Exploring Four Unique Art Forms That Help Define Galveston’s Cultural Landscape

By Donna Gable Hatch
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Galveston’s unique seaside environment provides an abundance of inspiration to create distinct artistic compositions. In this feature, Galveston Monthly delves into the captivating worlds of four distinct local artists, each utilizing their chosen craft as a means for artistic conversation. 

 From the art of love and nature that is ever-present in the woodworks created by Chad Hartman to the celebration of the symbiotic relationship between artist and material in Justin Howell’s woodcarvings, the thoughtfulness of these two craftsmen deserves celebration. 

 Similarly, the works of local artisans Sheryl Lambert and Tracy Miller channel their love for all things coastal while embellishing seaside treasures from our local beaches. 

Throughout the ages, love has been a powerful muse for artists, driving them to create works that capture the essence of desire, longing, and the deep connections that bind us to people, places, and memories. 

 This timeless theme, woven into the fabric of human existence, finds its expression in the earliest artworks of our ancestors, but not always through direct representation. Often, these emotions are embedded in the very act of creation, serving as a cathartic release for the artist's innermost feelings. 

 Similarly, contemporary artists continue this tradition in various forms and media, such as Galveston artist Chad Hartman who channels his innermost love and angst onto wood canvases that depict a love of nature he shares with his personal muse. 

 “Her name is Whitlee Malone; she is from a small country town in Arkansas, where we met six years ago,” Hartman says. At the time of their meeting, he was living in the area and owned a hunting-related enterprise. 

 “I was at the gym one day and I saw her smile. Then she spoke to me in her country voice and I fell in love. She loves the ocean and the wild, and it was like a dream. We fell in love.” 

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 A true nature enthusiast, Hartman doesn't just admire the natural world - he wraps himself in it as a fishing guide, and he turns to it to express his innermost feelings. He uses wood as his canvas, transforming pieces of nature into works of art. 

 His choice of materials ranges from aged, weathered planks to fresh, new timber, and even found objects with distinctive textures and stories of their own. Each piece of wood is handpicked for its character. Hartman often enhances his paintings with handcrafted frameworks that add depth and context to his creations. 

Placeholder image“My art is abstract realism. I’ve been painting for about eight years, but within the last six months, it’s turned into a love story. The love of my life left the island, and since she left, I have just been painting as much as I can. What I paint is the beauty that I dreamed of sharing with her.” 

 Hartman’s artistic talents extend to functional art. He creates painted benches and other outdoor furniture, seamlessly blending aesthetics with practicality. His pieces are perfect for those looking to bring a touch of natural beauty into their homes or businesses, whether inside or outdoors. 

 Behind every brushstroke, there are thoughts of Whitlee, who left the island because she was homesick and longing for her family. 

 “When she moved here, it was very hard for her and her family. I sign my art with a heart because Whit always called me her ‘heart-man.’ I miss her more than anything and I am fighting hard for her return,” he said, adding he finds comfort in a dachshund puppy named Ollie that he bought for her. 

 Though not a wordsmith, Hartman strives to express his emotions and promises through art and actions, creating lasting symbols of love and dedication. 

 “I am not good at communicating with words, but I can paint my heart out,” he said. “I have made promises that most men never keep, but I have and will. I told her I would get her a horse, and I did. Two horses named Prince and Rambo.” 

 The pair of horses are housed by the shore, along 8-Mile Road, in a stable christened in her honor. 

 “It’s called ‘Whit’s Stables.’ I also built a beautiful swing where she can watch the sunset, inscribed with a quote from me saying, ‘The sun never fades nor will my love.’” 

 Hartman’s art, from fluorescent-painted benches to wood canvases of all sizes, embodies his dedication to infusing life into every creation. 

 His work can be found at the West End Marina & Restaurants in Sea Isle and Venados Cantina in Jamaica Beach. Prices range from $150 to $1,200. He said he wants to make sure his art remains accessible, believing that everyone should enjoy the beauty of art, regardless of budget. 

