Oil Painting: Art That Heals: Bonnie Ramsbottom

13 Jun 2007

The artistic journey of Bonnie Ramsbottom is one of both tragedy and triumph: she came to art late in life literally by accident when she began painting as a means to recover from the removal of a brain tumor, the surgery of which she was not expected to survive. Fifteen years later, the artist is not only alive but thriving—and is a firm believer in the healing power of creativity.


If you or an artist you know has a story that you would like to share in the Art That Heals section of  the website, please e-mail us at mail@myamericanartist.com. Please be sure to include Art That Heals in the subject line.

by Jacqueline Kennard

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Tuscan Farm
2003, oil,
36 x 48. Collection Jacqueline
and Stephen Kennard.

It has been said that true art takes note not merely of form but also what lies behind. This sentiment insightfully portrays the work and life of Georgia artist Bonnie Ramsbottom, an award-winning painter whose incredible journey to discovering the artist within is not only about beating the odds but is also an inspiration to all of us who wish to live authentic, creative lives.

Passionate art and antiques collectors, my husband and I have amassed a considerable collection of French and Italian pieces over the years, some dating back to the 15th century. But finding contemporary art that can stand among such masterpieces, particularly those imbued with great meaning, has invariably been a challenge.

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Poppies in the Chianti
2003, oil, 24 x 30.
Collection Jacqueline
and Stephen Kennard.

The moment I laid eyes upon Bonnie Ramsbottom's Poppies in the Chianti at an gallery exhibition, however, I was flooded with the emotions that I often experience when discovering a fine European collectible. I felt a connection to this painting--it had a story, it had poignancy. I was impressed with the technical foundation of the painting, which was based on classical elements of design, but was most moved by the way the work transcended both time and place to convey incredible emotion.

I wasn't the only one in the gallery that night affected by Bonnie's art. But it wasn't until I met the artist in person and heard her story that I finally understood why her painting captivated my heart and soul: Bonnie's journey to becoming an artist began years before she was even aware of her desire to paint. A vice president of a national software firm for 17 years, she made the decision in 1988 to leave the corporate world to explore her love of art. She began by taking several art-history and art-appreciation courses at Wesleyan College, in Macon, Georgia, but soon realized that she longed to create art instead of just study it. Over the next several years she mastered advanced drawing and design techniques and was hopeful of her future as an artist. 

But in 1992 she received devastating news: She was diagnosed with a meningioma tumor in the left hemisphere of her brain and her prognosis was that surgery would either bring death or loss of humanness. “My world fell apart,” the artist remembers. Bonnie was forced to leave art school, and together with her husband Bill, they focused their energy on finding the specialist who would end up saving her life.

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Early Morning Light, Lake Como
2002, oil,
24 x 30. Collection the artist.

Preparing for what was to come next was very traumatic for Bonnie, because she knew that her life—and everything that brought her joy, fulfillment, and passion, including her art—was at stake. The day before the procedure Bonnie, a Christian, found herself in a room alone and on her knees. “At this moment I decided that things were no longer in my hands,” she explains. “I surrendered myself to God and was freed from fear. Suddenly everything became clear, and I was filled with a sense of calm that remained with me until the end of my surgeries. I actually believe that this was a moment of divine intervention that happened because I was willing to let go and leave my fate to a greater power. Later, I learned from my surgeon that he did not expect me to survive. After five long surgeries, he was amazed at the outcome and considered me a miracle!”

Bonnie reflects on the long years following her five surgeries with great optimism. “Oddly, going through all of this turned out to be a gift,” she says. “It tested and validated my faith, and it opened a new door to art and to my unbelievable passion for it.” With her newfound hope, Bonnie began painting on her own, teaching herself along the way. “Learning the basics was essential, but as I began to paint I realized that an artist invariably develops his or her own style, which simply cannot be taught.”

Bonnie's numerous travels to Tuscany and the South of France during this period of recovery and growth renewed her spirit and had a tremendous influence upon her painting. Moved by the raw beauty, vivid colors, and distinctive features of these regions, Bonnie made mental and physical photographs of everything she saw. “I not only took home the imagery but also the feelings, sensations, and essence of the land,” she says. “I have done alla prima plein air painting but, for me, that diminishes the impressions that can occur only in retrospect. I prefer to reflect upon a place and allow my feelings and reactions to evolve. This is how I start my process--it is the only way I can execute my work with truth and beauty.”

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Wheat Fields in the Luberon
2002, oil, 18 x 24.
Collection Nancy and Larry Jones.

When it comes to technique, Bonnie admits that she does not follow a specific formula because, according to the artist, each painting requires its own process. “I don't paint from photographs, but I will use them as valuable references in searching for a detail specific to a particular place, such as a tree or structure,” the artist says. “Regarding color, I have had years to experiment and free myself of any rules or recipes--I use any combination of colors in a painting, even cools and warms in the same hues to achieve a desired result. Essentially, my paintings are vibrant expressions of life seen through my own eyes. Each one is a result of a personal journey embarked upon from pure inspiration.”

