PAINTING HER PASSION
ARTICLE BY KAY RECTOR AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRAD ARENDER
MONROE ARTIST BUNNY HEWITT describes herself as a “moody painter.” She paints only when she feels moved to create, filling her canvas with whatever images inspire her in the moment. While her artistic process may not be regimented or methodical, the quality of her work is consistently extraordinary.
Born Barbara Ann Cannon, Hewitt has been known by the nickname “Bunny” her entire life. “I was just a baby when my Austrian grandfather started calling me Bunny, and it stuck,” she says. Hewitt’s mother was from Minnesota, of Austrian and Norwegian descent. Her father, who was Lebanese, was in the Navy, stationed in San Diego, when her mother met him in 1943.
Hewitt was born in Minnesota and reared in her father’s hometown of Monroe, where the family moved shortly after her birth. Her father worked as an orthopedic surgeon and her mother as a registered nurse. Together, they founded the area’s first orthopedic clinic that is still operating in Monroe today. “My father loved medicine and practiced until he was 80 years old,” Hewitt recalls fondly.
Hewitt began painting in high school, but received very little artistic instruction. She says that there seemed to be less focus on the arts in schools, when she was a young student. Consequently, she never considered art as a major course of study. With no interest in pursuing a career in medicine like her parents, Hewitt instead studied merchandising in college, first at Ole Miss and then later at LSU. She took classes in art and theater, but only as electives. Of her formal education, Hewitt laughingly says that she was a well-rounded “C” student.
As Melanie King, art instructor and owner of Painter’s Palette in Monroe can attest, Hewitt is far from average in terms of artistic ability and talent. Hewitt began painting under King’s tutelage nearly forty years ago and still paints at King’s studio at least once a week. She credits King with much of her success as a professional artist. “I owe Melanie a great deal,” says Hewitt, noting that many local artists have been positively influenced by King’s teaching. “She encourages artists to create what they feel.”