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Local artist inspired by faith designs OU football T-shirt, plans to illustrate children's book

Lorna René

Local artist Lorna René paints a picture in her home. René asked that her face remain hidden to keep the focus on her work, which she hopes "honors her faith in the Lord."

Local artist Lorna René brings a breath of fresh air into Crimson & Whipped Cream early Monday morning. René carries a bag filled with her watercolor paintings, pen sketches and certain pieces she feels “honor her faith.” As a 60-year-old woman, she knows a little something about life.

"I truly believe my artistic talent is a gift from God. I just see things and interpret them the way God would want me to," René said.
René began painting as a child but didn’t receive recognition of her talent until high school. During her sophomore year, René entered her work in the Mississippi State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs Inc. competition and received an award, she said. A self-taught artist, René's work has been recognized throughout the United States.
René was born into a Christian family and confessed her hope in Christ at a young age. She has always been strong in her faith, Heriscene Thompson, René's mother, said.
“She loves God and her artwork; she is a believer and has a compassion for people,” Thompson said.

René’s genuineness allows her artwork to be relatable to viewers, Thompson said.

“Her faith is so strong, and she tries to include what she believes in all paintings. Her art truly comes from her heart,” Thompson said.
As a military brat and army wife, René has traveled across the United States. Her life experiences have influenced her paintings and helped her “carry the message of the Lord,” René said.
While René’s husband, a U.S. Army Veteran, was stationed in Hawaii, he showed her an ad for the Royal Hawaiian Center's jewelry and art gallery, which stated it needed artists.
“At the time I didn’t have money to put paintings up in my house, so I painted my own decorations,” René said.
While René’s work was on exhibit, one of René’s five children, Cornelius Maxwell, entered her work in various worldwide contests. These contests include assorted New Orleans festivals and the Art Set Free international competition, where René was a Global Showcase winner. Maxwell said that seeing the time and effort his mother put into her work inspired him to do research about art exhibitions around the United States.
“To her it’s not about making money or being the richest on the planet; it is about getting the message of her faith and the Lord out,” Maxwell said.
René's family and friends have always inspired her to continue to paint, but in 1996, a serious car accident that severely injured her neck slowed her down.
The car accident left her with three slipped discs in her neck. René’s doctors told her she would be paralyzed from the neck down and that none of the prescribed treatments were working, she said.
"God had an answer though. He uses who he will and when he will," René said. “I had a severely slipped discs and the doctors told me to prepare for being a quadriplegic. Imagine what I felt being a mother of five kids, one with autism. I didn’t know how to deal with the news.”

Maxwell, 13 years old at the time of the accident, said his mother’s strength during that tough time inspired him to have faith in his life.

“Doctors thought the operation was going to kill her, but my autistic brother healed her in a way, relieving the pressure in her neck from his hugs. It truly was a miracle by God,” Maxwell said.
René began exploring her artistic career more seriously when she moved from East Texas to New Orleans in 2013. René spent some of her life as a realtor, but the move to New Orleans inspired her to quit in order to take care of her autistic son.
René said she doesn’t take any obstacle as a setback but instead places it in the hands of the Lord.
“I was praying and looking at artwork in New Orleans and said, ‘Lord, what would you have me do now because I need to work,’ and he came to me and said, ‘Use what you got,’” she said.
René established herself as an artist in New Orleans. She found herself without a job and asked the Lord to guide her, she said.
“I never thought of projecting art into a career, but the Lord just ended up guiding me to it,” she said.
René describes her artwork as simple. She said Christ inspires everything she does. She said the message in her work symbolizes love and unity.
“If you look at each picture a little more you’ll realize something is being said to uplift your spirit. My work has a ‘true grit’ meaning and is trying to tug at the heart,” she said.
René’s outlook on life guides her work, and staying focused on the Lord keeps her grounded, she said.

The most recent move René made was to Oklahoma in order to allow her husband to continue his job. As a loyal wife and mother, she believed moving to the red dirt state was the right thing to do.

“My family sticks together. I couldn’t hold my husband back from his job,” she said.
Being in Oklahoma provided the opportunity for René to create a T-shirt design for the University of Oklahoma. After receiving the rights from OU in August, she started creating OU-Texas T-shirts. The shirts say "Football Machine Sooners" and are available for purchase on René's website.
“It is a great opportunity to have OU believe and support my artwork. I really hope people who enjoy OU see that as well,” she said.
René plans to focus on the military and those with special needs in her next pieces of art.
“If something good is done, give back. (The military) at least deserve a thank you,” she said.
René’s future artistic plans include illustrating a children’s book that centers around interacting with people with special needs.
“Kids need to know that it is OK to talk to those who are different than you,” she said.
René currently lives in the Oklahoma City area with her husband. For more information about René's brand and artwork, visit her website.

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