“We are meant for greater things,” has been the phrase that I have heard deep within my heart for as long as I can remember. I know the voice like it is mine, but I also know it originated from a much more important source throughout my life, which is my faith. This journey into the Land of Ardithian has been one laced with incredible struggle, a deep determination to overcome, and a unique walk with creativity and relationships.
I grew up two ways, as a child in the south and a military brat. The combination made for a blend of deep cultural roots with a physical shift of moving a lot, which made roots a bit hard to grasp hold of. Still, my family gave me wonderful opportunities to explore the uniqueness of childhood, helped me understand the value of relationships, and instilled in me a life-long love of all things beautiful, especially as it related to growing up along the Gulf Coast in Mobile, Alabama.
Like most children, I had a vivid imagination. Underneath my bed was a space that gave me complete freedom to let my imagination and creativity soar. This helped me build a constant ability to see things as they are and imagine them in a world full of wonder. I built a stable disposition of being optimistically flexible about change, especially considering the trauma I would experience around many unexpected corners. I never imagined I would grow up to be an artist; my dream was to become a teacher.
As childhood made way for high school and eventually college, I began to learn that my expectations about how life was supposed to be would be very different than what came to be. The arts were very much part of my young life growing up, along with sports, but I opted to let the arts go and earned a teaching degree in P.E. from the University of South Alabama. Marriage came, we had a beautiful son, and then an unexpected injury to my lower back revealed that I had some life-changing spine issues ahead and was facing my first of 20+ surgeries to come. Although I was devastated, that flexible optimism kicked in and the next 10 years carried me through a divorce, a new career with my master’s in Elementary Education, finding the love of my life with six amazing stepchildren, and the belief that all would be well.
As a teacher of the young, creativity and color became a core staple of how I approached impacting the hearts of others. Teaching also gave me the experience of learning so much about partnerships, leadership, and devotion to making a difference, especially with women. At the height of my career, my spine gave out and when that happens, it tends to have a domino effect with the rest of the body. Full disability replaced my career with visits in and out of doctors’ offices and hospitals. It was heartbreaking but looking back it was those experiences that makes where I am today all the more incredible.
Painting helped save my spirit through absolute fascination and self-study. I didn’t go to art school — I went to the library instead and began to teach myself how to journal, draw, and explore the joy of watercolor while my body found a way to heal. Friends and family became huge sources of support, especially my husband and children, and I am so grateful for those years of being able to paint through so much pain and develop the skills that would make me the artist I now am. Today, I am no longer on disability and own my own corporation focusing on painting, teaching, writing, and working with other artists to help them develop their careers as well. The journey has been humbling and remarkable for me.
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
— Alice In Wonderland
Making a living as an artist is a beautiful way of life, but it requires two things, devotion to craft and wise business sense. Both require a great deal of time, commitment, and effort, and both are uniquely necessary for creating multiple revenue streams. As a painter, my inspiration comes from different areas. I have an absolute love of creating imaginary characters with a connection to diversity, which stems greatly from my childhood. My non-objective abstracts convey my fascination with complex systems and energy fields, especially the human body, and my sports series combines a mix of dynamic movement and abstraction. All three genres serve me creatively, and each offers unique approaches to teaching, product design, and collector’s investments.
As you can see, I create and work in this magical space, which is a former chapel in the Central Presbyterian Church building, but I began painting from my bed, from my kitchen table, even under the trees in an outdoor studio because I didn’t have a studio the first twelve years. Creating in those spaces helped me pay attention to working smarter, not harder, when it came to organization, productivity, and staying creatively inspired by the small things in life. Central opened its doors to other artists needing studio space, and my studio is part of the collective with thirteen other studios in our building. It connects me not only with other artists but opportunities to serve the community as well, which is deeply important to me.
From a business perspective, I knew my space needed to serve multiple purposes and that it had to creatively inspire me in a beautiful way. I needed walls to showcase my work. I needed a workspace to create in, and I needed an event space to host magical experiences. The design of my studio had to serve all three purposes, so I had used those years of working in small spaces to help me be quite inventive when it came to organizing paints, works space, and mess. Many folks see my studio and say, “How can you paint here, it is too beautiful?” I paint here because it is beautiful. My 20-foot table, made from old classroom tables from the church, serves as a workspace, workshop space, and dining space. The entire studio has a deep sense of spirit, because for years, it served as a working chapel, and I honor the prayers and service that happened here. Walking past the stained-glass windows each morning connects me with my love of structure and fracturing within the painting process, so the room speaks my language.
As a colorist, the chapel exudes all things that put a spark in my brush from the painted tar-paper runner, the patterned textiles laid out randomly, down to the wooden beams and roof that remind me of the trees I grew up under here in the south. There is always an unexpected pop of something a bit random or deliciously odd placed here and there, which keeps me connected to a sense of childlike wonder and creativity. When people enter the doors I almost always get an instant reaction that my studio connects them with joy and that makes this journey more meaningful to me.
I never intended on becoming an artist, I was meant to be a teacher. What I have come to understand deeply is that the voice that carried me through all those years spoke the truth, and the struggle of the journey was necessary, in not only helping me become that teacher but teaching me how to become an artist. I am self-taught, everything in my art and business I have taught myself for the most part, but the message that resonates most loudly is we are all meant for greater things. Embracing the byproduct of hope through our creative gifts can change our lives in powerful ways. I am witness to that.
When I turned 50, some of my best friends in the world knew how much I loved odd dolls. They divided the parts of a doll into six, and each was assigned a different part. They had no idea what size or what it needed to look like, they simply found and painted their idea of the perfect doll part for me. They flew in for my birthday week, and I unwrapped each doll part one at a time. It was the first time anyone had seen all the parts, and I got to ‘build a baby’ for my birthday. To this day, it is the most amazing gift filled with creative love and a side of complete oddity. I named her Kajaka Shamam which is the first two letters of each of their names.