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It's a colorful life: Area woman paints picture of journey to full-time artistry
Tamara Haase
Jasper County artist Tamara Haase paints Christmas decorations onto windows at Huddle House in Monroe. Haase recently painted the mural in Covington honoring the area’s film history. - photo by Stephen Milligan

COVINGTON, Ga. — With a palette of paint on her hands and creativity flowing in her veins, Tamara Haase loves bringing new life to Georgia towns with only the swift stroke of a brush.

The Jasper County artist recently completed a mural honoring the area’s film history in Covington and has since been traveling across the region painting windows of various storefronts with Christmas cheer. 

Haase has been working as a full time artist for about five years, which she felt like was still a bit of a surprise as not many artists are financially able to remain full-time. When asked how it all started, she called her story a “long and winding trail” — a life she never quite pictured.

Originally from Gwinnett County, Haase was introduced to art as a young girl. She remembered being taught lessons after school by a woman who lived in her family’s neighborhood.

“She really planted that seed,” Haase said. “It wasn’t just silly stuff. It was real serious … that improved my skills a lot.”

In high school, she wasn’t the brightest student, Haase said, but she always made her A’s in art class. But what about life after high school? Haase thought college wasn’t right for her, until she was introduced to the Atlanta College of Art, now known as Savannah College of Art and Design. Haase said she enjoyed her time there, but she couldn’t quite fit in. So after one year, she transferred to the University of Georgia. Still struggling to find the right fit, Haase transferred again to West Georgia College the next year, where she would go on to graduate in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts.

Upon graduation, she packed up and moved to the state of Washington. But it wasn’t for her art career. In fact, Haase said she did nothing related to art whilst in Washington. Instead, she spent time working in a frame shop, which would lead to her next venture.

Around 1997, Haase returned to Georgia and opened a frame shop just off the Covington Square. She said business was great, but it became too much for her.

“We operated for one year and it just exceeded my preparedness,” she recalled. “We got a lot of business, but I realized I wasn’t prepared to be a business person … I’m just not a boss.”

She then decided to sell the business and start a family, raising a daughter and son. And it was during that time, she began to pick up her paint brush again to paint portraits or clients here and there.

Then about six years ago, while teaching private lessons to a woman from Mansfield, Haase said the ball started rolling.

“She would talk about how the city needed a mural, and so I was like, ‘OK, let’s do it,’” Haase said.

And so, they did. After meeting with local historians and establishing a clear understanding of what was wanted, Haase painted the mural. It can still be seen today, just off Ga. Hwy. 11 beside Roosters restaurant.

“That just kind of started the ball rolling,” Haase said. “But it wasn’t a fast roll.”

After the mural was completed, Haase said she was approached about painting windows to decorate for Christmas. The first time she didn’t think much of the request, but as the requests became more frequent, Haase thought it might be something she should take on.

After watching a series of tutorials on YouTube and researching what types of paint worked best, she created flyers and went “all over the place” to pass them out.

But no one called.

“One day, I went to over to Bradley’s Bar-B-Que to give them a flyer, and [owner Brad Stewart] just happened to be there. He took my flyer, looked at it and said, ‘When can you do this? Tomorrow?’ And I said, ‘OK.’ So he said, ‘Sign me up.’”

After Haase painted “Christmas pigs” for the barbecue joint, she said the window art became a hit.

That was also when Haase realized she could become a full-time artist. 

“It was like all of a sudden I was making more than I have ever made in a day, and it was regular,” she said. “Because as soon as I finished with Christmas, people wanted Valentine’s Day; then in the spring, ‘hey, let’s do Easter,’ and all these things. Then in between, people were wanting me to do sign work. I just was never too picky about what I did, exactly, just as long as I was painting. My professor in college told me that if it’s painting and you're making money at it, you're using your skills and that’s a good thing.

“Every year gets better and better,” she added.

Since becoming a full-time artist, Haase has developed a clientele that mainly spans from Covington to Monroe, over to Social Circle and down to Monticello, where she painted a “welcome” mural for the Jasper County city, but she has also completed work in Austell, Roswell, Dawsonville and Eatonton. Haase has also received inquiries from towns in Alabama, though she’s been hesitant to do anything out of state, yet. 

Currently, Haase said she’s practically booked through next year, so she’ll be unable to do any more window paintings until next Christmas season. This year, her slate is full of mural work.

Haase said her journey to becoming a full-time artist was simply a “God thing,” but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Before becoming a full-time artist, I hated being confined to a chair,” she said. “I’m social; I like talking to people and meeting people, moving around and being outdoors. So, the mural thing didn’t come til later, but after a lot of prayer, that was kind of the answer.

Haase said one of her favorite things about painting in the city of Covington was seeing and hearing about the joy her work brings to not only locals, but tourists as well.

“I’ve heard from some people that there will be a group of girls walk around the corner [at Pace Street] and then just scream with excitement [after seeing the mural featuring the Vampire Diaries and Sweet Magnolias, among others],” Haase said. “Hearing about that and seeing that is just exhilarating.”

Christmas mural
Pictured is a part of the finished Christmas at Huddle House in Monroe, painted by Tamara Haase. - photo by Special to The News