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Wyatt Waters has full palette

CLINTON — Wyatt Waters has a full palette this year.

In addition to opening his new gallery on 307 Jefferson Street, the noted watercolorist has been completing the finishing touches on two new illustrations for books, as well as completing a commission from Baptist Health Services for the upcoming guests scheduled to visit the Hederman Cancer Center May 5: former President and First Lady George and Barbara Bush.

“I didn’t mean to be so busy all this month — I couldn’t say ‘I’m sorry, I can’t paint a picture to give to George Bush.’ I’d be kicking myself for a few days if I did that,” Waters said.

Robby Channell, Baptist Health Services corporate communications representative, said the picture of the George Bush Presidential Library would be presented as a gift from Baptist Health Services at the fundraising luncheon May 5, 2003, at the Crowne Plaza in downtown Jackson. Baptist Cancer Services, which opened the Hederman Cancer Center in May 2002, is expanding support services for patients and their families with plans to renovate an existing property to provide housing for Baptist’s cancer patients and their families.

“Baptist Health Services wanted to present the Bushes with a gift from a Mississippi artist,” said Channell. Waters was suggested for the job and just returned from painting on location at College Station, Texas — where he just happened to bump into current President George W. Bush on a walk around a lake on the grounds.

“That was my brush with greatness,” said Waters. “It was a lot more memorable to run into him fishing.”

The new gallery space in the former Laney Jewelry location in Olde Towne Clinton has been a little longer in development, with the past two months devoted to remodeling the 1,100-square-foot space into a showroom, work area and gift shop location dedicated to Waters’ work.

The works aren’t priced on the showroom floor, and high-pressure sales tactics aren’t Waters’ style. “We think it’s a friendly atmosphere. I

just wanted a place where we can exhibit my work by itself,” Waters said.

Waters’ wife Vicki is an integral part of the operation, managing the gallery and working to create the hand-leafed finished frames that surround Waters originals. “It really adds to the look of the painting — each frame is even one of a kind,” Waters said.

The first gallery came about as a result of the increased sales from www.wyattwaters.com. Waters pays homage to the Web site’s success with a computer monitor flashing images of Waters’ work in his display window along with a rotating display of original paintings.

“Without the Internet, this would have been a lot more difficult,” Waters said. “We’re number 11 on Yahoo! if you type in watercolor artist!”

Waters is following up on his publishing career with two new books scheduled to arrive this fall. “The Oxford Sketchbook” is a longtime project that was shelved as he completed work on “A Southern Palate” with Hattiesburg restaurateur Robert St. John. The book, which Waters is self-publishing, will feature 15 paintings or sketches and 25 written essays by notables such as Barry Hannah, Archie Manning, Bill Ferris and Mary Ann Mobley.

“It’s about Oxford as it can serve as a model for towns in Mississippi,” Waters said. “It has a lot of history as well as a lot of progressiveness — and you can get a good cup of coffee there.”

The other project includes illustrations for a two-volume set called “Christmas Stories from the South”, with Volume One scheduled to come out this fall from Algonquin Press. “It’s the first book we’ve done for national distribution,” said Waters. Working again with editors Charline McCord and Judy Tucker, Waters plans to contribute about 22 illustrations for the complete set.

Copies of the books along with originals of the illustrations will be available at Waters’ gallery grand opening this fall. Waters looks forward to working in the larger facility and enjoyed putting it together, because he felt he had control of the atmosphere and display spaces. “It’s really our place this time,” said Waters.

Contact MBJ contributing writer at Julie Whitehead at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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