Anabel Hopkins

Painting in T.C. Steele Country

by Bill Weaver
photo by Bill Weaver

Brown County hills have always inspired artists, so it is with Anabel Hopkins. “I’m an outdoors person,” she says. “I love being in the country. I love hills, I love water, and I love art. When we had the opportunity to move to Brown County we took it and we’re very happy.”

Hopkins and husband Harry live on 25 acres along the extreme western border of the county where it meets the Monroe Reservoir. It’s T.C. Steele country, where the artist prowled with paint and canvas for his next painting.

Starting with a love for the art of Monet, Hopkins studied with Kwang Cha Brown, Shelley Frederick, Robert Eberle, Scott Sullivan, Patricia Bartels, and is an admirer of Hoosier painter Mary Ann Davis. “I’m still growing as an artist,” she says. “I’m fairly new at this. I have a lot more to learn.” While her style leans towards the Impressionists, “I’m trying to get a little looser, more abstract, a little freer. I’m trying to develop my own style. I may be abstract one day and meticulous the next.”

Anabel enjoys plein air painting but works from photographs at her Les Nymphéas Studio when the weather won’t cooperate. “I’ve done several paintings from this picture,” she says of a misty, ethereal photograph she took during one early morning walk. “It’s so rare to catch that. It was in the summer and I had been waiting for a day like that. It doesn’t happen often, you have to rush and get it when it does.”

Anabel, who once owned a boarding stable for horses in Monroe County, rides the back hills whenever she gets the chance. “I have a friend down the road, Dave Hays, who grew up out here. He’s about 83. He rides like a maniac,” she laughs. “He’s taken me all through the hills and shown me where the old home places are and the old school sites and the farms. There will be huge woods and he’ll say, ‘Oh, yeah, there used to be hogs here.’ Or, ‘I used to cut hay here,’ or, ‘We used to cut wood here.’ It’s really interesting to ride with him through all these lost communities.

“We’re on a peninsula of Lake Monroe. We have a pontoon boat and we like to go up Salt Creek. It’s like the Amazon. You go back in there and it’s totally deserted. We see eagles every time we go out and all kinds of wildlife. It’s beautiful.”

While Monet’s gardens inspire her art, they also are the driving force behind her plans for the property outside her studio. “We have a little pond over there that we’ve fenced and put in an arbor and Japanese bridge,” she says. “I want this to be a location that people can get out to this forgotten end of the county, sit by the pond, enjoy the flowers, and watch the fish, turtles, and birds. We’re going to add more gardens until it’s quite elaborate,” she continues. “Being on the Studio and Garden Tour is incentive for doing that work and spending the money to fix it up. No one would come out here if they didn’t have a destination. This isn’t a place you’d find by accident.”

Hopkins encourages everyone who would like to make art to try. “You just have to jump into it,” she laughs. “Take lessons. It really helps. Find a teacher you like, whose style you feel comfortable with—a teacher that will let you explore your own style. The teachers that I’ve liked best are the ones that can demonstrate as they work. I can get more ideas from it.”

Hopkins is president of the Art Alliance of Brown County, which is preparing for the Brown County Art Colony centennial year. “We have a couple of projects we’re doing. One of them is to put artists back on the street painting. We’re contacting artists all over the state to come down here. The other one is called Living Treasures, we’re working with the Historic Society and with Traditional Arts Indiana out of Indiana University to videotape our six oldest living artists and get their stories recorded while we still can.

“I like to keep busy,” she observes. “If you don’t keep going you slow down too much and then you die.”

Anabele Hopkin’s work is displayed at the Nashville Gallery at 100 Van Buren Street <>, and Gallery North on the northside of the Courthouse Square in Bloomington <>. Also see <>. To visit Les Nymphéas Studio call (812) 837-9607.