My small rural high school didn’t offer any art classes so I started drawing my classmates – mostly profiles, because they were easier than full face. I took my first art class in college and got a Bachelor’s degree in Art Education from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, AR (where I was born). I wasn’t ready to settle down in a little town to teach art, so I decided to go to graduate school. I got my Masters in Fine Arts from Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL.
My first teaching job after graduate school was back at Arkadelphia High School. What a fiasco that was! I was young, inexperienced, wanting the kids to like me, and had a very unsupportive principal. The result was the kids ran over me. They wrecked havoc in my classroom and after two years, I resigned.
I moved to Kansas City in 1980 after a brief sojourn in Switzerland. I couldn’t find an art position in the public schools. After subbing in Shawnee Mission for a year, I was hired to teach in the Alternative program. I taught English, math and social studies to “at-risk” teenagers from 7th grade to 12th.
About this time, I became involved in the running community in Kansas City. I had met a few artists, but really connected with a group of women runners called the “Kansas City Express”. For the next thirty years, I taught, ran, competed in road races and triathlons, and painted. I never stopped painting whenever I could find the time, but only completed a half-dozen or so paintings a year. In the mid-nineties my husband and I spent two years teaching English in a very poor rural area of China. It was a rich experience and my husband’s hundreds of photographs taken there provided material for a number of my best paintings.
In 2010 I retired from teaching. After a two-month bike ride across America (from San Francisco, CA to Yorktown, VA (over 3000 miles), I settled down to paint. For the last four years, I have painted voraciously. I’ve always been an early riser and will sometimes have in six hours of painting by 9:00 in the morning. I paint to the exclusion of other activities. I have Parkinson’s Disease and staying in one position too long is not good for me. I need to move. I’m working now on getting more balance in my daily schedule.
As for the paintings themselves, I usually do either still-lifes or paintings from old black and white photos. The still-lifes are done in oils and are generally very colorful. I love the play of light and reflection off colorful objects onto shiny surfaces. I did a series of “colorful foods” in which I set up an arrangement of cupcakes or Jelly Bellies, for example, on a stainless steel table on my deck in the late afternoon sun. My husband (an accomplished photographer) and I then shot dozens of digital photos of the subject and the long shadows and strong reflections that were created. From these, I create compositions for paintings.
The paintings from old photographs are usually commissioned works. Someone has an old family photo (usually black and white) that he would like made into a painting. I look for value contrast, patterns, and shapes that I think would make an interesting painting. If I think I can create a good painting from the photo, I take it on. With acrylic paints, I work in what I call a “hard edge” style in which colors abut each other with no blending. This creates strong and sometimes unusual patterns as a color on one object or figure extends onto another or onto the background. The paintings become more stylized though still highly representational.
Color choices when working with a black and white photo are based on reality (jeans are a denim hue), aesthetics (I just like that color or combination of colors) and emotion (that woman needs to be wearing a red dress). The composition of the photo is often altered and objects may be omitted or added. If the photo is of a family member, a strong likeness is attempted.
Painting is fun for me. I love just pushing the paint around and delight in the surprising effects that sometimes occur. I also love for other people to enjoy my paintings. I don’t want them collecting dust in my studio. Most of my patrons have been friends or at least acquaintances. I’ve sold a lot of paintings and I’ve given a lot away. I always approach a commissioned work with the understanding that if the patron is not totally happy with the finished result, he/she owes me nothing. I just keep the painting and chalk it up to experience. There’s always something to be learned from a painting and I never consider a mistake “wasted time”. It’s all part of the “journey” and as all good travelers know, “If you miss the journey, you miss the whole thing”.