Born and raised in Owensboro, Kentucky, I began my love for art as a child at around 7 years old, and it comes from both sides of my family. I would watch my father’s sister oil paint and was captivated by it. She gave me my first set of chalk pastels and a sketch book for my 8th birthday. My father was also creative. He built an art studio in our backyard back in the 1970s. He had a potter’s wheel and molds for ceramics and a kiln. I loved to paint ceramics out there and watch as he taught ceramic classes to his co-workers on Wednesday nights. Later in life, he had a wood shop, where he made things on his lathe by turning wood. He passed on in 2009, and I now cherish everything he made. My mother is an oil painter. She and I took lessons from her aunt and cousins when I was young. My two sisters are also artists as well as some cousins and aunts.
When I was in high school, I always made sure I had an art class on my schedule. My parents let me sign up for class with a visiting oil painter/artist that came to our school. I would stay after school, and she taught me oil painting. I still remember walking down the empty hallway after school, and I loved the smells of oil painting supplies as I got closer to the classroom that she had set up. I was the only student that signed up for her class. I knew painting was in my future.
Studio space was limited over the years—dining room, spare bedrooms, corner in a garage, corner of a bonus room, living room, etc. I took on a part-time position in advertising at our hometown newspaper while I was in college. I was a single mother by that time and what a juggle that was. Advertising went from manual paste-up to computer graphic design in the early 1990s. I loved it all; designing ads, cutting mylar for news pages, as well as laying out classified pages.
After 12 years at my hometown newspaper, I worked five years as a graphic designer at an Indiana newspaper. That then led me to move to Nashville, TN, where my fresh-out-of-college daughter moved to. I took on a job as graphic designer at the Tennessean Newspaper for eight years before being laid off as the world of newspapers was coming to a close due to internet/digital access to newspapers. Our graphic designer jobs were outsourced to India. Sad times.
Studio time… I always painted as often as I could, some years more than others, but working full time I hardly had time to paint. I ended up coming in contact with my childhood sweetheart from grade school in 2009. He was my neighbor in the mid to late 1960s when we were young, and we grew up together until he moved to Illinois. After being laid off, I moved back to my hometown of Owensboro, KY. Wayne and I married in 2010, and we looked for properties where I could have a painting studio.
I went back to work at the same newspaper in Indiana, and I always felt God calling me to have a painting studio and leave the newspaper world. In 2012, we found a sweet 5 acres with a vintage 1856 home and carriage house garage. I used the dining room and large living room-turned-studio for a while. Then, in 2018, we renovated that old carriage house garage space. It was listed as a shed on our appraisal, and wow, to see it now, what a difference!
This studio has been a dream come true. I can’t imagine a better space to paint and be creative. I’m now full-time with my business after leaving the 31 years with corporate newspapers. I thought for years of what to name my business. I knew I wanted it to be special for my studio and the farm. I settled on “Serendipity Farm1856.” Serendipity means finding something wonderful accidentally… an unexpected chance happening.
I have a lot of serendipitous moments happen in the studio… blessings. Like the day when I was talking to some friends and family in the studio about loved ones and my three uncles, who passed away within 10 months of each other in 2016. While we were talking, the sun came through the door window and through the top of my easel, it made the sign of a cross on my landscape painting. I felt God & my uncles there.
We grow a vegetable garden, pumpkin patch, pecan & walnut trees, and I have rows of lavender coming up this year. In the studio, I’m surrounded by timeless pieces of furniture. Wayne’s uncle gave me an old glass store counter, and it sits under one of Wayne’s mother’s beautiful chandeliers we acquired from her home after she went to an assisted living community. On one side of the studio, I have an old fireplace mantel & grate salvaged from the small log cabin in Island, KY, where my mother lived as a child. The 10-foot table was handmade by my cousin’s husband.
People fall in love with the studio as soon as they get here. It is such a unique space to create and talk of ideas.
I still have my first French easel, which I purchased in the early 1980s. I lost two of the legs of the easel from moving throughout the years, so my father made two legs in his wood shop on his lathe. Sitting on the easel is one of my very first oil paintings of my favorite castle in Scotland, Eilean Donan Castle. I finally got to fly to Scotland in 1996 and again in 1998. I was overwhelmed with tears of emotion as we drove up to the Isle of Skye and around the curving roads to the castle. I painted it many times over the years before I saw it. It was like I was in a dream as I approached it in person. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, everything was in lockdown and we were already packed for another Ireland/Scotland trip toward the end of March. That spring is when I painted the Eilean Donan castle mural on the wall behind the church pew.
When I question if I’m ready to retire yet and if my painting is enough, God seems to always send more commission painting orders. Wayne is always assuring me that the studio is where I should be, staying self-employed. He keeps us afloat with his job when I have slow months. I’ll question for a moment, then go sit down to dinner and get pings on Facebook messenger with incoming orders. As I’m typing this story just now, I got a message from a neighbor who wants to order two mixed media paintings of a church on a block of wood. I feel so blessed to do what I love. To complete a cherished painting for someone makes me so happy; a pet (past or present), a family heirloom, homestead, or a new home.
When you paint, you seem to know more of the place you are painting and then to see it in person is amazing.
When I walk into the studio, I’m lost for hours just creating. I listen to all kinds of music that inspires me while I paint. I take a break and dance around the studio or take a long walk down our long tree-lined gravel driveway.
My grandchildren love to get creative in the studio… from drawing and coloring to painting. Even drawing and playing games on the vintage chalkboard. When my grandchildren come to stay, my granddaughter, Avery, and I wait until everyone goes to bed and we sneak out in our pjs and paint as late as we want. These are special times to remember forever.
I have so many ideas flowing through my head. I still do freelance graphic design but mostly commissioned paintings. I’ve painted around 12 for one customer who wanted to document his life journey in paintings to hand down to family members one day: his cattle ranch and historical homes. All my paintings are original, but I love to make small prints of my paintings and place them into cabochons for pendant necklaces with vintage keys. I also teach painting every now and then in individual private classes. I have a coffee & tea corner for whoever walks in.
Before the pandemic, I was teaching around six people at a time. Some of my friends brought exchange students from Germany & Norway to paint. I may get back to doing that again one day. I started filming while I paint, and everyone loves those videos.
I sell to two local stores in town. I also get a lot of business and clients through my Facebook business page as well as my Instagram page. Sometimes my clients only communicate through those social media sites, and I don’t even see them until they come to the studio to pick up their paintings. I appreciate my wonderful customers so much. They even kept me going strong during the beginning months of the 2020 pandemic with cherished painting orders.
I feel that if anyone wants to learn to paint, they should at least try it because it is so relaxing and rewarding. It is a stress reliever, too. Painting takes you away for hours: beginning with the drawing, and then mixing colors and watching as the painting turns into something wonderful.