PHOTO GALLERY — Port Arthur artist creates award-winning work with no prior experience
Published 12:50 am Saturday, February 25, 2023
As Tina Deleon entered the Dunn Gallery at the Museum of the Gulf Coast, she slowly began to scan the hundreds of entries from the 8th annual Art and Photography Contest before stopping on one.
Deleon took her cell phone and focused on “Keepher,” a painting of two Black women surrounded by bright colors reflecting the deep blue of a clear ocean, the orange found inside a flame and yellow accents that pop off the canvas.
“I love this,” she said quietly while photographing the piece with the first place ribbon hanging beside it.
And standing quietly across from it was the artist, 34-year-old Enjoli Bush.
It wasn’t the first time the Port Arthur woman graced the walls of the Dunn Gallery, last year having won first and third in the non-professional category.
But it was the first time her work hung as an award-winning professional painter.
It was an unexpected path for the mother of three who taught herself to paint.
Only, it’s not a skill she began honing at a young age.
Bush first picked up a paintbrush two years ago.
“When I started, it was me taking my kids out, and we were doing things every week,” she said. “We’d go to the park, walk around, go to the Botanical Garden, skate, different stuff. And one day we said, ‘how about we paint?’ All of us painted together, and we still do now. They’re very great and very creative.”
There were no artists in her family. She’d never attempted to even draw. But from that moment on, Bush began creating vibrant pieces with acrylic paint.
“The main thing has been discipline and going for it,” she said.
The Beaumont native who moved to Port Arthur 14 years ago didn’t lean on Internet tutorials or other paintings for inspiration. In fact, she won’t.
“I try to limit myself on (exposure) because I don’t want to be influenced,” Bush said. “I want mine to be my own and no one else’s.”
For the 7th annual Art and Photography Contest in 2022, Bush’s piece “Escape 3D” took first in the non-professional category.
“It was just a lady sitting down, and she was just listening to music. I can just feel the vibrations,” she said of the predominantly pink piece. “She’s just listening to music — calm, relaxed.”
Her third-place award was given to “Encore,” which she called a “very festive” painting.
“There are really great designs,” said Museum Curator Robert Fong while looking at a picture of the painting. “It’s really, really nice.”
The difference between professional and non-professional art, Fong explained, is capped at the number of pieces an artist has sold.
When Bush first entered the contest, she fit in the novice category, having sold less than three paintings.
One year later, the former substitute with the Beaumont Independent School District is sustaining her livelihood from her art.
She humbly admits still being surprised by how things have evolved.
“It was just so unplanned,” she said.
In addition to her first place award this year, Bush took third for a painting of a parrot called “Skye.”
Filled with her signature bright colors and unorthodox backgrounds, the piece stands out among those around it. The difference is, it started with a plan as blank as the canvas.
“That one was more free,” she said while looking at it. “I just put the paint down and went with it. I had no idea what it would be when it started.”
Recently the museum hosted an awards ceremony for the contest winners. Bush’s children were in attendance.
“They were wild,” she said laughing. “They were as shocked as I was. And my daughter, she’s 11 and she’s very artistic. She does some great things, so I want to get her to enter next year in the kids’ category”
At 11, 5 and 3, Bush’s children are encouraged to express themselves in their own way when holding a paintbrush.
“They do their own thing, and I let them be as independent as they want to be,” she said.
Attendance at this year’s awards ceremony was remarkable, Fong said.
“Two years ago, I only had one family show up during a Family Fun Day on Saturday for the award ceremony,” he said. “It’s grown from that one to 320 people in two years.”
Entries this year totaled 247 with $1360 awarded throughout six separate divisions.
Paintings will be on display through April 15.
Bush is currently working on a piece in her home, where she often paints with tea and incense to create a calm atmosphere.
“I love painting women and just capturing the beauty of it,” she said. “It’s a piece of a woman, and it has flowers. I’ve never painted flowers before, so it has flowers and it’s very colorful and soft, too, at the same time. I think I want to send that one off somewhere. That’s always the bigger dream.”
And it’s part of her future plans.
Bush hopes to one day teach art, potentially returning to a school district to share her raw talent with youth.
But ultimately she hopes to bring her work full-circle by using a talent discovered with her kids to travel with them.
“Travel is definitely on my list, so traveling with the kids and maybe I’ll see (my work) in California one day. I may send some pieces there.”
Learn more about Bush and what art she has for sale at EnjoliB.com.