How did I start painting? Pull up a chair. It’s kind of a long story. :)
I grew up somewhat of a unique child. I craved time by myself and would race home after kindergarten to spend hours on my swing set singing along to my cassette tapes (mostly Jewel and Celine Dion).
As a kid, my imagination ran wild. I started dreaming up novel storylines before I could even read one. In all seriousness, the novel I started conceptualizing in elementary school is still in my head to this day. (I do plan to write it...eventually.)
The earliest art experience I remember is drawing on our driveway with chalk—that and carving bread and cookie dough into shapes with my mom and grandmother. But nothing ever came of it. I was a musician and athlete in middle and high school. College, though, was a different story.
There was never any doubt in my mind that I would major in English. I can still hear my engineering father and math-minded mother telling me I should be an engineer. “You’d stand out as a woman,” they said. But nope! I knew a creative field was the path for me. Writing was the only thing I had ever poured over with such joy, and it was the only thing I could imagine myself doing.
College was an absolute gift. Having earned most of my basics in high school, I had the freedom to take whatever I wanted—economics, philosophy, creative writing, art. When I took my first painting class, I was hooked. I spent hours in the painting studio getting completely lost in the process. I quickly added art as a minor, and eventually, a second major.
Fast forward to my junior year of college. Everything was going swimmingly until a once-in-a-generation tornado tore through my college town and turned my little rental house into splinters. My roommates and friends were safe, but my reaction to the tornado was visceral. I lost every piece of art and writing I had ever created, and I found myself hating that I ever thought them important in the first place.
I loved making them, but they fed my pride. I was doing something I loved, but for the wrong reasons.
So I did a 180, as people say. Instead of creating, I turned to another passion of mine—education—and decided to teach in a low-income school after graduating because I wanted to do something that wasn’t about me.
It was the hardest year of my life, and still holds that title seven years later. You can read all about that life-changing experience here, but in a nutshell: While my introverted self realized that being the center-of-attention of hundreds of kids every day isn’t my calling, the experience opened my eyes to privilege and poverty and the challenges facing our education system in ways I’ll never forget. (Note: I haven’t quite figured out how art fits in to that experience, but I do know that it changed me, and I’ll forever look for ways to fight education inequity.)
I spent a few more years zig-zagging—journalism, communications, higher education. I started painting again intermittently, and every time, my mind and paintbrush wandered back to the thing that kept me sane during my year of teaching—the beauty I saw in the world around me.
Beauty like living in rural Alabama and being able to sit on my porch and enjoy trees and sunshine. Beauty like the color of the sunsets—sometimes fiery, but other times wistful and romantic. Beauty like the purple magnolia at the end of our driveway. Beauty like the changing of light and the melting of fog over pastures along the backcountry road I drove to work every morning. Beauty like conversations with friends enjoyed by campfire and starlight. Beauty like losing power in a thunderstorm and spending hours watching rain fall and candles flicker.
When I let go and painted what naturally wanted to come out, my paintbrush sought to capture this beauty and light among darkness.
I’ll admit, I struggled for the longest time with the call I feel to paint. I’ve often felt selfish for wanting to do something that brings me so much joy. But when I dug deeper, I realized that painting is about so much more than my own personal joy.
A quote I heard on a podcast a few weeks ago pretty much sums it up: “Being the best version of yourself is the best thing you can do for everybody around you.”
For me, creating is the best version of myself. It is my greatest strength—taking what I see and hear and feel, and transforming that into something tangible that allows others to see and hear and feel the very same thing.
I don’t just create for me; I create for you.
I paint to spark thought and conversation; to express and cultivate gratitude; to capture the depths of human experience and show that you are anything but alone; to inspire you to be bold and lean in to your most authentic self.
I paint because it allows me to make an impact on things I care about while doing what I love.
Tell me: What do you love? What do you care about?
Thanks for reading, friends!