By Emily Brainard, Army Flier staffApril 30, 2010
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Chantal Durham-Bogers and Anouk Gunter lived two blocks away from each other in Roosendaal, Holland, but it took moving thousands of miles to Alabama to meet and form a friendship over their shared love of art.
Durham-Bogers and Gunter met through a Dutch wives' group here, and have bonded together ever since as transplanted Hollanders and military spouses.
They have helped each other grow as artists and adapt to the U.S. and military cultures.
While her student-pilot husband, 1st Lt. Benjamin Durham, studies for his TH-67 Creek check rides, Durham-Bogers spends her days composing oil paintings at her Enterprise home. The two have been stationed here since September 2009.
She said she focuses on replicating helicopters, animals and flowers from pictures she takes or others bring her. She's also currently working on a portrait of her husband in his flight suit to display in their home.
The young woman's journey to America began unexpectedly when she met Durham online while he was deployed to Kosovo. The two chatted over the Internet, met in person, hit it off and married.
She said Gunter inspired her to pursue her artistic passion as a way to stay occupied while her husband went through flight school.
"I was bored and I wanted to use my creativity," Durham-Bogers said. "(Painting) takes my mind off things. When I paint, I forget about everything around me. It's very relaxing. I like creating things. It gives me a sense of purpose."
Her love of art began as a young teenager after taking a drawing class in school. Now she paints daily, for at least 20 hours a week, depending on what commission jobs she receives and what topics inspire her personal pieces. Her goal is to become a professional artist, Durham-Bogers said.
She embraces her new home with the help of Gunter and her peers. Adjusting to life here was easy because most other flight school spouses aren't from the area either, she noted.
"Being married to the military, I like it a lot," Durham-Bogers said. "You get to meet so many new people. It's like one big Family."
Residing in the Wiregrass area since 2006 with her Royal Netherlands Air Force AH-64D Apache Longbow instructor-pilot husband, Capt. C.J. Looijen, Gunter said she began painting more than a decade ago as a way to keep busy while her husband attended flight school.
As the two ladies have gotten to know one another, they found they have more than just painting in common. They also both enjoy playing tennis.
"I'm glad we met here, otherwise it would be hard for her to be here by herself," Gunter said.
A mother of two and an experienced military wife, Gunter's artwork was recently featured at Piney Woods Arts Festival in Enterprise and various other art venues.
Her ink, pencil and oil art is inspired by what she sees and reads, as well as historical figures and her Family, including her daughter, Fabienne, 9, and son, Olivier, 8, Gunter noted.
"They're both quite creative," she said of her children. "So when I'm stuck (on a painting), I ask the kids for help."
Gunter said she enjoys painting famous aviators like Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh. While her husband's career inspires her, she originally began replicating pilots because her son enjoyed reading books about these historical figures. She said she read his books and went to work recreating the characters.
"I've had a lot of good reactions (at festivals and art shows). A lot of the guys who come enjoy it because it's Aviation. I think my art is something a lot of people are interested in," she said.
Gunter likes experimenting with different styles and creating depth in her work, but is always trying new techniques.
"If you look up close, you see all sorts of details. I like it layered," she said. "I'm still growing. It never ends. There's always inspiration."
As Gunter mentors Durham-Bogers as an artist and military wife, she complimented the younger spouse on her ability to adapt and thrive so well in a new culture through a hobby.
"(We share) the love for art. She totally just wants to dive into it, and the rest of the world can fade away," Gunter said.
Durham-Bogers moves with her husband after he completes the Creek and Apache courses to Missouri where he is a National Guard member. Gunter and Looijen await orders to find out how much longer they are here or where their next assignment is.