 While he waits by the sea for his love to return, he paints, he creates, and he hopes. 

 “My whole life, I dreamed of a woman like this. I prayed I could find someone that I could share the ocean with. Being a fishing guide and all, I know so much about the ocean. It’s been my whole life. I see the beauty in it and I protect this beauty,” he said, adding that sharing it with the love of his life was everything. 

Placeholder image“We fished almost every day together and I have not been able to get on the water [since she left] because my heart just can’t [handle it]. But the boat is ready, and her tackle is all set waiting for her to return to the edge of the land, which is what we call the beach, and where her heart belongs.” 

 To view more of Hartman’s works, visit his Facebook page Art Chad Hartman. 

In the realm of woodworking, some understand the symbiotic relationship between artist and material. 

 Local craftsman Justin Howell allows the wood to reveal its purpose to him - and it’s been that way almost from the beginning. 

 “My father was a cabinet maker, and I was used to wood and tools [in the house] while growing up. I would make toy boats from clothespins. They were two-dimensional and my wood boats were just the general shape of a boat,” said Howell, who has been woodworking for 30 years. 

 “One day, my father brought home a boat he had carved out of a board. It was wood, but it was three-dimensional. I never made another 2-D boat again. My eyes were opened to a new world.” 

 For Howell, whose work sells for $500 and up, woodworking isn't just a passion. It is a respected heritage that resonates with artisans who skillfully craft exquisite and functional wooden creations by hand. 

 He relinquishes control to allow the material itself to guide the creative process. Unlike traditional methods that start with a predefined outcome, Howell embraces spontaneity, letting each piece of wood dictate its destiny, emerging as a testament to the inherent beauty of the wood. 

 “I love the grain of the wood, and I love the mystery of the beauty of that grain,” he said. “I love the fact that I never know how the grain will appear until the final finish. Every part of the process is a surprise.” 

 At the heart of his creative approach lies the meticulous curation of wood. He finds walnut, oak, basswood, and cherry within the heart of the Texas Hill Country, and he acquires pecan in Angleton, Texas. 

 Prioritizing softer woods for intricate carving and denser varieties for precision detailing, the artist’s selections epitomize a nuanced blend of functionality and visual allure. 

 “I maintain a wood pile from my sources and go through my pile looking for the log that will create the least waste. I prefer to start with a generic log and visualize if I can get a large enough piece out of it.” 

 The key to wood sculpture lies in its grain, Howell said. 

 “If you carve a human figure with the grain, then it’s structurally sound,” he said, explaining doing so ensures structural integrity, preventing detachment of limbs.  

“But that also means you can’t have an arm sticking out from the body or it will be against the grain and very fragile. In my elephant sculptures, I carve the tusks separately and attach them with a small nail, allowing for easy removal without damaging the piece.” 

 Removing more wood adds weight to the sculpture, making delicate details harder to manage, he said.

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 “What I mean by that is the more detail and fragility you put into the piece the harder it is to handle. You can’t just muscle it around. You have to put one hand here and another here, and it can be a challenge to handle it without breaking something off.” 

 Mesquite is Howell's favored wood, but prolonged exposure led to his hypersensitivity to mesquite pollen, which serves as a potent allergen and can cause skin irritation and respiratory issues. 

 “All my early sold pieces were of this particularly beautiful wood,” said Howell, who was a member of the Texas Mesquite Association, a nonprofit organization devoted to sharing woodworking skills, outreach programs, and hosting workshops on working with native Texas wood.

 “I was told that I had such a good eye because I utilized the grains and rays of the wood perfectly for each piece. But after five years, I became hypersensitive to it and can no longer use it at all. Of course, now everyone tries to give me mesquite.”

 For Howell, the journey from conception to completion is as much about discovery as it is about creation. He begins with a rough-hewn log, allowing his imagination to run wild as he shapes and sculpts, uncovering hidden treasures within the wood's grain.

