By Ann Leach
It’s a new year of growth and vision for Bella Vista, Arkansas, artist Julie Gowing Hayes. “I had COVID and breast cancer in 2022, so 2023 was a recovery year,” she says. “So, I am working myself back into some semblance of a regular creative practice. I have a home studio and I love looking out and seeing trees. I paint a lot of birds and so I have a lot of feeders outside my studio windows.” Hayes finds her inspiration in nature and has a deep-rooted respect for the land along with the trees, flowers and wildlife it supports. “I can never get enough of the beauty God created in nature,” she says. “From the sunlight drifting through leaves to highlight some bird or flower that otherwise may have gone unnoticed, or the exquisite harmony of a beautiful color palette that blends into an inspiring composition and it all accompanied by birdsong and fresh air.” 

Hayes grew up on a farm in southwest Iowa and began her love for the outdoors there. Her father was involved in local conservation efforts that included tree planting, watershed developments and improved farming techniques. “And my mom had a love for gardening and bird watching,” she says. “It all contributed to my representational art style with hints of impressionism.” 

An interest in art came early for Hayes. Her mother kept all of her sketches, including some she drew at age four. “I spent every moment I could in the art room during high school and went into fashion design in college. Then came children and a career, and moving a lot for my husband’s career prevented me from finishing.” Hayes had a hiatus from art for 20 years. 

As a corporate career woman in North Carolina, Hayes was moving up in the company and was eligible for a promotion, but she did not have a completed college degree. The company paid for her education. “They didn’t care what the degree was in. So, I went for one in studio art.” 

Life progressed and Hayes’ husband took a job at the corporate office of Walmart in 2008, which brought them to Arkansas. “It was a big change, but my husband encouraged me to do art full time and I said ‘yes’. My husband is now a minister. We live in an A-frame house, and I have kind of taken over a lot of it with my home studio.” 

Besides painting in her studio, Julie loves to paint en plein air and has participated in many local and regional events. Her love of painting outdoors has also provided lasting friendships. Through this love of painting outdoors, she met other artists, some who have become best friends. “We travel and paint together and have done so since 1999,” Hayes says. “We call each other ‘Three Who Paint’ and have a website with that name.” 

Today, Hayes is working on several paintings for the Women Artists of the West (WAOW) Woolaroc Museum Invitational in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, which opens May 4, and will include the work of 37 WAOW members. “I am a Signature Emeritus member and a board advisor for the group,” she says. “And also serve on the board for Heart of America Artists Association. I am also represented by Cherry’s Custom Framing and Art Gallery in downtown Carthage, Missouri.” 

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“I can never get enough of the beauty God created in nature.”