Bonnie looks back on all that she has been through and says without hesitation that she regrets nothing. As she explains, “I have a purpose in this life, and each day I fulfill it in my love for others and in each of my paintings. Painting for me is a very spiritual experience, and I do it for the fulfillment of my soul.”

Jacqueline Kennard is a freelance writer residing in Amelia Island, Florida. To contact Kennard, e-mail her at jacquelinekennard@comcast.net.

For more information on Bonnie Ramsbottom, and to view additional paintings, visit www.bonnieramsbottom.com, or e-mail her at bonnie@bonnieramsbottom.com.


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Comments

Bunny Everett wrote
on 9 Jun 2007 4:56 PM
Enjoyed the article about Ms. Ramsbottom. She is such an inspiration and talent.
Paticia Bryant wrote
on 9 Jun 2007 6:29 PM
The article about Bonnie Ramsbotton is one of the most moving stories I have ever read.Her paintings are so beautiful and an inspiration to the soul.
Kim Moore wrote
on 10 Jun 2007 12:37 PM
What an inspiration to read the story about Bonnie Ramsbottom. It's very refreshing to read an article that gives insight into what artist goes through to achieve their art rather than just reading about what techniques one chooses to use. You never know what lurks beneath the surface of a painting. How touching to read this artist's true life story.
Carol Tice wrote
on 10 Jun 2007 9:10 PM
What an inspiring story about Bonnie Ramsbottom. Her delightful paintings bring back beautiful memories of time spent in France. As an art collector I was intrigued not only by her art but by her journey as an artist.
Donna Fandry wrote
on 11 Jun 2007 10:52 AM
What a wonderful article about a wonderful Artist.
Robin McCoy wrote
on 11 Jun 2007 1:15 PM
First I was touch by her paintings, such warmth and feeling. And then I was touched by her story. You go girl! Aloha, Robin
Nancy Smith wrote
on 11 Jun 2007 3:51 PM
What an inspiring article about Bonnie Ramsbottom, who herself is an inspiration for all of us. Each of her paintings is so personal and so meaningful - she sees beauty and importance in everyday scenes which she then recreates for the rest of us to enjoy. Bravo, Bonnie!!
DeForest W. Smith wrote
on 11 Jun 2007 5:42 PM
Wow! A great article about a great lady. My wife and I have had the pleasure of knowing Bonnie and her husband, Bill, for many, many years; before she commenced her journey into the field of painting. She is as beautiful as her paintings. As we travelled through Canada, Scandanavia, Russia, Prague, she always looked at scenes with an artist's eye. She saw that which we did not. I am honored to say that I gave Bonnie her first commission; a wine bottle from Barnett Vineyards. It now proudly graces our dining room.
Don McCarron wrote
on 11 Jun 2007 7:19 PM
I was familiar with Bonnie's work but not her story. The article provided a new and important dimension to appreciating her art. Thanks.
Dawn DuBose wrote
on 11 Jun 2007 8:02 PM
I have the pleasure of owning one of Bonnie Ramsbottom's paintings which I commissioned in 2006. I have also been priviledged to meet her and to be welcomed into her home. She is one of the warmest people I have ever met and her talent is exceptional. I love my painting but I also love that I know the person behind the painting. Dawn DuBose
Kendra wrote
on 12 Jun 2007 12:54 PM
Bonnie, What a wonderful article. Your paintings are beautifully created, blended and captured to reflect emotions and a moment in time. God bless you.
Starling Thornsberry wrote
on 13 Jun 2007 7:53 AM
Having seen Bonnie's work personally, I'm not surprised at all that she has achieved this wonderful accolade. Her work is absolutely mesmerizing and a feast for ones eyes! Kudos Bonnie!
nancy avera wrote
on 13 Jun 2007 8:53 AM
I am indeed fortunate to be able to experience one of Bonnie's paintings each day. Mrs. Kennard's article has further enhanced my joy through the painted word images about the artist. Bonnie is a beautiful and warm human being who is able to project her life's experiences onto the canvas. Bonnie's painting gives me the happy moment of being transported to the countryside of Tuscany each day.
George Eichler wrote
on 14 Jun 2007 2:34 PM
Gorgeous paintings. Mrs. Ramsbottom is truly an inspiration to all.
Rob Ballard wrote
on 16 Jun 2007 8:48 AM
Outstanding, beautiful art and I'm not suprised; it's obvious after reading this story that Bonnie is a very special lady. Her work captivates the heart, soul and mind on so many levels. A wonderful story of triumph over the difficult obstacles life often throws our way. Bonnie and Bill you are both great sources of inspiration! Bonnie, please keep painting!
james Bryant wrote
on 16 Jun 2007 7:23 PM
