Nature photograph is 'answer to a prayer'

October 24, 2004|JENNIFER BRUMMETT

Shirley Cochran-Walls sees her decision to step up her work as a visual artist as a sign from God. Cochran-Walls works in photography, acrylics, watercolors and decoupage, but it was a photograph that turned out to be an answer to a prayer.

And she didn't see the photograph, for which she won a blue ribbon at the Boyle County Fair, the first time she went through the prints. It was taken on East Knob Lick in Junction City, quite early in the morning as Cochran-Walls was returning from the track where she walks for exercise.

"There was a beautiful sunrise coming through the trees in the fall," she noted. "I think the face is in it because it was so beautiful. I was so thankful. I was thanking God ... as the scene was changing in front of my eyes. For a tiny second in time, I could see the beauty.


"I carry a Kodak throwaway with me, and I saw it from my car. ... I didn't see the face when I got the film back. I picked the prettiest picture of the pond scene for a screen saver. I'd been praying to God ... asking if I was doing the right thing. I asked for a sign. I was going through the pictures again and then I saw these eyes looking at me."

And those eyes told Cochran-Walls her prayer had been heard. "The picture is so special because it was an answer to a prayer - a sign that I was heading in the right direction," she explained.

A caption with the photograph, which is on exhibit with other works by Cochran-Walls through October at McDowell Wellness Center, reads, "We search the face of nature and find the face of God." "That's how I see God - in nature," Cochran-Walls explained.

"The picture is not manipulated. It's been passed around to different churches, and different people see different things in it."

Others have seen three angels as well as a golden cross in it, Cochran-Walls said. People have asked for reprints of the photograph, but she hasn't agreed to that yet.

She pauses, looking at the different elements in the photograph that, to some, probably looks like mist on a pond. "I'm a Christian but I'm not perfect," she said. "I'm doing the best I can."

She moves on to a painting, titled "Abandoned at Sea." Cochran-Walls said the ship in it was "floating around, then a storm came up. And nobody is manning the wheel."

"It's almost representative of my life," she explained. "I felt abandoned when my (parents) died and I was left to raise my family (alone). I felt left out to sea in stormy seas."

A caption next to the painting reads, "I do not fear the stormy sea for I know who guides my ship for me." "My faith is important. That's what got me through everything," Cochran-Walls noted.

She said she is an only child and her parents died young. "My family was my children and grandchildren. They're very important," she said of her two daughters, Marcia Walls Henry and Traci Walls Hignite, both of Junction City, and son, Richard Dale Walls of Richmond, as well as her four grandchildren.

Cochran-Walls, who continues to further her education by taking classes, worked in social services for more than 20 years, she said, and was a "single parent for most of that."

"Now, my children and grandchildren are big enough that I can focus on what I want to do," she added. "But of all the success I've had with anything, my most important accomplishments are my children and grandchildren. Family is the most important thing in the world. It's a shame people don't realize that." "The bottom line is ... sometimes I worked two or three job to raise my family. I went back to college and I'd do homework at 2 or 3 in the morning. But I'd recommend (schooling) to anybody. Always, as long as I'm able, I'll take classes."

Another painting at the McDowell Wellness Center, "Waiting for the School Bus," features her golden retriever, Amy, with her ball, waiting for her master to get home to play.

Decorative decoupage

Decoupage is the art of cutting out designs or illustrations from paper or material and mounting them on a surface. Then, several coats of lacquer or varnish are applied.

Cochran-Walls, who is a member of Gathering Artists and Wilderness Trace Art League, creates decorative plates. She says clear, glass plates are hard to find, but has friends who look for them for her. "I've had real good luck selling them. They pretty much have been what I'm working on the most lately."

Some of her plates have a fabric backing while others are painted. Some are both, she says. Pieces with Western themes are popular, which surprises her, she says, as do those with a nautical theme.

"The Shaman," "The Warriors" and "Cowboy Way" are three Western-themed plates in the exhibit. "The Shaman" is one of her favorites pieces, and was built in sections, she says. It started with a Native American, then an owl was added.

"You can create your own scene with pieces of (material)," she noted.

Cochran-Walls learned the basics of decoupage from a friend in the Boyle County Homemakers 76ers Club, a group with which she is active.

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