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Talent and coincidences run in artists family
"Rollin' on the Chattahoohee" showcases Judy Bynum George's improvisational style.

Judy Bynum George

What: See her painting "Rollin' on the Chattahoochee" as part of the Virginia Avery Memorial Art Exhibition
Where: Marietta/Cobb Museum, 3 Atlanta St., Marietta
When: Through March 16
More info: 770-528-1444

Art of Living: Learn more about an organization dedicated to art education, where Judy Bynum George is president.

Helen artist Judy Bynum George has had a life of happy coincidences.

Growing up, her father was a Baptist preacher who was also a professionally trained illustrator. He spent hours on drawings that were eventually incorporated into his religious TV show, "The Art of Living."

When it came time to go to college, George never really considered pursuing art, even though it was all around her. Instead, she chose to attend Houston Baptist University because it was near her parents; until then, her own experience with art was winning a coloring contest in the fifth grade and putting together countless puzzles with her baby-sitters growing up.

"I went to college and after about a year I had to pick a major, and it just surfaced," she said.

Years later, George is now an accomplished artist who specializes in sweeping abstract landscapes from around North Georgia. One of her paintings, "Rollin' on the Chattahoochee," can be seen at the Virginia Avery Memorial Art Exhibition at the Marietta/Cobb Museum in Marietta. The exhibit continues through March 16.

The exhibit is sponsored by the Atlanta chapter of the American Pen Women, the country's oldest organization for creative women.

"There are 70 pieces hanging out of 350 applicant pieces. Hers is a wonderful big piece," said Jane Carroll, chairwoman of the exhibit. "They're mostly master works there - professional artists - and it's a beautiful show."

George said her impressionistic style is very different from her father's, though.

"I think that's why I do what I do, because I'm more improvisational. He's very trained and drew - he spent hours on his drawings," she said. "I don't do any of that."

She said she fell back into art years after college, when she got a job in a framing shop. Again, a coincidence in a job that happened to come at a turning point in her life.

"When I was 27, I wasn't going to church like you think I would be. Very typically the preacher's daughter, and I was just drifting," George said. "At the time, in your 20s, you don't have any idea that what you're doing is going to make any sense."

But that job, surrounded by art, brought George back to graduate school at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega, where she studied under Bob Owens. He recommended she show her art at Abstein Gallery in Atlanta, which continued to open doors for her.

"Bob was terrific because everyone respects him and he believed in me," she said. "So I've had some key connections at crisis points; huge things have happened to me along the way."

Today, she teaches classes in Helen and Sautee, including a few coming up at the end of this month. Classes are open to both seasoned artists and those just starting out, she said.