Couple plan national marketing campaign

“The road to success, someone said, isn't paved,” a fact not lost on Jeff and Kim Gibson, Cimarron County artists who hope to sell their work to national chains.

The county road to their home/studio has more in common with a roller coaster than 21st century transportation. It snakes through the Cimarron River breaks, with stomach-lifting hills cresting before you can see the bottom of the next water crossing.

The Gibson home is a testimony to the couple's talents. The home consists of two trailer homes linked in a T-bone fashion. The floors and many of the kitchen cabinets are wood taken from a scrap heap and utilized.

The walls are from the native stone that litters the small ranch. Several of the stone imbedded in the walls have been smoothed off and Kim has painted western theme paintings, an Indian hunter, bears, etc.

What stone they haven't used in their home, Gibson has sold, flagstone and simple rocks; an idea his mother-in-law came up with to earn the family extra money.

“I couldn't believe that someone would pay for a rock,” Gibson shrugged.

However, in 1999, when the Gibsons moved to the ranch in Northwestern Cimarron County, the road into it they say, was little more than a cattle trail.

“If you missed the water crossings by more than an inch, you were into a steep ditch,” Gibson remembered.

“That's why I used to get out of the car and let him drive over,” Kim grinned.

How two artists could, from such a remote location, interest merchandising giant Wal-Mart in distributing their religious-based art is to the Gibsons, simply explained, “It took us two years to find Wal-Mart; but, I believe God lead us to them through a lot of prayer,” Gibson said simply.

“Kim hadn't painted in about 10 years. Then God told us He'd bless us if she started again.

“I've painted since I was about 13 years old,” Kim said. But, once I picked it up again I could see immediately that it [her talent] was different,” she added.

She pointed at her husband, Jeff, he's an artist too and perspective has always been easier for him. He'd sometimes have to tell me, ‘His legs aren't the right size for his body.' “ Kim explained.

“But, since she started painting again, the perspective is all different, it's good,” Gibson said pointing to a nearby piece of art.

“Sometimes now, I do a brush stroke and I know it's wrong when I do it. But I don't know how to fix it. I'll get up, walk around the room and pray about it. I come back to the canvas and it's right. I believe now that if the Lord isn't with me in it [her painting] then I'm back to square one,” she smiled.

In one print, title “In God We Trust” Jesus is in profile, an American Bald Eagle seems to be perched on his right arm. In looking at the picture, some of Gibson's features seem to leap out.

“I can't see it,” Kim said with a shy smile. “But others have mentioned it. I get ideas for many of my characters from weight-lifting magazines. But I've had Jeff stand just so when I need to see an arm or leg in a certain position. I used to make him stand while I painted; but now, I just take his picture with my digital camera.

In searching for the right medium for her acrylic art, the Gibsons discovered Gillie' prints, a method which can transpose the product onto a stretched canvas rather than paper so once framed it looks like a piece of original art.

Besides the California group, the Gibsons also use Ron and Teenye Hewitt, of Woodward to produce their prints.

“The beauty of this process,” Teenye explained, is that the prints can be done on demand, so you don't have too much money tied up in stock.”

“This,” she said, “is the printing process of the future.”

The Hewitt's found the process while researching the best way to sell Hewitt's work; he's been painting full-time and selling his art at shows nationwide since 1989. They've been sidelining in printing other artist's work (more than 100) since 1999. They do the prints for the art department of OPSU.

“The thing about this process is that you can tweak the colors,” Teenye explained.

Part of the Gibsons' plan is to have the finished prints shipped to Boise City for framing before shipping to the stores for sale.

Asked why they feel the prints and their distribution might be inspired, Gibson explained, “We've had four different evangelists or preachers, none of them knowing what we were trying to do, tell us that God had said he was going to bless us,” Gibson explained. “The first was at the Dumas Christian Center; an evangelist was preaching and suddenly he stopped, looked out over the crowd and asked, ‘Who has something on their heart about Wal-Mart?' I held up my hand and he said, ‘God is going to bless you beyond your wildest dreams.'” Gibson recalled.

“Of course, for the longest time, being blessed beyond my wildest dreams meant a new house, new cars; but that's not what it's about. That's why a significant amount of the proceeds will go back to God's Kingdom,” Gibson said.

Also, I owe a lot to others, Connie Lewis and Jeff both wote poems. I think it's all inspired by God,” Connie said.

Gibson would eventually like to structure the potential business like a group from California who produce some of the prints from Kim's paintings. The group buys and sells church property, shopping malls and other American Real Estate; the profits go into businesses set up in Mainland China, malls, retail stores and fast food franchises.

“They can't go in as missionaries,” Gibson explained. “So they set up the businesses with Christians managing them; as business progresses, the manager begins mission work,” he added.

Gibson decided to approach Wal-Mart as they drove past a store one day two years ago. “Why don't we sell them [paintings] in Wal-Mart,” he asked Kim. “They are huge.”

The couple turned off, contacted the store manager who then put them in touch with the director of new product development in Bentonville, Ark.

They made their Hobby Lobby connection while looking for cheaper car insurance for their teenage son. The insurance agent they located on line had grown up next door to the franchise creator and has begun efforts to put him and the Gibsons together.

It is such chance meetings as these that convince the Gibsons that God's hand is obvious in their endeavors.

Asked if Wal-Mart might not object to their approaching other stores, Gibson shook his head no.

“They want you to find other outlets. They'll tell you they want you to depend on them for only about one-third of your business. So, if they decide to drop you, they won't leave you hanging,” Gibson explained.

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