Henry County, Ky. artist has prominent clients nationwide
Portrait artist Beatty has painted Trumps and many more
(October 2020) – Henry County, Ky., artist Malissa Beatty has a passion for painting portraits. From Patrick Henry and The Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe, to President Donald Trump, she has painted some pretty famous figures in American history.
But Trump is not the first president she has ever painted. “I was asked to do the painting of Trump for someone in La Grange,” said Beatty. This was several years ago, and since then she has created additional artwork depicting Trump.
The original portrait was done in acrylic on wood, which looks like oil, Beatty said, and framed in an antique gold frame. She thought about contacting President Trump to see if he would be interested in obtaining the portrait, but she wasn’t sure how to go about doing so. She sent the portrait to a group of Republicans in Virginia that had contacted her requesting a donation, but “I never heard back from them,” said Beatty, 78.
Photo courtesy of Malissa Beatty.
Pictured above is Malissa Beatty’s portrait of Donald and Melania Trump.
Previously, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell had asked Beatty to create a sketch of former President George W. Bush. “I did a sketch of him from a photograph that I had taken when I had gone to listen to Bush speak in Louisville.” McConnell presented it to President Bush as a gift on the day he left office. She later “received a very nice letter from President Bush and his wife, Laura, thanking me for it.”
She said she still gets “Christmas cards and letters with photographs every year from President Bush and his wife, Laura,” in response to the portrait she painted of the former president.
Beatty is primarily a self-taught portrait artist. Her cousin is well-known artist David Wright “who I grew up being close to. We used to sketch and paint together growing up, and after we both graduated from high school in 1960, he went to Paris to study art.”
Wright is known as “the premier artist of the American frontier,” his paintings depicting historical subjects that capture the day-to-day struggles of the Colonial-era frontier.
Beatty said that being from a family of seven kids, “we couldn’t afford for me to study art in college.” Instead, she trained to be an airline stewardess, a job that required her to remain single. Her eventual husband, Curt, who was her boyfriend at the time, came home from his two years of service in the U.S. Army in Germany, and they became engaged. But “this meant I couldn’t work as a stewardess,” she said.
At first the couple lived in Owensboro, Ky., where they both worked at General Electric. When Curt landed a job at the new Ford plant in Louisville as an accounting supervisor, the couple moved to the St. Matthews area for about four years before moving to Henry County in 1974. Today, they live on a mini farm in Pendleton, Ky.
Beatty has also done three different portraits of best-selling western writer Ralph Cotton, who is originally from Kentucky. They appear in the back of Cotton’s books with his biography and sometimes on the front cover.
The panels depict the large variety of different items for sale including leather clothing, furniture, jewelry, and western style artwork by local painters
“About 10 years ago, I painted one of David Weber, a best-selling science fiction writer. After he had seen the ones of Ralph Cotton, he contacted me about doing it for him,” she said. She has created illustrations for several children’s books as well.
Beatty has had a long versatile career as an artist, working in several different mediums. She is well-known for the lifelike Santa Claus dolls she crafts.
“When I started making the Santa dolls, it was to be for gifts for Christmas for family members, and then their friends started calling me to ask me to make them for sale. I got so many orders the first year that I quit my job at the middle school computer class and just made dolls.”
From that venture, Beatty made and sold more than 3,000 of her dolls in about five years. This is how she made enough to pay for all of her children’s college expenses. She has received orders from all over the country including London, Hawaii and New Zealand.
The process involves making the fired-clay doll faces first, sewing the bodies and clothing, and finally mounting them on the wood bases. The dolls range in size from 20 inches to six feet tall, with a 21-inch doll selling for $100. Beatty said people often order dolls according to colors that match their homes – red, green, white, pink, blue, purple, brown, etc.
One of her more recent dolls was of Henry County resident Jim McKee, who has been part of the U.S. Olympics for several years as a trainer. “His wife hired me to make one of him in his Track & Field trainer outfit,” said Beatty. McKee’s wife, Pepper, gave him the doll as a very special birthday gift.
McKee is retired from the military and has taught college for several years. Like Beatty, he is a member of the Henry County Arts and Crafts Guild and makes stained glass items.
He said of Beatty’s work that she “captured the essence of my officiating. She is very, very talented. It’s an unbelievable likeliness.”
Beatty is president of the Henry County Arts and Crafts Guild. One of her most memorable projects has been a special mural she was asked to paint. “It was for a new museum that was being built at the time, ‘The Bill Monroe Museum,’ in Rosine, Ky., which is Monroe’s hometown.”
Beatty and her husband are both natives of Rosine, Ky. She has painted portraits of Monroe and one of his musician brother, Charlie Monroe, and one of Monroe’s father. “They all hang in his home place museum at Jerusalem Ridge near Rosine. I have also done another one of Bill Monroe that hangs in the International Bluegrass Museum in Owensboro, Ky.”
Another mural project she worked on consisted of two large murals 11x20 feet long that hang in the La Grange Presbyterian Church. Her 4x6-foot painting of the Henry County Courthouse hangs in the lobby of the courthouse in New Castle.
Beatty’s most recent project is four large metal panels for Choctaw Jim’s in Campbellsburg, Ky. She said the owner, Michele Thompson, “gave me over 60 photographs of different items she has for sale inside her store and wanted me to paint all of them on the different panels. She plans to attach them on the walls of the front porch where you enter the store.”
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