Former Natchez resident’s artwork helps tell history of Mississippi in new book

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

A new book for children of all ages shows off splendidly the work of former Natchez resident, teacher and well-known artist Rick Anderson.

&uot;M is for Magnolia: A Mississippi Alphabet&uot; is the first book Anderson has illustrated but will not be his last. Already he has completed eight paintings for a second, in fact.

Anderson, who moved to Clinton with his wife, Merrie, and their son, Denman, in 1986, taught art at South Natchez High School from 1975 until the year the family moved.

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Many in Natchez will recall his work on display at Capricorn Gallery, no longer in business, as well as at numerous Natchez Art Association and other local shows.

His paintings of waterfowl were particularly popular during his Natchez years. Examples of those paintings have been included in the Maryland National Waterfowl exhibition.

&uot;I’ve never stopped painting,&uot; he said. However, he did stop teaching after 25 years. Now, through his Web site as well as through several other outlets, he sells paintings he describes as contemporary in style. And his paintings have hung in juried shows all over the country.

The new book, written by Michael Shoulders of Clarksville, Tenn., is part of a series published by Sleeping Bear Press in Chelsea, Mich. Fifteen other states have been featured in similar books to date, and others are in the works, including Arkansas, on which Shoulders and Anderson will work together again.

Natchez figures in the book in several ways, including on the &uot;L&uot; page, where a painting of Longwood highlights the text about the Civil War, Dr. Haller Nutt and the famous house he began to built just as the war began.

&uot;Natchez also is where I got the balloon picture,&uot; Anderson said. During a visit to the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race, he caught the image during the balloon glow and used it to illustrate the &uot;H&uot; page for hot-air balloon.

Anderson said the collaboration with the author and the relationship with the publisher have made the experience a pleasure.

&uot;Mike and I talked just about every day or every other day,&uot; he said, referring to the author. &uot;He even changed a few pages when I made suggestions about what ideas I had.&uot;

Anderson had fun with the book, taking a photograph of young Elvis Presley and placing the boy on the steps of his shotgun-style house in Tupelo. He found a photograph of a vintage guitar on the Internet in order to get the instrument exactly right. Then he put his own cat on the porch beside Elvis.

He had fun with Elvis in another way, hiding him in at least five of the paintings. He also incorporated the name Mississippi in every painting. &uot;In a few of them it was cropped out, but every one had the name of the state in them.&uot;

The engaging text and fact-filled paintings will appeal to children from elementary school through high school. In fact, adults also will find the book a delight.

Some readers will wonder at first at the painting of children sledding down a snowy slope. Guess what? The flexible flyer sled was the second to be manufactured by the Blazon-Flexible Flyer Company with headquarters in West Point, where the company was founded more than 100 years ago.

And &uot;O&uot;? That had to be for Oprah Winfrey, born in Kosciusko and now one of the most influential women in the country.

&uot;There’s a ton of research that has gone into this,&uot; Anderson said. &uot;But it has been exciting.&uot;