Shalimar man rediscovers passion for painting during lockdown, donating artwork to Mattie Kelly Arts Center

NICEVILLE – During the lockdown months of 2020, retired pharmacist Johnny Pope von Shalimar decided to return to his long-lost passion for painting. His inspiration? The sculpture of the seven dancers in the fountain of the Mattie Kelly Arts Center.

“We had a ballet here and my little granddaughter was there and she started strolling around the fountain and I started taking pictures and said, ‘My God, that would make a beautiful painting,'” Pope said.

After creating an oil painting of the fountain for an art competition and immediately selling it, Pope said he was determined to make another version to donate to the Mattie Kelly Arts Center. For his second piece, Pope took a different approach, using mixed media to add some shimmer to the painting and create a 3D experience.

“I used grout because grout doesn’t absorb the color, it brings it to life,” he said. “Then I used gold leaf foil instead of paint for the clothes. I also used epoxy to make it glow on the water. “

Pope said that although it took him several months to create the piece, it was the ideal way to pass the time, as he spent hours every day in his garage working on the painting. He added that he had loved art in high school and was planning a career in it, but his parents convinced him to take a job in the pharmacy. For the past 10 years since retiring, Pope has said he’s making up for lost time, taking art classes at Northwest Florida State College, and exploring historical artists and techniques.

“I’ve been where I haven’t even touched a brush for 30 years,” he said. “But now I paint all the time, I love art, I mean day to day, it’s all I do.”

It was a year before Pope finally had the courage to take the painting to Niceville as he said he wasn’t sure it would be accepted.

“When Johnny called, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Jeanette Shires, director of the Mattie Kelly Arts Center. “But when I saw it, I was amazed. It’s amazing and captures the beauty of the fountain with the seven dancers at night. We’re just thrilled to have it. ”

Shires said she plans to hang the new piece in a prominent location at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center for guests to enjoy.

Pope is a member of the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation and the Arts and Design Society at Fort Walton Beach. His paintings are exhibited and sold at the G & Co. Art Gallery in Destin.

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