This week the new art collector in my life asked me how I got to where I am as an artist. How did it all start? Without hesitation, I told him it’s always been about wanting to make people happy.
I always knew instinctively that painting was my gift. Once before I was married, I was painting a portrait in the living room, and my grandfather looked on and said, “You know you’re going to get married and never paint again.” I looked at him in shock and said, “You don’t understand! I will always paint, I can’t stop! It’s part of who I am.”
This has been true for as long as I can remember. My earliest memory of “being an artist” was my first day of second grade. When my teacher entered the room for the first time, I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I remember taking out my notebook to draw her so that after school I could show my mom what she looked like. I developed a habit of drawing my teachers, and they seemed to enjoy their portraits, despite my early technique! Maybe it was my way of daydreaming, but I was definitely fascinated with drawing the face.
Then when I was in sixth grade, I was a shy child who was constantly being picked on. I tried everything I could think of to make friends… bringing gum to class, dressing as cool as possible… but nothing seemed to work. Then one day I ended up with a bloody nose and a trip to the girls’ room when the girl who hated me the most hit me in the nose when the teacher wasn’t looking.
After thinking long and hard about what to do, I drew her portrait and gave it to her. It achieved the result I hoped for… she left me alone for months after that. Later when she started back to her old tricks, I painted her again. It took three portraits that year, but I successfully made it to seventh grade without another bloody nose, and I realized how I could make positive use of my gift. Through art, this shy child was able to find a place to fit in.
Over the years, I created many more portraits of people I cared for. It made them happy, and it made me smile inside. My portraits created wonderful memories of both the living and loved ones who had passed on. I definitely wanted be a portrait artist when I grew up!
But then I started painting the city of Pittsburgh, and I found the path that would define my career. My work was inspired by your stories of meeting under Kaufmann’s Clock, going to hockey games with your family, and riding Kennywood’s Carousel, and these have brought me immeasurable joy.
Now I am also blessed to create landscapes that bring rest and tranquility and remind us of peaceful places far away from all the hustle and bustle. I’m also painting full-size portraits again and passing on my techniques by teaching others. I have learned so much, but I’ll always be learning from all of you.
Thank you for being there for me!
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