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When Byron Fullerton retired from practicing law in 1985, he decided to expand his hobby as a “weekend painter” into a new career. “I just have always been fascinated with art,” says the former Texas Tech law school dean, who paints for the sheer pleasure of painting and feels doubly rewarded when people who see his art buy it for their collections. But his decision to become a full-time painter initially met with skepticism from friends since he has no formal art training. “My art education has consisted of a lot of self-study as well as many workshops with outstanding artists,” he says. Fullerton has honed his artistic talent and has had the last laugh on those skeptics. He estimates that he has sold between 1,200 and 1,500 paintings over the years; they can be found in collections around the country. His paintings cost anywhere from about $395 to more than $4,200. “A lot of my buddies price them by the inch. I just price them by how I feel about them, how much work I put into them,” Fullerton says. His work also can be seen at the Taos Gallery in Taos, N.M., and Scottsdale, Ariz., the Country Store Gallery and the Austin Galleries in Austin, Texas, the Jim Sanders Gallery in Tucson, Ariz., and other galleries. CAREER CHANGES Fullerton’s transformation into a full-time artist isn’t all that unusual considering that the now 78-year-old retired lawyer has done stints as a door-to-door Bible salesman, teacher, football coach, truck driver, country music critic, antique dealer, rancher, political operative and even a candidate for statewide office. “I’ve done about everything in my life that I wanted to do,” he says. In 1970, Fullerton was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor but lost to Democrat Ben Barnes. “I thought about making another race in 1972,” he says. “When my wife told me I could run but she wasn’t going to vote for me, I quit.” Fullerton served as dean of the Tech law school from 1981 to 1985. Before making the move to Lubbock, he spent 18 years on the faculty of the University of Texas School of Law and wound up as the associate dean there. A 1956 graduate of the UT law school, Fullerton began his legal career as an assistant attorney general under Will Wilson. After leaving the Office of the Attorney General, he opened a private practice in Austin. Only about 150 lawyers were practicing in Austin when he was establishing his practice, and he knew all of them, Fullerton recalls. “You could negotiate any settlement over the telephone with a handshake. You can’t do that anymore,” he says. The practice of law has changed, says Fullerton, who isn’t sure that he would find it as much fun to be a lawyer today when the trend is toward specialization. Shelving his law books and taking up a palette appears to have been the right move for him. WORK IN PROGRESS Working chiefly with oil paints in a style that he describes as “more impressionistic than anything,” Fullerton portrays on canvas the beauty he has seen while traveling around the country. The majesty of the mountains in Teton National Park near Jackson Hole, Wyo., is captured in one painting; another features a street in Charleston, S.C. Others are of scenes around Taos, where Fullerton and his wife, Marilyn, have spent much of their time over the years. Fullerton says people frequently bring him photographs that they think would make a great painting. “It might do it but not for me,” he says. “I want to see the scene. I want to have painted at that location.” His work on a landscape painting often begins with an oil sketch done on location to get down on paper what he wants to paint. “Color and shape are the keys to it,” Fullerton says. “You look for shapes and then try to figure out the colors you want to tell what you want to tell.” Fullerton turns some of his sketches into small paintings that he sells in his Austin studio. Others end up in the waste bin along with paintings he feels did not turn out right. “I am a very severe critic of my own work, and some people that I know share my criticism,” he says and chuckles. Fullerton often finds something to laugh about in life and uses his sense of humor to make those around him comfortable. “His sense of humor is quite wry,” says Rod Schoen, who was a law professor at Tech when Fullerton was the dean. “He’s a very witty and funny man. He never seems to get overly upset about things.” Schoen, who still teaches part-time at Tech, says Fullerton did a good job as dean. “It was a time the law school did need direction,” he says, recalling that Tech had lost its dean suddenly, and Fullerton was brought in as the interim dean in July 1981. The Tech regents named Fullerton the dean six months later. “He was a wonderful dean,” Schoen says. Fullerton’s laid-back style often gets him invited to be a speaker for different groups. Greg Bourgeois, a partner in the Lakeside Mediation Center in Austin, says Fullerton walks into a room and seems to know everyone. “He’s like a one-man Kiwanis Club,” Bourgeois says. Bourgeois and his partners asked Fullerton to be one of the Austin artists whose works are on display at the center, which specializes in alternative dispute resolution. Fullerton’s paintings also have been featured on program covers for continuing legal education, sponsored by UT and the consumer law section of the State Bar of Texas. Despite his success, Fullerton still pokes a little fun at himself. A paint-spattered cloth hangs on the wall in his studio, and the artist explains that he wipes his brushes on the cloth while painting. “Some say it’s the best thing I’ve done,” he says.

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