 Once he has selected a log, he starts by using larger tools to roughly shape it and reveal what lies beneath the bark. Occasionally, this reveals flaws like hollowness or rot, which usually means it's destined for the lathe or cross-building. Consequently, he often ends up with a large pile of bark, chips, sawdust, scraps, and usable planks. “I also make Christian crosses out of the scraps.” 

 Then comes the enjoyable part - the shaping of the wood. 

 “I enjoy the freedom to create whatever hits me at that moment. I don’t question why I get the muse. I think of it as some calling that I shouldn’t fight. My fish piece becomes a trout piece jumping out of the water, or my elephant becomes a male elephant shaking his head to impress you. After that, the mystery is gone, and it’s just a matter of shaping and polishing.” 

 At the heart of his work lies a deep reverence for the natural world. He eschews artificial embellishments, opting instead to let the inherent beauty of the wood shine through. 

 “Some pieces scream for color to accentuate the natural beauty of the wood,” he said. 

 “But it’s hard to resist the temptation to add color to ‘pretty up’ a piece. If I had my own collection, they would all be dark wood with a deep blue filling in cracks or accenting somehow. I have gone from a roughed-out piece that I like, smoothed, and applied a finish, and then realized I lost the look [I wanted] and have had to go back and rough it up. But that’s okay. I don’t fight the wood.”

 Whether it's the majestic presence of an elephant or the sinuous grace of a swimming fish, his sculptures are imbued with a sense of authenticity that resonates with viewers on a primal level. 

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 “I give [fish] a little twist and then exaggerated tail and fin curvature to give the impression of movement/life,” he said. 

 Stingrays and octopuses - the latter of which has proven to be his best-selling pieces in Galveston for the past three years - captivate him due to their inherent flow and movement. 

 His largest pieces were comprised of life-sized reclining female nudes, which he sold to buyers in Italy and Mexico through a shop in the Galleria in Houston several years ago. 

 Additionally, he has a piece displayed at the HEARTS Veterans Museum of Texas in Huntsville, Texas, featuring three soldiers on patrol. A photo can be found on Howell’s Facebook page. 

 His work is also available at The Shoppes on Postoffice, located at 2201 Postoffice Street in downtown Galveston. For more information visit his Facebook page, Art by Justin Howell. 

Local artisan Sheryl Lambert channeled her love of all things coastal - and her whimsical outlook on life - into beautiful and creative works of fused glass art. 

 “I love the beach and the tropics. I love the foliage, the creatures, the water, the colors, the sound of the waves, and the sand between my toes,” said Lambert, an award-winning glassmith who has been a featured artist at G. Lee Gallery on Strand Street. 

 “My work is very often influenced by the beach, whether through its design or my choice of colors. Recently, I have begun incorporating actual beach sand from Galveston and Crystal Beach into some of my pieces,” she said. 

 Lambert received her training in glass fusing from nationally acclaimed instructors who imparted scientific principles and creative inspiration, motivating her to craft distinctive functional and decorative glass art. 

 Her art is renowned for her use of vivid splashes of color that transform ordinary spaces into galleries of vibrant artistry. These pieces, while functional, are each a statement, highlighting the translucence and fluidity of glass.

 “I appreciate and enjoy making various forms of kiln-formed glasswork. I have made vases, lighting, sculptures, bowls and platters of all shapes and sizes, but right now my favorite is wall art,” said Lambert. 

 The artist lives with her husband of more than 50 years, photographer David Lambert. The couple split their time between their home in Missouri City, located within the Houston metropolitan area, and their "heaven-on-earth" home in Crystal Beach on the Bolivar Peninsula.

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 “I like to apply color and whimsy to pieces that catch your eye when you walk into a room and make a happy statement in a space.” 

 "I am, basically, a bird who is attracted to shiny, sparkly objects,” she said, adding it was a trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina that her passion for glass art was ignited.

