I was interviewed in 2016 for a local high school, and thought I would share the Q&A here. How long have you been an artist? Nearly 10 years. I have wanted to be an artist since age five, but I didn't pursue professional art instruction until my late 20s.
How did you get started as an artist? I grew up with friends who are artists, and I had a strong appreciation for Fine Art even though I wasn't very good at creating it myself. I frequently surrounded myself in the Fine Arts until I had the funds to enroll in night classes at University of South Alabama. I was a Paralegal at the time, and would go straight from work to the school to paint. It was both exhausting and exhilarating. I didn't want it to end, so I decided to pursue it further.
What medium/media (materials) do you create with? I started with oil painting in 2006. In 2009, I became a full time college student again at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, where I dove head-first into drawing and design under instructor Marc Poole. It was like a full-time job, but what a priceless experience. I now work in both wet and dry media, but I have so much more to learn. I feel like I've only scratched the surface.
What difficulties have you encountered as an artist? The most obvious one is probably financial in nature. Art doesn't exactly bring the big bucks, but I wasn't looking to get rich to begin with. I do this because I love it so much that I can't stand the thought of not doing it. It has been a lifelong wish to create things that move me and/or make me happy. I hope it does that for others as well. The lifestyle of an artist isn't for everyone, though, that's for sure. Other difficulties include sales, which I'm terrible at. I love to sell work, and I have, but I find it very challenging to price my art and advertise it. I feel guilty about it, which I admit is ridiculous. Come to think of it, that would explain a bit of the financial difficulties as well. :) Other difficulties are social, but that probably stems from being an introvert. I've learned through time and experience that it's much less of an issue than I thought it was. Both the best and worst thing an artist can do is compare themselves to other artists. It's important to listen to instruction, and it's great to learn from peers, but if any unsolicited criticism comes my way, I strive to do what Taylor Swift suggests and shake it off. Time is too valuable to waste on haters.
What successes have you had as an artist? Living with a serious illness, I tend to find successes in every day. I think it's a miracle that I made it through a year of art classes in college in my condition. I'm so thankful. Running off to Florida to become Bob Ross certified...not just once, but twice...was absolutely crazy. It was also absolutely amazing and I will count it as one of my biggest achievements. When I returned from my training and set up my first class, a sweet woman came up to me during our break and told me her story. She had terminal cancer, and she said she never thought she would have the opportunity to take a Bob Ross workshop. She couldn't thank me enough. I was speechless, and I still am. She, along with others who had their own sobering life stories, carried me throughout my entire teaching experience. I've participated in art shows, won an award, and was even given an art scholarship in college, but none of that compares to my wonderful students. They are my biggest success.
Who or what has influenced your art? I am influenced by people and places, by experiences, by other artists and their stories...I really don't know where to begin. I've been known to drive down the road and spot a tree that inspired me. Sometimes it's as simple as asking myself: Am I alive? Good. Am I awake? Mostly. Am I aware? Hope so. Then what am I going to do with today? I look at art every day in some form. I also love music, writing, history, psychology...there are so many answers to this question. My favorite art varies from portraiture to tattoos. My favorite artists range from Van Gogh and Warhol to Akiane Kramarik and James Hance. I try to remain open-minded and welcoming.
How has your art changed since you began your work as an artist? While I still have much to learn, I now understand more about technique than I ever thought I would. When I began, I was only guessing through motions, reading books and looking at pictures and hoping I knew what I was doing (I didn't). Once I was taught how to see non-objectively and utilize the tools as they were intended, my art improved dramatically. I'm a kinesthetic learner. Someone can tell me how to do something, but I don't truly "get it" unless I'm walked through the process. That's why proper instruction in a classroom setting was such a huge turning point for me.
How has your disability affected your art? It has affected it both positively and negatively. When my condition took a nosedive in 2011, I became debilitated and began having life-threatening episodes that resulted in having to quit my job. I have permanent muscle damage and I am now too weak to continue oil painting. Folks don't realize just how much work goes into setting up, painting, and cleaning up an oil workshop. In addition to being too physically weak to handle it, I can no longer be around chemical smells without potentially serious consequences. I miss it every day, especially being with my students. Where other media is concerned, I think the only negative is that I'm weaker and less coordinated than the average person so my hands are slow and clumsy. A project that may take someone else 16 hours to complete may take me 30. When I'm at my worst, I can't draw or paint at all, but I try not to think about that. On a positive note, being unable to paint in oils pushed me to pursue other media. There are times when I complete an entire acrylic painting from start to finish while propped up on pillows in bed. I could have never done that with oils. My illness is also what motivated me to pursue art to begin with. When my health began to decline again, I was working in a cold corporate office and I decided that life was too short to not be what I had always wanted to be: an artist and writer (I'm working on both...wish me luck)!
Who was your first art teacher? I'm not sure Wendell Fisher counts as an art teacher, but he taught the Graphic and Print Communications program at the Pascagoula Vo-Tech Center. The print shop was my second home. I truly loved it. As an adult, my first art teacher was a wonderful lady named Evonne. She was one of the most upbeat and encouraging people I had ever met. She insisted that I was better at art than I thought I was, and she gave me the confidence to believe that I could do this with patience and practice. When I began teaching in 2008, I made every effort to instill the same positivity in my own students.
Happy to contribute to the Periodic Paralysis Association International Conference Auction
Rare disease patients often refer to themselves as “zebras” due to a common quote in medical circles “When you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras.”
For those of us with rare, serious diseases, we are too often undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, and disregarded because we are not horses. That's why awareness of rare disease is so vital. Sometimes we have to speak out and make it known to the medical community and those around us that when you hear galloping, it is often a horse. But sometimes, it's a zebra.
The relevance of using lower case letters is to encourage everyone who sees this image to remember this: Yes, I am a zebra, but I am so much more than that. Please don't define me by my disease. It is painfully real and it demands to be acknowledged, but it is only a small part of who I am. Thank you for understanding.
(This piece sold at auction for $400. Thanks so much to all who bid.)
Just a quick note to let you know that I adjusted the color of the text on each post. I did not realize that visitors could not read the text from their phones (white on white...oops)! I've tried to find a happy medium with gray, green, and blue so the text can be seen from both the regular site and the mobile one. Sorry for the trouble, and if you see any further issues, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.