Natchez artist creates balloon race design

Published 1:15 am Wednesday, September 5, 2007

NATCHEZ — The depths of a basement is hardly the place to conjure up beautiful images of colorful, floating hot air balloons.

But Kay Browning’s Elgin Subdivision basement is far from damp and dreary, and it has plenty of colors.

Besides, Browning has her photo work for inspiration.

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For years now she has attended the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race, taking photos along the way. The photos have a file and a duty to fulfill.

Browning has held a spot on the balloon race’s artist roster for years. She’s used her photos as a starting point to paint the last seven year’s worth of race posters, and done the T-shirt once before.

Last May, she referred to the photo file in her basement studio to begin work on what was at the time just wishful thinking.

“I started (designing the shirt) before I was asked to,” she said. “I was hoping I would be asked, so I did two in May.”

The balloon race committee typically asks a few local artists to submit designs, and from those they make their selection.

The shirts for the 2007 race are on sale at the Historic Natchez Foundation on Commerce Street and at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center on Canal Street.

“It’s kind of fun to see your artwork on somebody else, walking around in it,” Browning said. “Like Andy Warhol, it’s my 15 minutes of fame.”

Browning paints mostly in acrylics and oils, and pulls some inspiration from artist Andrew Wyeth.

She considers herself a self-taught artist, who has learned over the years of experience.

“I started out trying to copy with acrylics,” she said. “From then on I’ve taken a few weekly courses and read a lot.”

She has art on display at Southern Breeze Gallery in Jackson and at U Dwell in New Orleans. She sells commissioned paintings and hopes to do some art for one of the new hotels in Natchez.

Browning has lived in Natchez since 1976, when she moved to town to be near her sister. She’s a stay-at-home grandmother of five. Her stepson Jim Browning and wife Gennie live in Natchez.

Gennie and Kay’s husband James Browning have been an important part of her art, she said.

Balloon race will be Oct. 19-21.