WHITEWRIGHT — An 81-year old artist from Whitewright will soon end her 50-year painting career. Marilyn Todd-Daniels, who is most known for her paintings of horse racing, English riding competitions and rodeos, also paints Texas landscapes, people and history, and depictions of religious stories.

Todd-Daniels’ works will be featured in a 50-year retrospective exhibit, “Ode to Joy: Jubilee” from Saturday through Dec. 30 at The Martin Place, 1799 N. Graves St., in McKinney. The gallery will be open from 6-9 p.m. Saturday and an artist discussion will be held at 7 p.m.

“I never stopped learning or experimenting with subjects and different mediums,” Todd-Daniels said. “My doctorate in art taught me to research and work hard, in spite of adverse circumstances. I ignored current fashions in art in favor of doing the “heart work” that goes beyond creating ‘wall décor.’”

The show will feature more than 1,000 works in various media.

“As for muses and inspiration, I have no answer that makes any sense,” Todd-Daniels said. “Things just come, generally from seeing something out of the ordinary. I take a lot of pictures and enjoy history and research. As for my creative process I will quote from an old master who said to begin with a broom and end with a gnat’s eyelash.”

Todd-Daniels said that she starts with palette knife and ends with a 00 sable brush.

“On a trip to Europe in 1964, I was struck by the beauty of the paintings lining the walls of the Vatican in Rome,” she said. “Seeing Michelangelo’s David in Florence was a game changer. I think that was the beginning of my passion for fine art. After six trips to the Holy Land, I found my life purpose, to call attention to the real heart of the Bible through a medium that lasts.”

Todd-Daniels’ works have been displayed in the Russell Senate Building in Washington, D.C., The Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas, and The Sacred Art Center in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

“My favorite piece would have to be ‘I’ll Rise Again’ because it began with a 1989 vision,” she said. “I wasn’t ready to paint Jesus stuff because of my heavy investment in the horse scene. Then came 1994, when I walked away from a highway collision that should have killed me. Recognizing the miraculous nature of a 70 mile per hour accident without even a seat belt bruise, I told God that I would give him the rest of my life. He could find a way to finance it. Between 1995 and 2003, the edition of 3000 prints sold out, hand carried or shipped to six continents. The horse people disappeared but I met amazing Christians.”

Todd-Daniels’s favorite piece in the “Ode to Joy: Jubilee” exhibit is “Metamorphosis: Mount St. Helens” which is her latest work. It combines animals, mountains and a joyous story of rebirth after disaster.

“I think art itself is alive and well in both Grayson and Fannin counties,” Todd-Daniels said. “Since I taught at Collin College for many years, I can attest to that area also. There is a great deal of natural talent in North Texas. It may not be the most exciting art market, but it does exist.”

She said early on she won first prize in the children’s division at the Tillman County Fair at the age of 12.

“My reward was an oil painting set,” Todd-Daniels said. “As for training, I have three degrees, but the majority of my training was digging things out for myself. It has been difficult to paint realistically in an era of contemporary culture. ‘If it feels good, do it,’ does not jibe with the reality of painting. Your back hurts, the paint does weird things as it dries and supplies are expensive.”

Even though it is hard, Todd-Daniels’s advice to young artists is to ignore social media and get to work.

“Eat right,” she said. “Stay focused on your passion, and try to avoid the critics. Art is for the long term. The more you do, the better you get. Money will come when needed, but should never be a measure of success or failure. Listen to your heart. Winston Churchill said it best in the midst of falling bombs, ‘Never, never, never give in.’”