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Endowed with a gift: Deanna Wheeler and her master paint brush

John Willoughby: Greene Publishing, Inc.

Self-educated and always looking for a spark of creativity, Pinetta resident Deanna Wheeler has devoted much of her retirement to her work as an artist, painting anything that catches her eye at an instant. With work in Valdosta, Madison and even Perry, Fla., Wheeler's art has become widely-known by being showcased in restaurants, pharmacies and even art galleries.

Born and raised in Lawrenceville, Ill., Wheeler was born with the gift of art, as she states. A retired Registered Nurse by trade, Wheeler has traveled the world many times while living in Georgia, where her two children were born, and even overseas in Tripoli, Libya, during Muammar Gaddafi's reign. It was 1995 when Wheeler and her husband, Jerry, decided to move to the Cherry Lake area of Madison County from Venice, Fla., after moving around and working for multiple hospitals. Wheeler was selected as the Director of Nursing when Lake Park of Madison was preparing to open. However, due to the opening date being tossed around, she went to work for Greenville Hills Academy, where she was hired on the spot as an RN, working for seven years before going back to work for Lake Park of Madison for three years. Wheeler retired from a Jasper facility in 2008.

Even though her father was an occasional caricature artist and cartoonist, there was barely any artistic heritage in her family. "I was born with a gift," said Wheeler. "I got my first oil paint set when I was 10 and I was painting and drawing from that point on; well, even before that. Throughout my whole life, I have painted and drawn."

Wheeler stated that in her early years, the schools did not furnish much art education, therefore she was not formally taught how to master the art that she creates today. Besides an art class at Vincennes University, she has bought self-help books, but has always relied upon her ability to look at a reference photo and imitate the subject.

Wheeler has completed hundreds of renditions of photos, whether requested by a client or whether the art was something that caught her eye going down the road. She has created portraits of dogs, cats, horses and other animals with oil on canvas. She has also created formal portraits of people. Recently, Wheeler has begun creating art on saw blades. "It's recycled blades that people bring to me," said Wheeler.

Wheeler's art has also included doing work for former state attorney, Willie Meggs, where a portrait of the interior of his office was created. Wheeler states that the piece of art was presented to Meggs upon his retirement in 2016.

The amount of artwork that Wheeler has completed since her retirement, she states, has been more than she's ever done with her art, but there was never any light bulb that came on for her to realize this was one of her callings. "I just grew into it," said Wheeler. "At the class reunions, [my classmates and I] get to talking and some of them say 'I remember the mural we did in fifth grade and you did the pony express rider!'"

Wheeler's art has been featured in many exhibits, including the two art pieces she currently has hanging in the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts, in Valdosta, Ga. Her two portraits will be auctioned off, with proceeds going towards Valdosta State University art student scholarships. Wheeler donates annually to the event. Wheeler also donates to the Turner Center's Spring into Art Event, which occurs annually during the month of April. "I always put two pieces in there," said Wheeler. Among other honors, her work has been printed in the Colson Printing Company's calendar in 2009, 2013 and 2017.

Currently, Wheeler's work can be found in Jay's Pharmacy in Madison, as well as in the Jay's Pharmacy, in Perry, Fla. "A lot of people were familiar with my work through Shelby's Restaurant," said Wheeler. "She sold a ton of stuff for me and she never charged me the first nickel. That's basically what's happening now with Jay's Pharmacy, both of them."

To view Wheeler's work in person, it can be found at Jay's Pharmacy, located at 683 E Base St., in Madison. You may also log onto brushdoctor542000.wixsite.com/persimmon-ridge-art. If you would like a painting done by Wheeler, she invites you to call her at (850) 929-6914. You may also email Wheeler at brushdoctor54_2000@yahoo.com.

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