Bonnie Ramsbottoms story has captured my heart and moved my soul.She has climbed a mountain from the valley to the top.Her courage and determination has given the "Art World" the wonderful and precious gift of true talent combined with the true love of painting.Hats off to the writer for capturing the inner spirit of this artist.
Sharon Davis wrote
on 17 Jun 2007 7:42 PM
What a story you have Bonnie Ramsbottom- pluck, perserverence, latent talent emerging from the crucible of life. I especially love your use of color in capturing the emotive quality of a place and time. There is light in the painting, the story and the telling of it.
Susan Corbitt wrote
on 19 Jun 2007 11:08 AM
Beautiful work from a beautiful life. This is an inspiration to all who have an "inner artist" and a lesson of surrender which results in greater strength and fulfillment. Thank you for the information about the artist behind the work which helps us see the spiritual hand at work in a glorious life.
Paul Cable wrote
on 19 Jun 2007 12:31 PM
Bonnie is one of those rare talents that does not come along but so often.Having been her prayer warrior through all of her trials,I can truly say that she has been an inspiration to me and many others who have been touched by her life and her testimony of Gods Grace.
Jim&Paige Bryant wrote
on 20 Jun 2007 12:41 PM
We can honestly say we love Bonnie Ramsbottoms work. We have several pieces thoughout our home.It is really a beautiful thing to see articles published like this one. Our hats are certainly off to the writer.A God sent miricle about a beautiful,beautiful person.WOW!!!
Claire Smith wrote
on 20 Jun 2007 12:59 PM
What a wonderful article! Bonnie is truly a beautiful person both inside and out. It is her inner beauty that she expresses so remarkably on canvas.
Nancy W. Parrott wrote
on 20 Jun 2007 5:11 PM
We have known Bonnie Ramsbottom for many years and were very aware of her health problems. She is a true overcomer who has gone on to inspire us all with her beautiful art work. May she continue to encourage others
Tom O. Wagoner wrote
on 21 Jun 2007 11:25 AM
God gives all of us talents, and it is obvious He has blessed Bonnie with her talent. It is inspiring to read the story about the artist and it gives you a better understanding of one's art.
Marian Causey wrote
on 22 Jun 2007 11:27 AM
What a wonderful inspriation you are to all. God has gifted you with such a beautiful talen and it will be here forever in the hearts of others. You are God's gift from heaven. Your paintings are so real and viewing them gives you such a since of peace. God Bless You.
Marian Causey wrote
on 22 Jun 2007 11:43 AM
What a wonderful inspiration you are to all. God has gifted you with a beautiful talent that fullfills ones eyes with light. You are a beautiful artist and you have a beautiful soul. May everyone have a chance to be touched and have a feeling of sincerety when viewing your work, I know I did. God Bless You
Ginger Hulett wrote
on 23 Jun 2007 3:33 PM
What a wonderful tribute to such an inspiring artist; a person of self worth and a faith that only grows stronger with each hurdle that she faces along life's highway. Bonnie is a very special friend and soul mate and I delight in her friendship as well as her artistic talent. I have watched her paint and am always amazed at how she is able to transform a blank canvass into a work of art drawn from her intermost being. God's Spirit truly guides her life and talent.
Edwina Gunn wrote
on 24 Jun 2007 3:20 PM
It's has been several years since I've had the pleasure of Bonnie Ramsbottom talented work. She just gets better and better. I'm amazed at the depth; the brillance of color. Good fortune to you, Bonnie. I look forward to seeing more of the work. Edwina Gunn
Elizabeth Puckett wrote
on 24 Jun 2007 8:54 PM
Bonnie's beautiful narrative that explained her special love of art will inspire others who will gain strength through her courage. She is such a special person and her paintings reflect her beautiful soul.
JACK MORRONE wrote
on 27 Jun 2007 1:04 PM
BONNIE'S WORK IS INCREDIBLE! HER USE OF LIGHT IS EXTRODINARY! MY IMMEDIATE REACTION TO EACH PAINTING IS TO VISIT THAT SPOT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
Nancy Jones wrote
on 29 Jun 2007 7:20 AM
We are very fortunate to own one of Bonnie's paintings. It is especially treasured because the beautiful spirit in her heart is reflected in her work. It is a privilege to call her my friend and neighbor. She is an inspiration to all who know and love her for her graciousness and inner self that just continues to shine.
Pat Troxel wrote
on 17 Jul 2007 6:28 AM
What a lovely and befitting tribute to a remarkable artist! Bonnie's passion and depth is reflected in every painting she does. Her work stirs emotions and touches your soul. I am grateful to know this extraordinary human being and to experience one of her great gifts every day.