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Folk artist Harry Teague took up painting after a series of debilitating strokes changed his life.


Harry Teague, 61, noted folk art painter

By Holly Crenshaw
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/01/06

The debilitating strokes that blindsided Harry Teague when he was 46 wrecked his body but shook loose his soul.

It transformed him from a three-pack-a-day businessman stuck in fifth gear into a folk artist whose works crackled with crazy color and welled up with tender-hearted whimsy.

His driven nature didn't go away. It simply expressed itself in an unexpected way. Instead of juggling sales calls or developing a subdivision from scratch, Mr. Teague churned out 1,300 paintings in a decade - 200 scooped up by House of Blues restaurants and hotels, hundreds more sold in galleries and at art festivals throughout the South.

Art wasn't even on his radar screen before he fell ill in 1990, said his wife, Diannia French Teague of Cartersville.

"He wouldn't have had time for that," she said. "He was always interested in business and doing this and doing that."

Eventually, his wife said, "He said, 'I should have been doing this all along.' "
Harry Lowery Teague, 61, died of a heart attack Sunday at his Cartersville residence. The graveside service is 2 p.m. today at Oak Hill Cemetery. Owen Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Mr. Teague grew up in Cartersville and attended West Georgia College before throwing himself into a sales career that took him to Chicago.

In the early '80s, he and his wife moved to Gatlinburg, Tenn. They intentionally slowed down for a while and even went without a phone for a few years before they opened two restaurants and other sideline ventures.

He had nearly finished developing a subdivision when the strokes hit.

Therapy helped him walk again and regain some limited speech but not to read or write. He and his wife moved back to Cartersville in 1994, and after a boredom-induced trip to a crafts store, he suddenly squeezed out a startling new version of himself from tubes of vivid acrylic paint.

Experts and just-plain folks reacted immediately to his riotous palette and fanciful compositions, often populated by improbable creatures.

Once Mr. Teague sold his first painting at the Modern Primitive gallery in 1996 for $40, there was no stopping him.

"With Harry being a Type A, high-achieving person," his wife said, "that was just the beginning and from then on, he expected things to happen."

And they did. He illustrated children's books and had his images printed on notecards. He won awards at folk art festivals and drew gushing praise from critics.

Mr. Teague loved selling his work directly to the public at festivals and watching people - especially children - react to his paintings.

"There was such an innocence to his work, and every piece just captured so much of that childlike feeling in all of us," said his friend Mary Zeman of Woodstock.

With his wife as his helpmate, Mr. Teague already had 10 shows lined up over the next few months and a batch of fresh paintings ready to go.

"We were closer in the last 15 years than ever before," Mrs. Teague said.

"I feel sure if he hadn't smoked, he wouldn't have had the strokes, but then we wouldn't have had Harry's art. And I'm just so glad to have them. I can't tell you how much these pieces mean to me."

Survivors include his mother, Annie Lee Teague of Cartersville; and his brothers, Greg Teague of Cartersville, Garnett Teague of Cartersville and Daryl Teague of Rome.

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