Since childhood, I have drawn but never thought of myself as an artist until 1993. About this time I was reading a number of self-help books, one of which recommended watercolor painting as good therapy for self-esteem. Well, I thought since I could draw, maybe I should try it: what could I lose? So I bought a watercolor book and the necessary supplies and began teaching myself the medium; I kept at it, improving slowly.
Gloria Steinham, the author of that self-help book, A Revolution From Within, would be proud to know that learning to watercolor did help me: in fact I found myself. I would have loved to drop everything and enroll in an art school, but I had to continue my career as an elementary school teacher since my family seemed to enjoy the necessities of life.
Since 1993, I have read, observed, enrolled in a few classes, and painted whenever time permitted. In 2001, someone suggested that I try my hand at oil painting, so I did, and I've been painting in oils pretty much exclusively ever since.
In 2009, I retired from teaching and became a full time artist. It's strange being "fifty something" and starting again when society views people my age as "long in tooth" and "past one's prime." Placing the watercolor brush into the well of paint in 1993, however, was the birth of me as an artist. So I consider my artist self to be a mere "twenty something," which I say tongue-in-cheek; however, upon reflection, my growth as an artist does resemble that of growing from a child into an adult.
For the first eleven years of my "artist self," I painted what interested me, mostly still lifes and portraits, but in 2004, a visit to an exhibit at The Georgia Museum of Art entitled “Coming Home: American Paintings from 1930-1950” motivated and focused my artistic style and voice. On the walls of the museum hung beautiful rich oils that spoke to the social and cultural issues of that era by portraying the daily lives of ordinary people. These narrative representational paintings, especially the work of the Social Realist, Ben Shahn, captivated me and impacted my artistic sensibility. I had no epiphany that evening but rather a realization that I wanted my work to move beyond depictions of objects and people and toward narrative work that connected with human emotions.
Since 2004, my paintings have focused on people and their stories. I'm very fortunate and grateful to have had many opportunities to exhibit my work regionally and nationally and also to be published in a few magazines and books. I look forward to many more years of artistry. Thank you for the opportunity to share my story.
My artistic practice aims to create vibrant paintings of everyday people and look inside of what appears to be seen. The common thread in all my work is life, the life I live and the life I observe others leading. My personal experiences and humanistic worldview guide the narrative of my painting. Therefore, unlike the lens of a camera that objectively documents a moment in time and space, my lens subjectively observes. My paintings examine the status quo and social norms of modern life. I paint untraditional, realistic narratives that communicate experiences wherein the real and imagined converge and invite viewers to look and consider the psychological, sociological, or emotional complexities of race, gender, age, and culture.
My portraits begin with someone I have seen whose appearance, character, situation, or personality interests me and then slowly transform into narratives. Sometimes I weave poetry within the portrait to illuminate the individual’s essence as a way of introduction for the viewer. Using newspaper and magazine print, I hope that the various colors, sizes, and fonts of each letter add to the visual impact of the overall painting. The words formed by these letters provide a means to connect emotionally and intellectually to the individual in the painting.
I attribute my style to the hundreds of young children I have been associated with for the last 30 years in my former profession as a teacher. The daily interactions with the children and most importantly, the moment-by-moment immersion into their concrete thinking rests on my canvases via simplistic lines, shapes, values, and textures in bright colors.
Painting reality in this somewhat impressionistic style breaks down life’s many complexities and forces me to live in the moment. Time does not exist as I reach inside myself and connect with the subject before me. The elements of the subject (color, shape, line, value, texture) and the feelings or thoughts that the subject may evoke in me envelope me like the threads of a cocoon. And as the cocoon provides the caterpillar a safe place to transform, the painting process allows me time to evolve emotionally and intellectually. Painting centers me just as breathing centers a Zen Buddhist.
I aspire for each of my paintings to be a portal to momentary rest and renewal for those who choose to stop and look. May my work move viewers toward a more childlike appreciation of our complex world.