Brownstown painter finds inspiration in southern Indiana landscapes

A rural Brownstown man looking for something to keep him busy in retirement recently rekindled his childhood love of painting with the hope of making some money.

But if Bill Bickers doesn’t sell anything during an exhibition of his paintings at a Nashville art gallery or anywhere else for that matter, he will be fine.

Painting is something Bickers, a former information technology worker with State Farm Insurance, said he does because he really enjoys it.

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“It keeps me off the streets,” the Columbus native said.

Bickers’ exhibit, which opened Friday and continues through July 23, at B3 Gallery/Ascension Fine Arts in Nashville features about a dozen of his works. An artist’s reception will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at the gallery, 61 W. Main St., during the Brown County community’s Fourth Friday Art Walk.

Painting is something entirely different from the 32 years of IT work the Columbus North High School and Ball State University graduate did for State Farm Insurance’s corporate headquarters in Bloomington, Illinois.

“There were projects, plans and it was very methodical,” the 62-year-old Bickers said. “I don’t have the personality for that kind of work, but I was really pretty good at it. I was working with people who really aren’t like me. I am kind of a happy-go-lucky guy.”

Bickers said he painted when he was younger but quit about the time he turned 20 because it was no longer fun.

He was a perfectionist, which meant painting might be an all-day task because it had to be just right, Bickers said.

“In art, it just seems like I kept drawing bowls of fruit,” he said. “I got tired of doing that, so I just quit art entirely — forever.”

Or so he thought.

He started back up about 10 years ago after his wife, Kristina, suggested he try it again.

“I’m glad she did,” Bickers said.

The suggestion came after the couple had been visiting his father, Dr. William Bickers, an optometrist.

“We were coming back from visiting my dad,” Bickers said. “He was still alive in Columbus, and we were going back to Bloomington, Illinois. My wife said, ‘Why don’t you start painting again?’ because she had never known me when I painted.”

Because of his perfectionist nature, his wife said he should try abstract painting.

So Bickers tried doing a painting for his father, who was a musician.

“So I did him a guitar with a crooked neck and arms and legs,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to portray an actual guitar. It was just a representation.”

That painting provided Bickers with the push to get restarted.

“I started painting for family and friends, and it just grew from there,” he said.

Bickers mostly paints landscapes.

“I’ve always enjoyed being in the outdoors,” he said.

His paintings are inspired by southern Indiana landscapes and the shapes and shades of everyday life. He paints in acrylics.

He calls his painting abstract impressionism.

“Impressionistic painters use short, quick strokes and often with a knife, which is what I do, so that’s why it is abstract impressionism,” he said. “I also call it folk (art) because folk painters are untrained, and I have never painted in a class.”

The show at B3 will not be Bickers’ first.

“I actually I was lucky enough to have a show in Seymour at Southern Indiana Center for the Arts,” he said. “That was in 2016. I enjoyed that immensely. It was the first time I had ever done anything like that. I was scared to death. You have to stand there and talk to people. You’re kind of showing all your guts out when you’re doing something like that.”

That show went pretty well and gave Bickers confidence to paint some more.

His advice for first-time painters is to try to keep it simple because it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Besides painting, Bickers likes to make furniture for his home.

He draws his inspiration from his wife.

“She has all the ideas,” he said.

His works include a dry sink, a cabinet for dishes, a stained glass cover for a ceiling light in the kitchen and more.

“I really like getting the saw out and making stuff,” Bickers said.

He believes everyone is an artist and art can be found anywhere and in anything.

“I think it’s just part of human nature,” he said.

He said gardening and cooking, for instance, are art in their own ways.

“People get this idea in their head that art has got to be this and this and this,” he said.

The Bickerses wound up retiring in Jackson County after they visited a church in the Dudleytown area, where one of Kristina’s grandfathers had served as pastor. They explored Jackson County a little bit more and ended up at the Dairy Queen in Brownstown.

“Everyone was so polite and it seemed like a happy little town,” Bicker said.

So in 2015, they decided Jackson County would be a good place for retirement and purchased a cabin in the hills west of Brownstown.

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What: An exhibition of paintings by Bill Bickers of Brownstown

Where: B3 Gallery, 61 W. Main St., Nashville

When: The show opened Friday and will run through July 23; an artist’s reception will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday during the Brown County Art Walk; 12 local galleries will be open late with many hosting featured shows and musicians

Information: 812-988-6675

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Who: Bill Bickers

Age: 62

Home: Brownstown

Family: Wife Kris, daughter Abigayle Townsend, son Adam Bickers

Education: Graduate of Columbus North High School and Ball State University

Occupation: Retired information technology and a painter