Connie Raye Townsend is best known for her playful paintings of dogs and cats riding motorcycles, driving cars, and hanging out in coffee shops. She admits that her favorite response to the work is “your paintings make me happy." Townsend’s evolution and passion for painting happened through a slow process of accumulating life experiences.
Born in Jackson, Tennessee in 1953, she demonstrated advanced art skill at an early age and remembers wanting to be a cartoonist in grade school. High school interest was in photographic realism in pencil drawings, and college was ceramics and abstract oil painting. She recalls that her parent’s enthusiasm for their hobbies left a greater impression on Connie than their careers. “Mom liked to oil paint and Dad liked to build things." Acquiring skills and working with her hands were top priority when it came to employment.
For a short time in the early 70’s she worked as a service station attendant, pumping gas, washing windows and learning basic car maintenance. Breaks were spent sketching the vehicles parked at the shop. Other blue collar work followed.
Then in 1980 she moved to Flagstaff, AZ and worked for Ralston Purina driving a forklift, loading trailers and box cars with dog chow. Days off were for exploring the surrounding National Forest in a Jeep with her dog, and taking photos. She loved the utility of this vehicle, and became obsessed with late model Jeep Willys, buying and restoring them.
In 1990 Townsend took a course in screen printing. She left Purina and opened her own business, “Outrageous TEES custom screen printing." It was a perfect mix of physical and creative work. She started paying more attention to graphic design and visited local galleries regularly. Several artists got her attention including Joe Sorren, Mike Frick, and Shonto Begay, who were all living and creating art in Flagstaff and on a path to national renown. This sparked a desire to get back to painting. Community College courses, and entry in a few local art shows where her works were well received, gave her the confidence to imagine living the life of an artist. These first paintings included her dog and her jeep.
In 2002 with several galleries selling her work, Connie retired from screen printing and became Blue Collar Art Works, known today as CR Townsend ART.