Doggett offers a little of her art and soul

Published 10:38 pm Saturday, September 1, 2007

NATCHEZ — On the canvas, none of the paintings seem to resemble her, yet Natchez artist Wathen Doggett describes every piece of her art as a self-portrait.

The Florida native, turned “Natchez ambassador” will soon share her self-portraits with people across the country. Doggett has been selected to feature her paintings in all three Bass Pecan Company stores, starting with the company’s newest location in Jackson. Her art was also chosen for the poster and T-shirt for this year’s Art and Soul Festival.

“If you paint expressionism — one way or another, they are all self-portraits,” Doggett said.

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She describes her art as playful, vibrant, happy, fun expressionism.

“I just want to share my joy,” she said. “I don’t start out trying to convince people of something that doesn’t exist. But if it’s there, that’s a great accomplishment for me.”

Laura Tate, buyer and merchandiser for Bass Pecan Company, chose Doggett’s art for the store.

“I think her art is so wonderful and so eye catching,” Tate said. “I chose her work because they’re happy paintings. I think she’ll do really well here in Jackson.”

Doggett’s Art and Soul Festival poster was chosen over several entries, Festival Chairman Kevin Miers said.

“We chose her poster because we felt she had truly depicted the spirit of the festival,” he said. “It shows the fun and enjoyment we try to create for our downtown.”

Doggett said she began painting as a way to make a living 12 years ago, but has been creating art all of her life.

“I really starting painting after my husband died,” she said. “I did it — not for a living at the time — but to express my feelings, to transcend to a place to be connected. To my surprise, people started showing up and wanted to buy my work.”

Doggett chooses to paint in her Homochitto Street kitchen, instead of a studio. She paints with the canvas flat on her kitchen counter, and mixes colors on a paper plate. She said her simplistic approach to her art gives her freedom to truly express herself.

All of Doggett’s paintings start out as rough sketches on paper. She then draws her concept directly on the canvas.

“By the time I’m painting it, it’s engrained in my psyche,” she said. “My mind can be somewhere else. I’m not painting with my mind, I’m painting with my soul.”

Doggett moved to Natchez three years ago after searching for a city to call home. She had grown weary of the “homogenous” culture of Florida.

“I had been looking for this town for over a year,” she said. “The first moment I drove into town I knew I was home. It’s rare to find a pocket that retains its history, culture and flavor.”

Doggett uses Natchez and its people as inspiration for her paintings.

“It’s odd, I don’t paint the thing that inspires me,” she said. “Friends coming over might inspire me, but I won’t paint them. A long winter day might inspire, but I will paint flowers instead.”

Her artistic inspirations range from Vincent van Gogh to Natchez artist Helen Langlow.

Doggett reluctantly describes herself as a “primarily self-taught artist.”

“Every artist is self-taught,” she said. “You need the basics, but when you begin to express yourself, you can let go and begin to experiment.”

Dogget’s self-portraits are on display at Breaud’s restaurant in downtown Natchez and at several locations throughout the country. Her paintings can be viewed and purchased at