SHERIDAN — The ability to produce art knows no boundaries of age, and that rings true for talented artists still sharing their gifts with communities at senior living homes and beyond. Two ladies — Alice Fuller and Beverly Hankins — started in the art world at young ages with limited supplies. Now, with endless options of acrylic paints, the women’s art pieces show up on the walls of neighbors and employees at Elmcroft of Sugarland Ridge.
Fuller’s father repeatedly bashed the idea of artistry as a profession or even something to fill up the precious hours of a day. Despite the push away from the craft, Fuller — with the backing of her mother — acquired painting supplies and pursued a life consumed by art. Before obtaining real materials, though, she started with landscapes.
“I ran away from home,” Fuller said. “…Well, I didn’t really run away from home but I didn’t want to go to school, so I ran away from school, really. I waded across the Little Bighorn River and chopped off a chokecherry branch or found a long branch and went out in a big pasture that had smooth snow — no cows, no tracks — so I would draw pictures in the snow.”
Her mother then purchased supplies and she ended up finding solace in school teachers who taught art classes. Fuller shared about several teachers and school experiences that influenced and continues to influence her art, which she completed in her spare time but never as an occupation.
“I couldn’t even imagine not painting,” Fuller said. “I really loved it.”
Now, her art and artworks of friends grace the walls of her Elmcroft apartment. While she struggles with not having the space she used to for painting on the plains of northeast Wyoming and southern Montana where she grew up, she enjoys continuing her craft in community classes.
Fuller’s neighbor down the hall shares in her continued love for art. Beverly Hankins has been painting for 30 to 40 years and also started at a young age. She took a couple of lessons and independently increased her skills by what she wanted to paint.
“The lady that gave the lessons just did scenery,” Hankins said of her training. “So I just went home and I thought, ‘You know? I think I can do animals. So I did.”
Hankins remembers her late husband joking that she would start a painting when he went to sleep and he’d wake up and the painting would be finished. Hankins’ career in painting continued in a similar format, where she would find any item — from skulls and bones off of ranches to gourds from a garden — and paint it.
As she walked the halls of Elmcroft, Hankins shared numerous art pieces gracing the hallways, offices and her own apartment inside the building, all created recently. While her collection from years past lies primarily with family, friends and other admirers with only memories detailed in a photo album, Hankins continues to create pieces to share with others. A recent work — finished late this summer — completed a flower series to brighten up the walls at Elmcroft. Her last finished painting was for an Elmcroft employee.
“I thought it was out of my blood,” Hankins said. “But when I did that painting for Darcy (DeLapp), I just thought, ‘Oh, that was fun. I’m gonna do some more.’”
Hankins shared the love of art with her two daughters, one of which — Marva Craft — heavily contributes to the art world in Sheridan through means of theater at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center.
Fuller and Hankins started young and have lived lives full of art. Each mistake has turned into a beautiful creation. Fuller knows that mistakes in art are actually great discoveries and sometimes what makes the best product.
“When people turn themselves loose and just do it,” Fuller said of mistakes in art. “(Painting) by your feelings and your guts, you know?”
Art by both can be viewed around Elmcroft and in personal collections.