DECATUR – Timothy Joe, a third-generation Angus cattle rancher and lifelong artist who fell in love with painting nature scenes thanks to Bob Ross, will combine his two passions for nature and art at the Decatur Crane Festival this week-end.

With his backpack filled with a tripod, pochade box, journal and gouache paints, Joe will roam the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge creating the outdoors painted on the outside works of art on Saturday and Sunday.

“I’ll be there spreading the good news about art and nature,” said the 39-year-old Huntsville resident and Greensboro native. “At the Festival of Cranes I can show my love of art and nature and hopefully inspire others to create.”

For Joe, the inspiration to create began at age 4 when his mother brought home paper grocery bags and a box of crayons and encouraged him to draw.

On Saturday afternoon, Joe watched “Joy of Painting with Bob Ross” on Alabama Public Television.

“My interest in art really took off because we didn’t have cable. We had three channels and one of them was APT. Every Saturday at 2:30 p.m., Bob Ross would arrive. Once I saw it, it was over. I knew that was what I wanted to do,” Joe said.

After painting with Bob Ross for more than a decade, Joe, then a student at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, studying engineering, was tired of the “happy little tree” formulas. At Barnes & Noble, he found outdoor magazines. The loose, painterly strokes of the non-hyperrealistic artwork appealed to Joe.

“I was brought up thinking that if you make a painting and it doesn’t look like an exact copy, then you failed. I would put all that pressure on myself to make it look as realistic as possible,” Joe said. “When I saw the paintings in the magazines, I got the impression that the artists were having fun. I wanted that. That’s when my eyes were opened to this whole new world of art.

To find his style of art, Joe visited local artists around Huntsville and spent time at Lowe Mill. He interviewed the artists, asking them how they knew what they liked to paint and why they liked to paint certain pictures.

After five years, Joe has created an artist statement.

“The (reason) I like to paint the way I do is because I love history and old things. I’m a history buff and I try to capture the past in my art. said Joe. “Art is my ministry. It is my calling to see the beauty in the commonplace and capture the scene. I paint to show my appreciation for what God has created. My goal is to remind people of the beauty that surrounds them.

Joe’s first solo art exhibition – one he called “awful” – cemented his artistic mission and purpose.

He traveled three hours from Huntsville to Demopolis for the solo exhibition, where he sold a piece for $10. Despite the poor results, Joe was determined to get something positive out of the experience.

“I was putting away my gear when I saw an old building next to the train tracks. I knew I wanted to paint it, but I knew I couldn’t do it justice unless I knew more,” said Joe. “I realized that the more I knew about the history of a place, the better the painting and the better I captured the mood.”

Since that experience in 2015, Joe has traveled the back roads of Alabama painting old churches, homes, barns, silos, and nature.

Each painting carries a story.

For his first plein-air painting, Joe painted the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, which has a significant role in his black heritage. He cried thinking of the civil rights activists beaten there on Bloody Sunday.

He painted the Benevolent Society at Fairhope, which made collections to help freed slaves and pay for funerals.

And he captured St. Andrew’s Church near Demopolis, which, together with the baptistery inside the church, was built in 1855 by slaves.

Joe described his mission to paint these historic sites as stewardship.

“It’s up to me to paint these sites before they disappear. If I don’t, who else will,” Joe said.

In addition to historic locations, Joe focuses on painting nature scenes. His love of nature stems from growing up at Joe Farm, the 200-acre beef farm run by his father and once operated by his grandfather. In his family for more than 100 years, the land carries a rich history.

“The Ku Klux Klan burned down my grandfather’s house, hoping to force him off the land. But they didn’t expect him to have insurance,” Joe said. “My father made me and my siblings work in agriculture, mostly against our will when we were children. Now that I have my own children, I see how special it is to have this land. We have to take care of it. »

The Joe family organizes tours of the farm for bird watchers – who come to see swallow-tailed kites, bald eagles, wood storks, egrets and hawks – and outdoor artists.

“My art is not quickly understood sometimes. I’ve been asked, ‘You’re a black man, why don’t you paint black art?’ My art is black, but not the typical Afro-centric style. When I tried to go this direction I felt like I was wearing a jacket that was three sizes too small. My art is here to remind you how beautiful nature is. My signature is my signature. Just because I don’t write like you doesn’t mean I’m wrong,” Joe said.

For Festival of the Cranes, Joe, who works with gouache, acrylic, oil, charcoal, graphite, acrylic and dry pastels, hopes to paint a whooping crane on location.

Joe’s brother, Christopher Joe, will also be participating in the Festival of the Cranes. He will lead a Birding 101 walk for beginner birders on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. and talk about his interest in birding, farming and videos during a session on Saturday at 10 a.m. Both events will take place in Wheeler.

Other artistic experiences related to the Crane Festival:

• Old State Bank: High School Art Show, Friday, 9am-3pm and Saturday, 9am-noon. Free entry. The exhibition will remain on view until the end of February.

• Alabama Center for the Arts: Festival of the Cranes art exhibit featuring works by students, alumni, faculty and staff of Calhoun Community College and Athens State University, Saturday , from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The exhibition, which includes 31 works of art created by 20 artists, will remain on display until February 21. Free entry. Special activities for the Crane Festival on Saturday include a Fingerprint Creatures workshop for kids, from 10 a.m. to noon, and a Duck Stamp workshop for kids in kindergarten through high school, from 3 p.m.

• Carnegie Visual Arts Center: family art workshop with artists Dariana Dervis and Chiharu Roach at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Free entry. Register on

• Decatur Public Library: Crane-themed face painting and crafts for kids Saturday 3-5 pm and Sunday 10 am-12 pm and 2-4 pm

One-on-one with Timothy Joe

Question: What grabs your attention when looking for something to paint?

Answer: I love nature and history and showing the effect of time. I love old buildings that were brand new at one time, but the boards are falling off now. Some people may say it’s ugly. I also find it beautiful because it has stood the test of time. Just think of how many storms and hot days these buildings have been through.

Q: Do you paint on location or photograph an image?

A: I prefer to paint in place because the camera can’t capture all the colors you can see. But this is not always possible. A lot of the places I find are in remote places and I worry. You never know what people will think when they see a black man by the side of the road. In these places, I take a picture in the car. I call them drive-bys.

Q: Did you have a black artist to look up to growing up?

A: I had no one to guide me because I lived in the middle of nowhere with no art program in school. There was a young black artist whose lessons I was going to take. To be a young kid and see someone who looked like me doing what I wanted to do was amazing. But, a few weeks before class, he dies in a car accident. It put me on the trajectory of wanting to one day become an art teacher.

Q: Did you give lessons?

A: I taught with Alabama Audubon and when the pandemic hit I started Zoom classes. I participated in the International Nature Journaling Week. Over 90 people around the world have watched me paint a portrait of a bumblebee. I think it’s important for people to see me, a black man, doing something positive. I’m just trying to put my little joy in the world in the midst of so much suffering. I see art as being able to bring people together and help us heal.


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