I came to painting late in life, like many people. It's not that I didn't paint when I was younger. It was that life took too much out of me and I had other careers simply trying to survive.
I grew up in the Appalachian Blue-ridge mountains of south-western Virginia. I was the product of a very poor and uneducated family. While music was part of our everyday life, it was what people there did - along with drinking massive quantities of alcohol - to forget that they were living dead-end lives that they felt they had no control or options over. Music was an escape.
I learned that lesson early, and used music as my way out of poverty and a painful abusive existence. I worked hard, got scholarships, went to some of the best music schools in the country and had a brief exciting career as a singer on Broadway, and in opera around the county. But always my heart was not in it. Music was a skill I had learned well, but it was not my passion. Music was a means of escape, and it allowed me to build a career as a teacher of singing and acting, but still I knew there was more to me.
I have a gift for survival. It comes from being an abused and abandoned child. I've learned to keep my eyes open, to see all angles, to be constantly aware of those around me and search for safety. It has taught me a good work ethic. Focus, enjoy, and live life fully. None of us has a promise of tomorrow.
The music of the mountains and of nature were my escape as well. As a child I could be anyone, do anything, while roaming out in the hillsides and woods that were my play ground. My happy moments of childhood are all about my being in the countryside - watching the skies change, smelling the fresh turned dirt, enjoying the strength and shelter of the trees as they reach to the sky. Is it any wonder that as I discovered the latent artistic talent in me I focused on those same trees silhouetted against the beautiful Virginia skies?
Everyday that I get to paint now and to learn about myself and my gift is a treasure for me. I am learning to listen, to use the training I have as a musician to focus on the rhythm, the mood, the metre of a painting. I approach the board with no preconceived idea. I let the colors and the emotion lead my hand. I explore my relationships as dancer, poet, writer, singer, actor and human in every splash of paint, every scraping of the surface, every line and happy accident of form. I go back in my mind to the quiet of the woods. the rustle of the wind through tree branches and leaves, the splash of the creek , the chip chirp of different birds voices, the safety and strength I found in those trees that today still hold and protect me.
I have tried to forgive my parents for the damage they inflicted. I am trying now to learn to love and to hope. I am building a wonderful life as a professional artist. I become more aware everyday that we can not isolate one thing in our lives from any other. I am the person I am today - intelligent, caring, articulate, passionate, and sensuous - because of the people who bore me. I paint the way I paint today because of the life I led as a different type of artist. I jokingly refer to myself at times as an "idiot savant" for I have no training in art and I simply paint from my soul. Luckily for me that part of my brain that can assimilate and retain almost all the information and visuals I've ever been exposed to allows me to recreate those visions in my own style and follow the choices I make.
These days I thank the universe for all I have been given, and I ask the universe to give me more time. Time to love. Time to share. Time to paint my life one stroke at a time!
Til next time
Create beauty and fill the world with love.