Photo from circa Spring 2016. This striped cloth graphite drawing was the first thing I created that made me think, "hmm, maybe this could be something."
Mrs. Stout (me) ready for "Art on a Cart" - modified travel-to-you individual art lessons eliminating shared supplies in the wake of Covid-19.
Best job in the world.
(This page is a work in progress!)
I am a painter from northern Illinois, now living in Red Wing, Minnesota with my husband Nathan and my dog Penny. I have a Bachelors degree in Art Education with an emphasis in painting, seven years of painting experience, and three years of experience teaching art to PreK-12th grade. I love painting by the river, walks to the coffee shop, and watching too many episodes in one sitting.
The Long, Fun, Real Bio: (with pictures!)
Born in SoCal but raised in Illinois from ages 7 to 18, I have been drawn to the Midwestern hospitality and corn farm charm as long as I can remember. Growing up, you could find me playing clarinet in the stands at football games,
attending Girl Scout meetings, Thursday night swing dancing, studying for AP everything, and crafting in my basement.
Rebellious, I know. (Also, thanks for all the crafting supplies, Mom & Dad, I got my start under your supportive gaze and I will always be grateful for you both!)
I didn't take my first formal art class until I got to Harding University, a small Christian college in Arkansas, when I entered with my major undecided, ran out of gen ed credits, and decided to just "take a few random classes" in things that interested me. I don't really know why I took that first drawing class. As far as I knew at the time, I was terrible at drawing. I was crafty, yes, but I was paint-wooden-boxes-from-Hobby-Lobby-as-gifts-crafty. Certainly not "fine art" crafty. It wasn't until my Drawing 1 professor pulled me aside to talk to me about my art major course schedule (Cue me, "Uh, I'm not an art major?"; Cue her, "Come with me right now to your advisor's office, we're going to change that," thank you, Mrs. Beverly Austin) that I started to realize maybe I had something here. However, doubt kept a strong hold for many years after that day. I declared my major as Art Education, which would earn me my license to teach K-12, with dreams only ever to be an art teacher and never, "just an artist." (Because, obviously, being "just an artist" is so risky, so rebellious. So many things that I surely was not and didn't want to be known as.) I took my first painting class in the spring of 2017 and fell in love with paint.
Pause here. I forgot to tell you about when I met my other true love. He's in these pictures, and his name is Nathan. We met in the Harding University band (an Art Ed and Music Ed major, together? Match made in Heaven, and on the Hallmark Channel). He treats me so much better than I ever thought I could be treated in a relationship. His support and God's help are the only reasons I am where where I am today, tackling this gigantic mountain of dreams.
Continuing - When Nathan and I gratuaded, were both offered jobs at the same private Christian K-12 school in Mobile, Alabama, where neither of us had family or dreams of living, to teach art and music to preschool through high school in classrooms across the hall from one another (again, hey, Hallmark Channel!). We graduated, got married, moved to Alabama all alone, and began our first careers, all in the summer of 2019. But, the first year of teaching is always a struggle and a half and I couldn't find the time nor energy to paint besides the odd commission for a friend or family member every few months. For three years, I was very much a tired teacher, and very much not an artist.
Yet - in our third year in Mobile, three things happened. One, we both started to feel that maaaaybe teaching in the traditional classroom wasn't all we ever wanted to do.
(It is an increasingly hard job, guys. Go hug a teacher.) Two, Nathan was offered a job teaching music lessons privately up in Red Wing, Minnesota, with a mutual friend from college (which would bring us much closer to family). Three, a friend of a friend told me she was getting married and asked, "...Have you ever heard of live wedding painting?"
In fact, I had hardly considered an artistic career of any kind... again, too risky, too rebellious. But my teacher-burnt-out heart was looking for a change. Little by little, taking a few more commissions here and there, hearing nothing but support from those around me, I started to open my eyes and ears and heart to the possibility of a new opportunity. And for once in my life, I was open to a little risk. A little of what could be perceived as "irresponsible."
In January of 2022 I told my friend of a friend "Yes, I'll paint your wedding," and started practicing immediately - ten months in advance of the wedding (thanks, anxiety). I soon was in touch with the Live Painter of the Gulf Coast, who would become my wonderful mentor and even better friend, Melissa Munger. Melissa gave me my first chances. She let me shadow her, she brought me to paint my first wedding with her, and she is an endless wellspring of skill, experience, kindness, and friendship. After my first wedding with Melissa, I knew this was it. I fell in love, again, with painting love.
With the support of Nathan, Melissa, my family and friends, and so much freakin' prayer, it exploded. As my husband said, "We knew God was opening a door with this live painting thing... but we didn't know it was a gigantic airplane hangar door." Within days of my first wedding painted, I had received more inquiries than I could keep track of. Within two months of live painting, I blew my "crazy dream world" goal for 2022 out of the water.
After quitting my teaching job for our move to Red Wing, I started to think, maybe I don't have to go back to teaching. Almost as soon as we moved to Red Wing, I started booking locally for 2023 and was offered a studio space within the historic St. James Hotel on Main Street, Red Wing.
Which puts us in the here and now. I am grateful to God beyond belief for this opportunity to paint precious keepsakes that will inspire couples to keep their flame burning bright for one another, many many years into their marriages. I am grateful for my new town which inspires me with its beauty and seasons. I am grateful to live closer to family. I am grateful to live in an adorable home surrounded by art. I am grateful for the endless support of my family and friends as I work to build this relatively new dream into a whole new reality. I am grateful for a husband who encourages me, pushes me, challenges me, helps me, and is so, so proud of me.
These days, when I'm not at home or at your wedding painting my fingers off, you can find me getting my steps in on the way to the coffee shop with my laptop, set up with my easel by the river, or cuddled up with my dog watching too many episodes in a row of shows I've already seen 4 times.
Thanks for reading this far. It's an honor to have you here.