With nature as an inspiration to see beauty in the world, many artists take their canvases, paints, and brushes to the great outdoors so they can work amid the natural beauty they wish to depict. That certainly applies for Terlingua artist Michele Billings.
A native of Maine, Billings has been a sign painter and artist since the age of 19. Four years ago, her life took on a more adventurous path as she relocated to the wild and scenic Big Bend area, a setting that has attracted many with artistic inclinations.
“I’m doing the off-grid thing,” said Billings. “I live way out in the desert, but I can manage to do business here despite living so far from town.”
Although she lives 12 miles back on a dirt road, Billings still manages to get cell phone service and wireless internet, two essential components needed for her to complete her artistic pursuits. Billings makes her home in the Solitario region of Terlingua Ranch surrounded by Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park, and is thrilled to have nature all around.
Billings has painted signs for the Big Bend Information Center in Study Butte at her studio, Michele Billings Art and Signs, and some of her work is exhibited at the Earth and Fire Gallery in Terlingua Ghost Town. Robert Alvarez, executive director of the Brewster County Tourism Council, first approached Billings for the Study Butte signs, and that led to painting signs in Marathon.
Billings started painting the signs during the coronavirus shutdowns in March, and worked on them until May.
“It was good for that time because I didn’t really have anything better to do but just stay here and paint,” noted Billings.
The visitor information signs in Study Butte and Marathon were made from medium density overlay sign-grade plywood, a special kind made exclusively for outdoor use. Besides working at her studio, Billings has also exhibited at Alpine’s Artwalk, where she says it has been among the best places to sell art.
“It’s a lot of fun, and I sure hope that they get to do it again this year,” said Billings.
The best way to contact her is through social media via her self-titled Facebook page, where she has photographs of all her works. Though Billings gets her kicks living off the grid where she finds nature and beauty all around, she still manages to do business off-the-beaten path.
“It’s nice to know that I don’t have to be right in town to run a business. It’s important for me to live in the wilderness, and that’s just my thing. That was a big draw - the very remote land, but being close to both a state and national park,” she said.