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Grant County Art Show

Artist Osborne to
highlight Dry Ridge, Ky., event

He created portrait of
former President George Bush

Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

DRY RIDGE, Ky. (September 2009) – Being invited to the Oval Office in 2006 by President George Bush to present him with a graphite and color pencil portrait has been one of the highlights of artist John Osborne’s career. After all, it’s not everyday one is invited to the Oval Office.

John Osborne

Photo provided

Artist John Osborne
joins other artists
at this month's Horse
Heritage Days.

Osborne is an accomplished artist from Dry Ridge, Ky., who works in graphite, color pencil and oils. “I like doing portraits of people who have contributed to our history,” said Osborne, 66. “The only rule I have is that I must see character in the subject.”
Originally from Liberty, Ind., Osborne moved to his parent’s home state of Kentucky when his father went into the U.S. Navy in World War II. In fact, his first recollection of his love for art is “of a calendar that hung on our kitchen wall when I was 4 or 5 years old. It was filled with paintings of World War I aircraft engaged in aerial combat.”
Osborne is a member of Community Enrichment Through the Arts. Based in Grant County, Ky., the group displays its members' artwork monthly at the Grant County Tourism Center and plays host to the annual Autumn Arts Fest.
This will be the eighth year for CETA to sponsor the Autumn Arts Fest. CETA decided to accept an initiation to join with Kentucky Horse Heritage Days to make it one large event, said Judy Mullins, Grant County Tourism Director.
Kentucky Horse Heritage Days is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sept. 26-27. The event will take place at the Northern Kentucky Fairgrounds on Baton Rouge Road in Williamstown, Ky.
Artists such as Osborne will be participating in this event. Grant County is the first county to take part in an equine event leading up to the 2010 World Equestrian Games, said Mullins.
“Art and equine artistry combine for a festive and entertaining event,” said CETA artist Brian Simms of Kentucky Horse Heritage Days. “It’s a fun, educational and exciting festival of the diverse and significant value of the horse on our history and our tomorrows.”
Arts and craftspeople from the tri-state area participate, said Mullins. There are indoor and covered outdoor tent spaces, live demonstrations and food. On display will be paintings, drawings, photography, handmade baskets, ceramics, music, soap, and jewelry, just to name a few of the media that will be represented.
Osborne usually doesn’t market his artwork at many other venues, but he does like to participate in the Kentucky Horse Heritage Days event. “Graphite was the first medium available to me as a child in the form of a No. 2 pencil in my school supplies,” he said. “I learned how to shade with it for what in later life gave a black and white photographic quality.”
He pursued the art form over the years because “I like fine detail. Pencils give me the control to achieve that.”
Osborne said he believes any art talent he possesses is a gift from God. “He uses the hardships, emotional pain, disappointments, failures and even my joys to improve my art.”
The time Osborne spent in Vietnam serving as a crew chief and door gunner on a D-Model Huey helicopter provided him with a great passion for aviation and military art, prompting an interest in combat artistry. But the war also influenced his art in other ways due to many sleepless nights he spent painting in an attempt to avoid sleep as he was ravaged by nightmares of Vietnam.
He returned home from the war in summer 1967 at the beginning of the war protest movement. He said protesters really had little or no idea as to the conditions soldiers served under in Vietnam. Once he returned, “I withdrew for the most part from society. Art gave me a temporary safe place to escape into.”
Osborne has used such experiences and translated them into his artwork. All those sleepless nights fueled his creativity. “There was some success-my skills went from very bad to somewhat acceptable.” Acceptable enough to be invited to the White House.

• Admission to Kentucky Horse Heritage Days is $5 per car load. For more information, contact Judy Mullins at (859) 322-3082, the Grant County Tourism office at (859) 824-3451, or visit: www.cetaarts.us or www.grantcokentuckytourism.com.

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