Painter Bobby Hunt

Art on Fire

Nickole Kerner Bobley

Jan 29, 2019

“Painting forced me to be in the moment—opening my eyes to how different colors and shapes could work or not work together,” explains Hunt. “I started using a different part of my brain. Painting literally changed who I am.”

Firefighting is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Not only does it entail fighting fires, but also acting as a first responder who often bears witness to traumatic events. As a result, many firefighters develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Such was the case for 55-year-old Leuitenant of Training for the South Montgomery County Fire Department Bobby Hunt. About a year and a half ago and after 25 years of firefighting, Hunt’s “stress container started to overflow.” It wasn’t until he attended a training course at work to prepare for how to help others with PTSD that he had the profound realization he was suffering from it himself. 

His PTSD had been manifesting in an overbearing sense of worry – worry that incidents like the ones he helped others through so many times during his work could happen to his family or himself in the future. He knew his thougths of fear were running rampant and that he needed to stay in the moment (to be present), but didn’t know how. 

As he began looking for a creative outlet to help quell his haunting thoughts, Bobby went to an art supply store and bought a canvas, paints and a several paint brushes. Through his own trial and error, admiration of Houston based artist Taft McWorter’s work, educating himself by watching YouTube instructional videos and by visiting the SWAG art gallery down the road from the firestation, Bobby became a self-taught painter.  

“Painting forced me to be in the moment—opening my eyes to how different colors and shapes could work or not work together,” he explains. “I started using a different part of my brain. Painting literally changed who I am.”

Hunt was born in 1964 in Port Lavaca, Texas. He met his wife Sally in college at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor where he played baseball as a Crusader outfielder. They have two children named Taylor and Drew. Growing up, Hunt’s Grandmother, Helen, worked as a professional artist. She had a studio in the back of her home. An abstract work painted by her now hangs in Hunt’s own living room. 

“When I look at the painting I feel she is close,” smiles Hunt.   

Hunt’s firefighting career started as a Firefighter in his hometown’s department. Later, he moved to Victoria to work in fire protection/EMS. He attended the Fire Academy at Tarrant County College in Ft. Worth Texas. He also has a degree in Fire Science from Columbia Southern University. Today, Hunt trains hundreds of firefighters and has responded to many incidents in The Woodlands, Oak Ridge North and Shenandoah. 

South Montgomery County Fire Department’s Battalion Chief of Safety and Training Nathan Huffman owns 3 of Hunt’s paintings: 2 hang in his office and 1 is a commissioned piece he had Hunt create for his home shared with his wife, Julie. 

“I was pleasantly surprised to learn of Bobby’s talent,” smiles Huffman. “This discovery is a reminder to fight stereotyping. We [firefighters] have diverse interests, talents and are multi-dimensional.”

Hunt’s back porch is his studio where he dons his painting clothes, lays his canvases on a table, turns up the classic rock music and gets to work. He uses squeegy silicone water wipers, pallet knives, frosting spatualas, rollers, garden trowels and a Mod Podge paint brush (from a craft kit that belonged to Sally) to apply layers of paint to his canvases. He uses all kinds of paints, including spray paint. He often uses knives to cut into the paint to form patterns. His 3 dogs, who lay around the porch while he paints, are “often casualties of paint splatterings.” 

For as long as Hunt can remember he has had a fascination with fire. Abstract art has always appealed to him and as an artist, believes you paint what you know and paint who you are. He did not plan to have his paintings resemble smoke and fire. In fact, it was the opposite. He was simply painting, creating and experimenting. It was only after he stepped back and looked at several of his works grouped together against a wall that he realized he was painting firefighting imagery. 

“Firefighting is not something you do, it’s who you are—just like being an artist,” says Hunt. 

Lucky for us, Bobby Hunt is both. 

You can find more of Bobby Hunt’s art work on Instagram.