 “I kept running across these gorgeous pendants with vibrant, sparkling colors that were deeply embedded into crystal clear glass. They were mesmerizing,” she said.

 Intrigued by the creations and the creative process, she researched it thoroughly and enrolled in a half-day Leisure Learning class, which sparked “a fantastic adventure of learning and creativity,” leading her to immerse herself in the art of glass fusing. 

 When her journey as an artist began 15 years ago, she initially focused on small, sparkly jewelry pieces like pendants. These early works, priced at $20-$25, captivated audiences with their vibrant colors and intricate designs. 

 Over time, her skills and artistic vision expanded, leading her to create larger and more complex pieces. Today, her portfolio includes stunning functional art, such as bowls and platters, showcasing her mastery of the medium. 

 Her largest piece to date, a quirky underwater scene on a 12-inch by 36-inch whitewashed plank, recently sold for $275 at The Shoppes on Postoffice. Additionally, her most expensive creation, a 12-inch by 16-inch glass sculpture titled "King Crab," is currently displayed at the same shop and priced at $300. 

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 This evolution from small jewelry to substantial art pieces highlights her growth and dedication as a glass artist, constantly exploring the boundaries of her craft. 

Lambert said there are various forms of glass art, each with its unique techniques and allure. The three most well-known forms of glass art are stained glass, fused glass, and blown glass, also referred to as cold glass, warm glass, and hot glass, respectively. 

 “Most commonly, fused glass creations begin just like stained glass, but that is usually the extent of the commonalities. Blown glass is very different,” she said. 

Despite being called warm glass, the kiln temperatures for fused glass can range from 1000° to over 1500°, whereas blown glass requires much higher temperatures, from 1600° to 1900° and beyond. Stained-glass art is created at room temperature. 

 “Because of the heat required in fused and blown glass, the glass must be fabricated to expand and contract at the same rate and temperature and that requires sophisticated testing by the glass manufacturer.” 

 But focusing on fused glass allows her plenty of free rein to create at will. 

 “Fused glass can include many of the other forms of glass heat work. I have cast, slumped, etched, raked, or combed glass, and I often used those techniques within other fused projects,” she said. “I chose fused glass because of the ability to incorporate them while I work freely and spontaneously.” 

 She considers herself a “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants” designer who begins with a basic idea and lets it grow as she works. 

 “I usually roughly sketch where I think I am going and then just jump in,” she said. Her favorite design style is what she calls “Lines and Squiggles and Dots, Oh My!” which are brightly colored animals enhanced with textural design elements. 

 “Throughout the process of building these creatures, I problem-solve, embellish, and change my mind. Often, my final product is much better than I had envisioned it to begin with.” 

 She has, at times, collaborated with a highly skilled metal worker, Johnny Aguilar, at Oliverio Metal Art in Houston, who assisted her in designing and crafting exceptional stands for pieces requiring specific supports. 

 “He has helped me design and has created some outstanding stands for pieces that needed something very specific, like creating legs and a simple metal scene for a collage flamingo I made.” 

 Despite her initial apprehension towards the technical aspects of glasswork, Lambert’s passion and perseverance have propelled her forward. 

 “Glasswork is much more technical than I was prepared for! I grew up in a musical home and started my college career as an instrumental music major. Creativity and artistry were encouraged and appreciated. Science was not for me, especially chemistry or physics, yet, here I am,” she said. 

 “Learning how glass behaves and its properties has created quite the learning curve for me. I have had to learn how the chemicals used in creating the color of the glass react to one another, how glass behaves at different temperatures, and how to control these things to achieve the result I want.” 

 Through trial and error, guided by the wisdom of fellow artisans and mentors, she has embraced the challenge, emerging as a seasoned glass artist whose work has earned accolades and admiration. 

 “Glass artists comprise a very open, sharing group. I have also benefited from the knowledge and wisdom of some of the American glass masters like Patty Gray, Tanya Viet, and Brad Walker,” adding all of whom she met at Harmony Stained Glass in Pasadena. 

