Heart in the storm/pandemic 2020 is a somber scene. On the canvas, there are cascading showers of penetrating hues of deep blue that create symbolic, atmospheric darkness. On closer observation, one finds the residential grid of the suburbs on the left and the city skyline on the right. In the center of the painting is a red bleeding heart emerging from the ashes.
With impressionistic realism, the intensely emotional piece was created during the pandemic by Dallas artist Mary Grace Eubank to emphasize the strength of the human spirit with faith, hope and resilience. The painting was honored with a Best in Show from The Artist’s Circle, earning Eubank an online solo exhibition that is currently available.
“I was trying to say something about all the people who have struggled,” the painter says. “I tried to emphasize the strength of the human spirit and the promise of it getting better.”
Eubank is inherently a storyteller—ever since her childhood when she would draw all of God’s creatures she came across. Then, for five decades, she was a celebrated children’s illustrator. Now, at 76, she’s switched artistic lanes into fine art painting.
Eubank grew up in the East Texas town of Marshall, where she developed her skills as a young artist until she attended Southern Methodist University, where she graduated with a degree in fine arts. She began her professional career at The Drawing Board in Dallas while accumulating a litany of freelance jobs involving anything that inspired and enlightened children. Her love of animals shined through her work, and the cards she designed often featured whimsical fauna that would put smiles on children’s faces. When the company got the license to characters from the Children’s Television Workshop, Eubank was one of the assigned designers for the cards. She eventually left The Drawing Board and added Sesame Street to her freelance repertoire, opening doors to countless opportunities in the industry.
Illustrating became an all-consuming passion and career. She redesigned or created more than 25 board games for pioneers Fisher-Price, Milton Bradley, Mattel and Hasbro; this included developing her own licensed characters, such as Crocodile Dentist. She illustrated more than 100 books with Random House, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan. As a lauded member of the industry’s fraternity of accredited illustrators, Eubank was invited to attend book signings and talks at bookstores, libraries, churches and schools.
“I remember my mother reading Golden Books to me as a child, so reading them to my grandchildren was very special,”
As “Big Bird burnout” set in, Eubank accepted more assignments that featured her unique characters. She was recruited by The Lyons Group in Allen, Texas, to participate in the formulation of the popular Barney characters, turning live-action into an illustration and creating a stylebook that is essential for licensed characters. She also illustrated many of the first Barney books, games and products. The first book, Just Imagine, was written by Mary Hollingsworth and sold more than 1 million copies in six weeks. The two later collaborated on more than
30 Christian books in the ’90s.
Never one to stop, Eubank worked consistently through the years with clients on commissions and advertising projects, and she created brands for corporate image promotions. She also attended numerous workshops with nationally and internationally known artists. This work allowed her to explore a range of styles and tiptoe into the fine arts. With studios at her homes in Dallas and Colorado, she is investigating various subjects and situations while experimenting with different media and techniques. After so many years of the restrictive boundaries required to work in children’s illustrations of licensed characters, Eubank says that painting with spontaneous abandonment is truly emancipating.
With the majority of her assignments and responsibilities in New York for so many years, Eubank did not unfold the fabric of the artist community in the metroplex. She works with collectors, clients, designers, decorators and galleries across the nation, but she says, “The real soul of the local creative anthropology is the artists themselves.”
Eubank continues: “I am getting to know more of these interesting and amazing people. I want to absorb the synergy and power of their self-expression by sharing personal experiences and internal dynamics.”
Spackling with a palette knife or dipping her paint into sponges, tissue paper, toothbrushes and whatever else she can get her hands on, Eubank will work on six or seven paintings at a time to allow each one to dry to just the right texture before she continues. Her style ranges from traditional to contemporary, and she creates thought-provoking abstracts, scenic landscapes, colorful still lifes and expressionistic animals. In October, she’ll bring together her illustrative and abstract styles with a solo exhibit at Graileys Fine Wines in the Dallas Design District.
“I’m not starting over; I’m transitioning from one element to another,” she says. “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” *
Christiana Lilly is a freelance journalist in Pompano Beach, Florida. See more of her work spanning the arts, community news and social justice at christianalilly.com.