NICE TO MEET YOU
I was a hobby artist for 25 years before I became a professional artist. In the last 10 years I became an elementary school art teacher, started showing my work at art shows, began teaching workshops nationally, opened my own studio/gallery in Santa Rosa Beach Florida, started licensing my artwork ... and have won some very cool awards!
The enthusiasm for painting hit me in 1986, when I was twenty-one years old. I was in New York for my cousin’s wedding and visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There I saw an intriguing watercolor painting, Prendergast’s Umbrellas in the Rain. Oh, all the beautiful shapes of color! Looking at it just made me happy—so happy that I bought the poster in the gift shop and put it up in my room for my senior year of college.
When I was choosing my last-semester classes, I realized after scheduling my required classes that I needed one last credit to fill my schedule. I chose a watercolor class. It was a little scary for me, but the excitement of possibly making something like my Prendergast painting was calling me.
The experience of putting paint down on the paper just felt right. It connected to something deep inside. I was beginning to learn. Many years lay ahead, but this was the start of my lifelong study of art.
After college I worked in traditional jobs but was committed to taking art classes here and there. Life brought me to live in England, Chicago, South Florida, and then to North Florida. Art was just something fun I did as a stay-at-home mom when I had the time. I never imagined it as a career.
Things changed when my oldest son was getting ready to go off to college. I took him to his orientation weekend and saw an inspiring speaker who left me with an interesting question: “What gift do you have inside that you could share with the world?” Hmm. I liked art. I liked kids. I will become an art teacher, I thought, and share art with my students.
Long story short, I did just that. Within two years, I became Edge Elementary School’s first ever art teacher.
I discovered I loved teaching, and the students loved to learn about art. It was through my research on how best to teach them about art that I rediscovered the basic elements of art. Through teaching my students, these simple yet powerful rules of art found their way into my own original artwork, though I did not realize this until later. I started to become a better painter, and sales flourished. It was an exciting time of self-growth. I learned I was a much better student now than I was in college, and I felt I could learn anything. I had a new idea.
Could I learn to become a better artist and take this passion to a new level?
I stopped teaching and started to focus on my artwork. The morning ritual included getting up early and painting. I knew it would take lots of practice. I also did lots of research, searching online for artists I liked and hoping they had a demo showing how they made their magic. I studied up in areas I was not good at, like color. I set a goal to create my own website within six months. I soon started showing at local shows and a local gallery.
I was still not putting my progress together with why I was getting better, but I was diligent about making it work. I started having moments of enlightenment that told me I was on the right track.
One day I was painting a flower that had a petal with a flipped-over edge. I knew this was a very important thing to get right in the painting. What are the individual shapes that make up the petal? I thought. I painted the shapes one by one, carefully looking at how each related to the other. I took a break and left the studio for lunch.
When I returned, I saw my painting from afar and gasped. There was the flower with the amazing flipped-over petal, and it looked good! It looked like it was supposed to. I was amazed that I had done this. Had someone snuck in and painted this while I was away? The realization hit: by just concentrating on the shapes, I had painted the flower.
Painting wasn’t magic. I was starting to become very aware of the power of the elements of art. When it came time to create my basics of painting course, Essential Elements, I started analyzing my painting process and had the big ah-ha moment. It was the elements of art that I had been teaching my elementary students that had been guiding me these past few years in my fine art, helping me grow and get better. Suddenly I knew the key. This was exactly what I had to teach my adult students who wanted to learn to paint.
I continue to be excited to research, learn, and evolve as a person and painter, and I am so grateful to be able to share all that I learn.
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