 Placeholder imageFor those seeking to embark on their own creative journey, Sherry offers words of encouragement. "Take the leap, embrace the challenge, and let your imagination soar. You never know where it might take you." 

 Her work is available at The Shoppes on Postoffice at 2201 Postoffice Street and at G. Lee Gallery at 2217 Strand #107-B. Both locations are in downtown Galveston. For more information, visit her Quotentials Facebook page, 

Tracy Miller's transition from interior designer to seaside artisan showcases her appreciation for the ocean's natural beauty and her keen sense of aesthetics, as she finds beauty in the unexpected and infuses it with a touch of nostalgia. 

 “I spent the last 35 years as an interior designer in Houston and Austin, but my husband and I are now retired [and live] in Jamaica Beach,” said Miller, who earned a bachelor's degree in interior design from Sam Houston State University. 

 “I grew up in Houston and came down on weekends and holidays to Galveston my entire life. When our kids graduated high school in Austin and my husband decided to retire, we moved down to Galveston Island in 2023.”

 Miller has transformed her lifelong passion for the ocean into a creative endeavor that celebrates nature's exquisite artistry intertwined with vintage allure. 

 "The ocean provides the most beautiful natural sculptures, and when they wash ashore, I embellish them with vintage jewels and pearls and give them a second life,” she said, adding she has always loved the ocean and wanted to find a way to repurpose the beautiful oyster shells that wash up on the shores, giving them a new life. 

 This second life manifests itself in her stunning creations, where the ocean’s treasures become the canvas for her artistic vision.

 Miller’s artistic process is as organic as the materials with which she works.

 “I also found that I could get dried starfish and sand dollars in bulk, and I decided to do something special with them using vintage costume jewelry that I acquire through auctions and estate sales, along with beautiful prints through rice papers.” 

 Shoreline scavenging along the island’s waters, she finds inspiration in the unique personalities of each shell and creature she encounters. 

 “I enjoy beachcombing here in Galveston. It is a very meditative activity for me,” she said. 

 “Each oyster shell, starfish, or sand dollar has its own personality. Some shells are perfect for decoupage with a little embellishment, and some just need some gold leaf and a gorgeous brooch. I particularly love working with starfish because no two are alike. These items can sit on a shelf, but one of my favorite things to do is shadowbox them to hang on the wall. Every time I finish one, it becomes my favorite.” 

 From decoupage to gold leafing, every embellishment is a testament to her meticulous craftsmanship and reverence for the natural form. 

 "I never alter the natural shape of any of the shells, starfish, or sand dollars," she said. "I only embellish their natural beauty." 

 Her commitment to preserving the essence of her materials ensures that each piece retains its inherent charm while gaining a touch of opulence. Vintage costume jewelry holds a special place in her heart, particularly pieces from bygone eras and the captivating aurora borealis rhinestones of the 1920s. 

 “It's just so fun to work with jewelry that comes from specific eras and bring it all back to life," she said.

 “Some of my favorite pieces to use are Avon jewelry. Growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, my grandmother always gave me Avon jewelry for birthdays and Christmas, so those hold a special place in my heart. One of my favorite jewels is the aurora borealis rhinestone, a beautiful multicolored rhinestone popular mostly in the 1920s. Another favorite is milk glass.” 

 Miller said she hopes her creations remind people to cherish the beauty that surrounds us and to find magic in the most unexpected places. 

 “Everyone loves something sparkly. Taking something natural and organic and adding a sparkly or vintage element brings it back to life,” she said. “These beautiful natural objects are the perfect canvas.” 

 Her pieces range from $12 for an adorable refrigerator magnet made from the smallest starfish and oyster shells, to $65 for a shadowbox-embellished shell or starfish. 

 Her art is available at her booth, Beyond the Sea, at local craft markets, or explore her Instagram page, Tracy_loves_seashells. She plans to have her works available in Galveston galleries and stores soon. To reach out to Tracy about her works, email her at

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