Had she lived long enough to witness the activities downtown this week, Marion DeVore would no doubt have been extremely proud of her step-grandson.
That grandson, Michael DeVore, is an exhibiting artist for the first time at the Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts. Marion DeVore founded the festival in 1967.
Michael DeVore, 29, is one of 144 artists participating in the festival. An Oklahoma City native, the artist said his grandmother's encouragement and appreciation of his talent were driving forces behind his burgeoning art career.
Marion DeVore, who died in January 2010, worked tirelessly for the last decades of her life along with her husband, John DeVore, and thousands of volunteers, to expand the festival.
A well-known and active civic leader, Marion DeVore had a long resume of philanthropic activities for which she was honored time and again. In 1980, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Heritage Association Hall of Fame, and in 1988 she received the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools Wall of Fame Award.
“She would take me to the ballet; we'd go to musicals and things at the Civic Center,” DeVore said. “She was always trying to expose me to art and culture, and I'm really glad she did, because I have a great appreciation for those things now.”
DeVore said he was always drawing and doodling as he grew up. When he'd create a new painting or win an art award, he always proudly showed his grandmother. She recognized his talent when he was young and encouraged his parents to foster that interest and talent.
Since graduating from Pepperdine University, in Malibu, Calif., with an art degree in 2005 and completing a four-year classical art program at the Florence Academy of Art in Italy, DeVore has dedicated himself to his craft and has taken on a style of painting he said he never knew was possible.
“My ambitions have changed at different times in my life. As a kid, I wanted to be a Disney animator. When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a comic book artist,” DeVore said.
After graduating from Putnam City North High School in 2001, DeVore decided to study art at the university level.
But as an art major at Pepperdine, DeVore said he felt a little lost. He didn't receive the kind of training he felt he needed to become a true professional artist.
DeVore had spent some time in Florence in a study-abroad program, and after he graduated from college, an Internet search brought the Florence Academy of Art into his sight.
At the academy's website, DeVore saw art the likes of which he hadn't seen outside of museums where the classical Realist masters were on display.
He saw paintings that spoke to his artistic sensibilities, he said. The paintings evoked emotion, focused on human subjects and drew DeVore in with their timeless realness, which seemed in stark contrast to the modern style he said was somewhat pushed on him while he studied art in college.
“I didn't think anyone could do this anymore,” he said of the realism and classical technique he saw at the website. “I didn't think anyone could paint the way that Rembrandt and those guys painted hundreds of years ago. When I saw that it was possible, I said, ‘That's what I want to do.'
At the Florence Academy of Art, DeVore learned the techniques of the old masters. He learned to make his own paint. He stretched his own canvases. He learned human anatomy. He painted from life, not photographs.
“It really wasn't until I found out about the Florence academy that I regained inspiration again,” DeVore said.
Now, DeVore is growing a professional art career, along with his wife, Cecilia DeVore, whom he met while studying in Florence. Also a painter, she paints under her maiden name, Cecilia Thorell. The couple live in Colorado Springs, Colo., and are expecting their first child in June — a girl to be named Ella.
See his paintings
Michael DeVore's paintings can be seen in Booth 12A at the Festival of the Arts and at www.