it work. Living the life of an artist can seem like a strange existence to most people, but we take it in stride.
I have to say, Denise works harder than I do. She never runs out of energy or ideas, and she has had experience in numerous areas of the arts over the years. She's not only a fine painter, but early in her career, she won both the regional and national American College Theatre Festival Award, presented at Lincoln Center. She was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University in Theatre and Set Design; Robert Merrill's makeup artist, and worked on movie sets like "Heat of the Night" and "Day of the Dead". She has been a costume designer for such places as the Santa Fe Opera, and Magic Theatre here in San Antonio, and has designed and painted clothing for retail businesses. Above all, she designs and fabricates beautiful handmade jewelry with clients both home and abroad.