Artist inspired by

Sept. 4, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

From the steep slopes of the Green Mountains to the rolling hills of the Champlain Valley, Vermont’s landscape is dotted with barns, old and new. The structures have been inspirations for artists for years, and local painter Tally Groves is no exception. What’s different is the nontraditional tools she uses to create her colorful works.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Local artist Tally Groves stands next to her 'barns and love shacks' artwork at her Williston Studio. Groves will display her work at this weekend's South End Art Hop in Burlington.  

Groves, a Williston resident who also paints from a studio in town, works with oil paint sticks rather than the usual paint and brush. And instead of drawing on canvas, she uses “scavenged” plywood — wood boards in good condition found at construction sites.

Groves, who will display her art at this weekend’s South End Art Hop in Burlington, isn’t quite sure how she came upon the oil sticks as her medium of choice, but she likes the freedom the sticks allow.

“Maybe people get working with paint brushes better than I do,” Groves said with a laugh.

Groves’ paintings are all of what she calls “barns and love shacks.” Each painting is of a colored barn, typically with different-colored doors and windows. Most of the time, there is a crescent moon hanging in the sky. And while the pictures look similar, there are differences in color, shapes of the barns, and so forth. Groves said it’s simple, but she’s always been drawn to barns.

“I’ve always loved barns,” she said while sitting in her tiny studio in Williston. “When I moved here, I was just so struck by the barns on the landscape.”

Emilie Alexander, gallery director for the Emile A. Gruppe Gallery in Jericho, featured Groves’ barns, along with other works from Vermont artists, at a show that lasted five weeks in January and February. Alexander said the gallery sold “a couple” pieces and said people she spoke with were struck by the simplicity of Groves’ works.

“People thought they were quite interesting,” Alexander said with admiration. “They have a certain appeal.”

She said she likes the paint sticks, which resemble large, thick crayons, because they add different texture to the wood base. She can add layers of different oil paints, which appear off the boards as more rugged and three-dimensional.

The oil stick paint dries hard to the wood. Before Groves can apply another oil stick to the board, it has to be dry, although she admitted the drying process can take a while in Vermont’s sometimes humid summers. In dry weather, the paint can dry overnight.

Groves’ paintings appeared in various galleries and art shows in the state, including in last year’s Vermont Studio Tour. In 1996, she won Best of Show at the Champlain Valley Fair.

At this weekend’s Art Hop in Burlington, Groves and other Vermont artists will have a room where the public can view the barns.

She also has a Web site,, she and a friend are working on, with some of her artwork on display.

Other than at the occasional art shows and galleries, Groves has sold paintings right out of her studio. Earlier this summer, a customer from 15 years ago paid a visit and bought three paintings and commissioned four more. Several of her paintings sold for upwards of $300.

“It’s been quite a summer,” she said.

Groves is not a native of Vermont, but lived in Westford for 10 years in the 1990s. She is originally from Michigan, but has lived in Cleveland, Boston and France. After leaving Vermont in the late 1990s, she traveled to California for a time before moving back to the Green Mountain State two years ago.

She has a degree in art therapy from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and has taken art classes at the Corcoran College of Art+Design in Washington, D.C. and the DeCordova School of Art in Lincoln, Mass.

Besides the barns, Groves has created graffiti work, with colorful sayings that have popped into her head at random times, usually before she falls asleep, such as “She can dress up in blue and return them to me.”

“I don’t know where it comes from or what it means, but it sounds nice,” she said.

She has also worked with clay sculptures. The small, intricate designs are hugely time consuming to create, Groves said, but she is interested in returning to pottery again in the future.

Until then, she’ll continue to paint barns, her artistic muse.

Tally Groves’ paintings will be on display at 2 Howard St. at the South End Art Hop in Burlington on Friday, Sept. 5 from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on Saturday, Sept. 6 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For contact information or to view Groves’ work online, visit