The unusual part of Nancy Durham's pen and ink art is that seeing it makes the viewer want to meet the artist.
"Who can do such exquisite work as this?" the viewer finds himself asking.
And if you are from Cass County, you probably have seen her. For 20 years Durham was the U.S. Postal Service's Rural Route 1 mail carrier, driving 117 miles each day in the Carterville and Bear Creek communities.
Before this, she was Kildare's postmistress of three years while living at Kildare Junction. Before that, she was a carpenter who, with her then-husband, built homes in the area.
She was born in Duncanville, but she and her sister Peggy spent summers in Linden with grandparents Linden and Virginia Durham.
"We'd walk to town, go to the drug store and Piggly Wiggly's and walk around with a shopping list that grandmother had given us," Nancy tells. "We loved it here. I'm a outdoor country girl and knew I wanted to raise my kids here."
Nancy had taken woodshop and drafting in high school. She said she was destined to work with her hands. She had an interest in art. So had her parents, Bob and Loreta Durham, and grandparents.
One day she visited a Marshall, Texas, museum hosting an international art show and found herself spending hours looking at bird paintings, some of which were in pencil or pen and ink.
"I was fascinated, and I went home to try."
She then got her chance at work.
"One day I was asked to make an art drawing celebrating the Wildflower Trails that would be turned into a cancellation stamp. These last for just 30 days and are destroyed but are highly collectible around the world. I made one, and it was accepted." She ended up making 13 over several years.
On her own, Nancy studied a library of art books and practiced pen and ink drawing. Her favorite and most challenging work became pencil portraits. One of these could take 90 hours, but it was what she most esteemed. Her work might win best of show in contests, yet what she really wanted was portraiture that impressed and convinced.
"Making an artwork that truly pictures the person gives me the most pleasure. Very difficult to do. The nuances of a face are so subtle, especially with the accuracy I require. I want the mother to say, 'That's my child!'"
Recently, a new challenge has emerged. Michael Scott Clifton, an upcoming fantasy author in Mount Pleasant, Texas, who is writing a series of four novels, saw her drawings and asked her to draw for him.
"Illustration. This was far from my field. I didn't even read fantasy books," Nancy begins, "But he said he liked my work and please do. I began to read his books, did the illustrations for two, and now I love them. They are page turners."
Nancy took early retirement from the post office, and since about 2018 has devoted herself to her artwork, especially the pencil portraits.
"I do these on commission, and when I'm through I sign them, and they belong to the owner.
"I like showing my art. I don't think there are winners and losers in art. You compete with yourself and your skill level.
"I've never been to art school, and books have been my teachers. I just know that drawing with pen and ink and creating portraits in pencil make me happy. That's been important to me and my customers in these times."
Perhaps this is what the viewer of Nancy's art is most impressed by — she has tried to communicate her happiness.
Nancy's work can be seen on display at Beloved Daughter store in Atlanta. She has a small presence on social media, but says she's not an online expert. She can be reached at 903-601-1666.