Spotlighting Creativity

Talking With Skull Artist Maria D’Souza, Songwriter Anthony Smith And Abstraction Painter Gina Julian


Maria D’Souza, already an award-winning artist, found her creative outlet using beads and design talent on animal skulls to produce captivating works of art coveted by celebrities and collectors around the world. 

Maria was born in Portugal, and lived on five different continents. As her artistic work transitioned from canvas to wood, she encountered artists using skulls in their designs and became transfixed on the idea of using beads. 

“I’m an animal lover, so it’s imperative the skulls I acquire come from ethically sourced providers,” says Maria. 

“Most of my domestic skulls are acquired from small family farms and animal sanctuaries, and have lived long lives. More exotic skulls are usually found in the wild and have died by natural causes or predators. All of my providers are registered and have purchased special ‘tags’ that allow them to remove animal remains.”

When Maria began creating her beaded skull art six years ago, after trying dozens of options, she finally found someone who took the time to develop the perfect glue combination for the bead to permanently stick to the bone. Each beaded skull takes about 150 hours to complete, depending on the project's size and scope. 

For custom pieces, Maria consults with clients about the room or location where the artwork will reside, color combinations and other considerations. “If needed, I’ll suggest what I believe works best.”

Because her completed skulls were once living, breathing creatures, Maria wants those who acquire her work to appreciate the animal’s life and contribution to nature. If possible, she also wants them to know the animals' history because some were pets or recognized by the natives for years. 

Some of the proceeds for the skulls she purchases are used to help feed and clothe tribes in Africa.



When Anthony Smith moved from East Tennessee to Nashville in the mid-1990s, this singer-songwriter achieved major successes when artists such as Lone Star, George Strait and Trace Adkins recorded his songs. What separates songwriters in Nashville is consistently combining lyrics and melody to create a song that brings tears or a smile in unison.

Anthony’s desire to perform began when his dad brought home a powder blue Fender Mustang guitar. By age five, Anthony knew a few chords and started constructing melodies.

He then played guitar for his church band and instructed the older adults on harmonies. Gospel music was all Anthony knew, although he occasionally heard Elvis and Creedence Clearwater Revival songs. But the day a classmate introduced him to Aerosmith’s “Toys in the Attic” album, he realized his chosen instrument could make lots of cool sounds. 

Fast forward to the mid-90s:  Anthony and his new bride made the 2.5-hour drive to Music City, where Anthony landed a decent job with a cable company. “Back then, all artists and bands coming out of Nashville had their own unique sound,” says Anthony. “It’s not that way today. I was in Nashville at the end of one era and started another. But I can’t complain because the business has been good to me.”

Anthony didn’t get his first break until he signed with Mercury Records, and released his debut album “If That Ain’t Country.”

Although Anthony’s career as a solo artist or frontman didn’t expand as planned, his songwriting skills made him one of the sought-after writers in town. His songwriting credits include, “Run” and “Cowboy Like Me,” by George Strait, “Chrome” and “I’m Tryin,” by Trace Adkins, “I’m Already There” by Lonestar, as well as cuts by Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Reba McIntyre and Chris Stapleton.  


Hard-edge abstraction painter Gina Julian seeks to explore energy and motion through the use of flat color. This Nashville native enjoys evoking emotions by varying colors according to hue, saturation and value.

“I’ve long been fascinated by effects of color on the human psyche,” she confides.

Her color palettes experiment with color interactions, and how perceptions of colors can be altered based on surroundings. She also enjoys using color to suggest movement in her works, often giving viewers multiple perspectives on the direction of her crisp lines. From her Franklin-based studio since 2017, Gina classifies her acrylic paintings as Optical Art.

“I wholeheartedly believe in the positive impact of living with art and experiencing it on a daily basis,” says Gina, who also appreciates contributions of personalized interior design.

In the past, Gina says many people wanted to surround themselves at home with calming, neutral colors, as a way to relax from busy work spaces. However, self-quarantining due to COVID-19 has left people instead needing stimulation in their homes, she explains. “Now, a lot of people are starved for color, as well as happiness in their homes. They’re looking for something to liven up their residences. My large blocks of color help do that,” she says.

Using her bold artworks as desired and sought-after Zoom videoconferencing backgrounds even caught on rapidly.

“I’m told my op art paintings definitely become focal points,” she quips.

Gina typically releases collections of paintings a handful of times each year; in fact, during February, she just released a small works collection within 12x12-inch wooden or metallic frames. She’s planning a large works release for early April.

Additionally, she’s open to commissioning paintings in-between releases. To discuss custom options, email

Instagram @gina_julian

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see. ~Edgar Degas

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