I became interested in drawing when I was seven. I remember one day going through a coloring book and thought how beautiful the drawing of a swan was, the curves of the neck and decorative elements of the feathers. I wanted to imitate those shapes and drew them over and over. From there I started to draw horses. Again, the beauty and complexity of the shapes of their bodies and legs were so elegant. For me, the more complicated a subject was, the better I liked the challenge of drawing it.
When I was in high school, I tried to draw the most complicated thing I could think of, drawing portraits that were likenesses. I drew four hours a day trying to learn to master it. Although I wanted to do something visual and become an artist, I had to think about my future in a practical way. Going to college just for art was frowned upon, so I decided to do a concentration in graphic design.
Fortunately for me, the university I attended had ten different disciplines and we could concentrate in several areas of study if we wanted to. Painting and graphic design—I thought it was the perfect mixture in order to do illustration.
Not all plans come together as our careers take their twists and turns. I became a Graphic Designer rather than become an Illustrator as I had thought. I did, however, do illustrations occasionally through my design career as opportunities arose. One opportunity presented itself as the perfect time to pursue a Master of Art so that I could master watercolor painting. I ended up getting my MA, and an MFA and started showing my work locally and regionally.
I was starting to get recognition with my painting regionally when, we started a family. I went back to Graphic Design, teaching myself to work digitally in that field and occasionally showing work since there was little time to produce a significant body of work. I also experienced a seven-year gap in painting which took me completely out of showing my work.
With that gap in painting, I thought I hadn't done anything towards art in general. But with some help from my family, discovered that while I wasn’t actually painting, I had been shooting images for reference. In fact, a great body of digital reference materials were at my fingertips in the form of travel photos of urban landscapes, neon signage, tropical plants and flowers. So, in 2015 I went back to complete a painting I had half finished seven years before.
Although I did not produce work very fast, it still led me to work on getting back into painting and to produce a specific body of work. In 2018, I was laid off from full-time teaching graphics. I worked on producing more paintings and started showing my work locally. After a move from Florida to Texas, I started working full-time in my studio in 2019 that resulted in my first solo show in January of 2020. Since then, I’ve been able to enter and be accepted to a number of shows in 2020, even as the pandemic unfolded.
As I look back at my journey, I would have to say that I’m grateful to be able to be an artist, whether it is part-time, full-time, or just observing. I’m looking forward to what next year will bring.
Photo by Robert R. Tennant