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Robert Tino started painting when he was 12 and had only a few formal lessons.
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Each year, he paints a portrait of a bear that will be released back into the wild. The Appalachian Bear Rescue is one of his many causes.
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His paintings depict life and scenery in eastern Tennessee and the rural Appalachians.
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Tino confesses that his wife Mary John is his best critic, "telling me the truth."
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During our afternoon together, Tino shows me his process and paints this historic home. This home honors Tennessee former slave Lewis C. Buckner; it showcases his wood carvings and masterful craftsmanship.
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Watching the process allows you to follow the inner workings of the artist's mind.
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Mary John and Robert Tino at the gallery in Sevierville, Tennessee.
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The finished product in about 20 minutes.
I feel as though I’m a time traveler, transported back to the 1970s and my early years of college. In front of a striking white farmhouse on a lush green lawn stands that guy, the one that reminds my memory of all those cool guys in school that the girls swooned over, the ones with the fast cars and the charismatic smile that made you believe in everything they said. With one smooth turn of his head, his long golden brown hair knows exactly what to do, moves into its natural place, in that slow, intended motion. He is the artsy guy whose charisma transcends the football team and lands down the hall in the drama or glee club. Everyone remembers that guy. Robert Tino is that guy.
I meet Tino at the Robert A. Tino Gallery in Sevierville, Tennessee, on a spot of land that sits just off a mega-restaurant-shopping center-lined four lane Highway 66. It was the antebellum home of his wife Mary John’s grandparents; now, it is his spot of heaven which includes barns and pastures that seems to have been spared from what we see several hundred yards in the distance. The hurried sounds of traffic do not impact his rural mecca; he is, more than ever, grounded in the Appalachians and the Great Smoky Mountains even though the city is literally at his back door.
For a few hours, I get to hear Tino’s story, experience his artistry, and understand his passion. Turns out, he is that guy, the one that has life in perspective, and we’re lucky enough to get to see it in color.
Judy and Len Garrison are at home in Farmington, Georgia, just on the outskirts of Dawg country - better known as Athens. Len, an IT manager and photographer, and Judy, an editor, author and travel writer, invite you to travel along with them as they explore the best of the South. Email them at email@example.com. Visit their website at Seeing Southern, and follow them on Twitter at @judyhgarrison, @seeing_southern, LIKE them on Facebook and on Instagram.