I recall getting an art set for Christmas when I was maybe seven or eight years old. What I remember best about it was a drawing flip book that would go from a few simple lines to a finished charcoal drawing of a bulldog. I could flip through the pages and it would be like watching a short animated cartoon. Like the rest of the kit, it is gone, but this was the beginning of my fascination with art. It took me fifty years to reach a point where I could paint and draw daily, but it has been a long, convoluted journey.
The drawings I did in grade school were nothing special—the usual round of hot rods, planes, tanks and scenes of mayhem populated with bean-bodied people. At some point I started dabbling with drawing super heroes from the comic books I avidly collected. A friend who was also a comic book fan artist told me I had talent and soon I was covering notebook paper and cheap sketch books with my own comics. I drew an adaptation of “The Time Machine” in pencil and Flair pen as an English class project and later my friend and did an adaptation of “Beowulf.” also as an English project. We loved art class, presided over by a curmudgeonly instructor. She was the first to tell me I should stop cartooning and learn how to draw. I placed third in a youth art show with pen and ink of a baby possum it took me twenty minutes to draw.
My plans were to major in Art Education, but given the relatively poor job market for art instructors and artist even way back then (1974), I opted to major in accounting. My grades were quite good, but I found the classes boring. Later I switched to a Social Work/Psychology major and it was a fairly good fit. I also drew ads,comic strips, and editorial cartoons for “The Glenville Mercury,” the campus paper of Glenville State College. They actually paid me for my work, too.
Then reality set in. Any creative projects, be they writing or art took a back seat to earning a living. I worked for 26 years as a counselor for the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services. I also became active in a local Calligraphers group and I did certificates and wedding invitations. However, it took a major illness to get me serious about art. In 2000, I was diagnosed with spindle cell sarcoma in my left thigh. I received surgery and radiation and was able to return to work, but I was not out of the woods. In 2002, the cancer came back and I was put on chemo and spent more than 90 days of that year in the hospital. Libby, the woman who I eventually married, helped me through this prolonged crisis. She encouraged me to paint, draw and take classes in oil painting and watercolors. After two close calls, I realized that if I wanted to make art, I better start doing it now or I might not do it at all.
After a brief flirtations with watercolor and acrylic, I started working in oils. I became a member of Allied Artists of West Virginia. My work was featured in two state juried shows and Tamarack. In 2015, my painting "Duet" took third place in the Best of West Virginia show. There was also a one person show at "Pixies," an upscale antique shop in Washington DC. For three years running, I had a table at Festiv-All and participated in numerous art walks. Once again, my health problems intervened; I had chronic pain from the leg surgery, which entailed removal of muscle and nerve tissue. In 2014, my left leg broke and it did not heal and in 2016, I had surgery to replace the shattered bone with a steel rod. I took early retirement from my job in 2015. Now I have time to paint and no excuse not to paint. I also have work featured on Internet outlets “Art Finder” and “Etsy”
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