“We lived here forever – 23 years,” says artist Christy Kidwell of her historic Preston Hollow home.
“But it goes back further than that. We were just getting ready to remodel when a man knocked on my door and said: I used to live in this house. And he gave us this black and white photo of when it was a little white farmhouse in the middle of nowhere.”
The visitor told the Kidwells that their present-day den was the porch where his family used to sleep in warm weather. And the brick wall a block away? It was built to control prairie fires.
Today the home on Glendora is surrounded by a mix of quaint cottages and larger, newer houses.
The “little house on the prairie” retains its country feel and warmth, with a blend of comfortable furnishings in soft earth tones. Kidwell’s artwork alongside other artists’ is displayed throughout the quiet rooms.
Remodeling 13 years ago gave the family a good-sized den, dining room, master bedroom and bath, and perhaps most important of all, Kidwell’s studio. A Texas native who hails from Houston, she had been in love with painting since childhood; but it wasn’t until she had kids of her own that the need to create art began to urgently re-assert itself.
“I began to live for Mother’s Day Out,” she laughs, “I realized how important it was to me at that point. I’d race home…with two hours to paint.”
Since that time, Kidwell has studied with recognized artists such as Everett Raymond Kinstler, Dan Gerhartz, Paul Leveille, Harley Brown, Kevin Macpherson, Kay Polk and Charles Sovek. Her portraits, from people to pets, have led to a steady stream of commissions she says come about “by word of mouth.” And she no longer has to wait for Mother’s Day Out now that her son, John, is off at the University of Oklahoma and her daughter, Cari, is married and living in Houston with her husband, Adam…”we had a big wedding about two-and-a-half years ago,” she reminiscences happily.
For the time being, Kidwell says she is content to stay put in Preston Hollow. “I would like to travel more when my husband retires.” (Husband, John, is a dentist in the Park Cities.) In the meantime, she says: “I love my neighborhood, and all our neighbors – old and new. I feel very safe here…I like to walk.”
A member of the Outdoor Society of Painters, Kidwell says: “I love nature so much I decided to broaden my studio to the outdoors.” Armed with a pochade box and backpack, she has now added landscape to her weekly portrait and figure classes.
“Long ago, I learned the value of painting from life,” Kidwell says. “Too often I’d return from a trip with rolls of film, only to be disappointed. I couldn’t even remember why I’d taken certain pictures – they seemed so lifeless. I’ve found that a small painting done on location can instantly bring back all the color, sights and sounds of a single moment. The difference is actually taking the time to look.”
Painting outdoors brings its own special challenges, however. Kidwell says it’s not unusual, when painting somewhere such as the Arboretum, to have a squirrel – “they’re pretty brave” – steal painting supplies or to find herself surrounded by 30 curious schoolchildren.
“One day, this little boy was watching me paint, but his mom was urging him to move on. So he very politely asked me: Lady, could you please paint faster?”
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Preston Hollow.