A native of Fayette County, Alabama, where he was born in 1910, Jimmy Lee Sudduth made art most of his life. His first memory of painting is of wandering in the woods at the age of three and making marks on trees. As a child, Sudduth accompanied his mother, a renowned healer, on long walks in the fields and forest to gather curative plants. His observations of the natural world, and of his mother’s ability to transform raw materials into medicine, inspired him to begin creating images and forms.
His first paintings were made of mud, and as he continued to work, he developed natural pigments from nut shells, berries, leaves, soot, chalk, and mud (at one point he documented 23 distinct pigments derived from mud in his own yard). In an interview, he said that he felt so compelled to make images that he couldn’t sleep. His paintings document the world he saw around him, and include animals, people, self-portraits, cabins, and later buildings, cars, and other urban scenes.