Judy Bobula knew her husband-to-be was a real keeper when he suggested adding an artist's studio during a renovation of his home in Huntsville's Five Points.

"No one had ever offered me anything like that before," she said, still amazed by the act of generosity.

Bobula was particularly grateful for the offer because at the time she was painting in a closet in the townhouse where she lived.

"You can tell a real artist because they are willing to paint anywhere," she said with a laugh.

Now, married for nearly three years to George Bobula, chief engineer, Propulsion Division, Aviation Engineering Directorate, AMRDEC, Bobula spends her days working in a sunny art studio on the back of the couple's home. To one side of the room is her design area, where she mixes watercolors, hand-stained tissue papers, and a plethora of recycled and natural items to create one-of-a-kind art that's alive with texture and whimsy. On the other side of the room, she stores her collection of art materials - leaves, seeds, wood chips, hand-made paper, Birch bark, stones, leather scraps and shells - in bins organized by color.

"I work in watercolors, and tissue paper and oriental papers, and all kinds of things like berries, shoe laces, string, pieces of jewelry or whatever else I can find," said Bobula of her mixed media collages. "I enjoy experimenting with new materials and techniques, and different organic materials."

Bobula is the featured artist at the Arts & Crafts Center during January and February. Her abstract artwork is on display at the center, and Bobula has donated prints of her artwork "Bottles," "Picket Fences" and "Small Adobe Buildings" to be used by students taking the center's Picture Faming 101 class.

Bobula, who has received several awards for her work and who participates in exhibits and outdoor art shows in the Southeast, grew her unique artistic expression out of an interest in ink drawings.

"They were very detailed," she said. "I found that I didn't have the freedom to express myself so much. They were too realistic for me.

"So, I tried watercolors. I loved how they flowed and you didn't really know where they were going on the paper. With watercolors, my work became more impressionistic."

For 15 years, Bobula developed her art with watercolors, painting florals and landscapes. But, like many artists, there came a time when she felt the need to expand her craft, to challenge herself in another direction.

"I started by putting tissue papers and oriental papers on my watercolor paintings, and I liked the effect," she said.

"Then, I wanted to add something else. So, I got some woodchips from the woodshop at the Arts & Crafts Center, and added that to my work. Then, I started looking for string, shoe laces, old earrings, dried berries and stones. I've used feathers, postcards, pictures from old magazines, musical notes from a songbook, pages from dictionaries and whatever else might fit into my work."

Working in mixed media collages was a challenge that allowed for a lot of freedom in expression.

"You just never know where it's going to go," Bobula said. "Most of the time the way I work is intuitively. Sometimes I have a plan. Sometimes I don't see anything until I'm halfway through a piece. Sometimes it turns out to be a bomb and I sand it all down and start over again. This art form is a continually changing thing for me. A year from now I might find something else to add to my art."

In her studio, Bobula has several pieces adorning her walls, and other pieces that are in various stages of completion. One collage, titled "Leaf Study," is a combination of oriental papers, corrugated cardboard and leaves that have been preserved with acrylic sealer. Another, titled "Whirlwind," involved five layers of tissue paper. "Sea Fans" includes lace and images created by sea shells, "Iron Wheels" includes a picture of an old-fashioned tricycle and "Stand of Birches" includes pieces of Birch bark.

"When I put the title on a piece, that's when you can get a message from what I'm doing in the collage," Bobula said. "People see different things in the collages. Many times a piece will appeal to someone because it reminds them of something."

Much of her inspiration comes from nature and travel.

"Some people get souvenirs when they travel. I shop for things like bark to bring home," Bobula said.

Sometimes a picture or a word printed in a book or on a label will provide the inspiration for a collage.

"Pictures are a jumping off point for me. They always give me ideas," she said.

In a recent collage, Bobula incorporated drawings and comments from a book titled "Writers Who Were Also Artists." The drawings, many of which are comical, were done by such writers as H.G. Wells, Rudyard Kipling and Fyodor Dostoyevsky and are accompanied by comments that are both insightful and whimsical.

Bobula studied art at Wesleyan College in Macon, Ga., and at Kennesaw College in Marietta, Ga. She has also taken art classes at Calhoun Community College and the University of Alabama-Huntsville. Her pieces have received awards in major regional competitions. In 2008, her piece titled "Dangling" received first place in painting at the Alabama Community College System Chancellor's Awards Exhibition.

Besides the Arts & Crafts Center, Bobula is exhibiting some of her work at the Starbucks on Governors Drive near Huntsville Hospital. She will also participate in the Art in Bloom exhibit at the Huntsville Museum of Art on April 3-4 and has exhibited pieces at The Art Council in the Von Braun Center. Many of her pieces are in both private and corporate collections throughout the U.S., including the art collection of Marilyn Quayle, wife of former vice president Dan Quayle. Bobula is now getting ready, with the help of her husband who builds frames for her collages, for the next season of outdoor art shows, which begins in March and continues through November.

More information about Bobula's art career can be found on her website: www.JudyBobula.com.