When Huntersville-based painter Mary Crow was a third-grader living West Virginia, a teacher allowed her to complete drawings during free classroom time.

It was in this part of her life that Crow realized she had a passion for creating art, allowing her artistic talents to blossom. Crow, now a substitute teacher, recently received a lateral entry teaching license and hopes to help other young artists find their artistic visions.

“I was always entering those art contests at school and found a lot of encouragement from my teachers,” she said.

Crow will be one the artists featured in the Denver Art Trail, which takes place Oct. 20-21. Crow uses oils and pastels to paint portraits of people and pets, as well as landscapes. She said she enjoys experimenting with different lighting effects in her arts.

“I’m always challenged by the variety of subject matter in portraiture and landscapes,” she said. “It’s always exciting to work on a new portrait or to find a new beautiful landscape that I might enjoy working on.”

Developing her artistic talent through childhood and high school, Crow attended the Columbus College of Art and Design for a year before transferring to West Virginia University where she majored in painting and printmaking. She moved to North Carolina in 1994.

Residents around the region might find some her pieces familiar. Pieces Crow plans to display during art trail include paintings of Bradford Farm in Huntersville and Grandfather Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

She is an active member of the Charlotte Plein Air Painters, a group of area artists who meet in and around Charlotte who participate in monthly “paint outs.”

Crow also contributes pet paintings for local animal shelters and networks to use in auction or raffle fundraisers. A portrait she painted of St. Mark Catholic Church pastor Rev. Msgr. Richard Bellow hangs in the Huntersville church’s Narthex to honor his efforts to build a new church sanctuary.

“I feel that my artistic bent is a gift from God and I try to use that as a service for him whenever I feel inspired,” Crow said. “I also enjoy contributing paintings to service groups that help the homeless.”

In addition to teaching children as a substitute teacher in the area’s public schools, she offers private painting lessons to teenagers and adults. She invites people interested in commissioning a portrait to visit her on the Denver Art Trail as well.

“I can talk to them about the process and the types of photos they need,” Crow said. “Sometimes people don’t realize that there are portrait artists in the area that can be commissioned for work.”

Want to go?

When: Oct. 20-21

Where: Stops throughout east Lincoln County along the Denver Art Trail include Blue Heron Bed & Breakfast, Lake Norman Flowers & Gifts, Canary Hill Studio, Mentour Learning Center. For a complete schedule, go online to www.facebook.com/DenverArtTrail.