My art story ...
The year 2007 held a real surprise for me. I discovered painting! And I loved it! I knew I was artistic and could draw; my whole childhood was spent sketching and coloring, trying to capture on paper the fantasy fairytale landscapes in my head. Our family moved virtually every year. The only constants (besides my family) were the magical places inside my head and the love and comfort of my animals as I navigated through unfamiliar surroundings and people.
As a teenager and young adult, I mostly did crafts. At 12 I took an oil painting class. In college I majored in interior design, something I’d wanted to do since I was a young teen (I believe it was still springing from my desire to recreate the landscapes and environments of my childhood dreams). I attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where the interior design specialty was in the art department. So I did drawings, pencil, marker, and pastels - primarily drawings of interiors and furniture - and I built models. It was satisfying to come up with creative uses of materials. Once I had to portray some squishy Italian leather lounge seating and ended up making them out of decorator icing and then painting them, since I also knew how to decorate cakes.
During my entire adulthood I rarely touched pen to paper for art except interior design sketches, although I still did crafts on occasion. The last few years, with the advent of computers and my career transforming to project management, I even stopped doing crafts. Moving to New York City in 1999, life held such a whirlwind of activities in the city that never sleeps that it has seemed impossible to pause long enough to do anything that requires stillness.
Thankfully, in New York, an inspired animal-loving man, Bob King, who owns Humanscale furniture company, created an annual “Faces in the Wild” fundraising animal mask auction within the interior design industry to raise money for World Wildlife Fund. My first mask was Arthur, in honor of the magnificent lion I’d had a chance to hang out with in Myrtle Beach. The following year I did a cheetah, and the third year Ishmael the gorilla was “born."
Doing the masks for this auction not only reawakened my love of doing art and crafts, but also made me fall in love with gorillas for which I am eternally grateful.
In 2007, acting upon the desire to get close to gorillas, I spent 3 months volunteering at Ape Action Africa in Cameroon (formerly CWAF). While there, I had a chance to gaze at gorillas close up and raise infant monkeys. And due to unforeseen circumstances at the 2,600-acre reserve, there was an opportunity to replace and expand on all the signage in the park. In the process, I discovered I am a portrait artist. I had not painted in over 40 years. All I had at hand were primary colors of gloss enamel house paint, 1/8” plywood, and two brushes for the faces. There is no question in my mind that my work turns out as detailed as it does because of the inspiration of these beatific creatures.