The Story of My Art

I liked to draw gumball machines… that’s what attracted me as a child. The bright, shiny colors of delicious chewiness in a shiny colorful glass ball. In a lot of ways I still use that experience in my art today: bright colors and reflected things. You may wonder how a child spends so much time drawing, crafting and creating instead of being outside running and playing… It was the snow… and lots of it. Growing up in the Chicago area, winters were fun, but I spent the majority of my time indoors with my imagination, often copying comic strips from the newspaper and entering “Draw Bill the Cat” contests. Sometimes I got lucky, like when I won Santa’s Village tickets for my family through a coloring contest. Eventually I graduated to paint-by-number sets. I also started drawing my grandparents old National Georgraphic magazines. A new habit that eventually got me into hot water with the nuns at school for drawing “half naked hula girls” in class.
We moved to California when I was starting seventh grade. It was a major cultural change. We went from a farm field a few houses down to a major airport two miles away. The emergency pattern went right over our house. We left Gentle hills for mountains, and a Lake for an ocean. Local slang went from “neato” and “cool” to “totally tripendicular” and “gnarly”. I went to an “inner city” high school that wasn’t in what was considered “the city”, and we learned about gangs. I took classes for art, encouraged by my teacher to pursue it, until she was assaulted by a student… that was the end of art class in high school. I’d been mostly a loner, knowing lots of people, but having few friends. I had started working nights at a video rental store next to a bar when I was 15 to save for a car, eager to get out and away. This put a damper on social life. I graduated eighth in my class of hundreds, but was unable to get a scholarship, only a Cal Grant, so I went to junior college. 

Junior college was a fun time of learning and experiencing different art techniques and soon it became clear to me that art was what I needed to do so I dropped my other major. I had a grant on hold with the state so I started looking at universities. My family didn’t agree with my major, so I applied for scholarships. I was so excited to receive one only to find out later funding was low so it was only $200 toward a $15,000 tuition. Soon after, the LA riots happened, the state went bankrupt and took away my grant. I had few options: keep working full time, do my best to pay tuition with no cap and be in serious debt with a degree; or join the Army with the Army College Fund and GI Bill option. I chose the latter, which again was at odds with my family.

With my associates degree in tow, I served mostly overseas in Germany and Saudi Arabia. I continued with my art any chance I could get by taking online college courses to get ahead with the liberal arts necessities and doing projects for individuals and my unit, such as going away presents for the brass, t shirt designs and sketches. I applied to the Academy of Art in San Francisco during my last year in the Army and was accepted. I can look back with gratitude for my time spent in Europe and the Middle East. During this time, I visited every museum, church or art related place I could afford, culminating in seeing several different countries and the work of true masters, along with becoming more culturally aware.

After the army I went to Hawaii for the first time & fell in love with it. My “half naked hula girls” were better but college was calling. I spent three years at the academy finishing my BFA in traditional illustration. The hard work in the service taking college courses paid off along with junior college training. I was able to skip entry level art courses, much to the displeasure of some of my instructors. I really credit my art to the instructors who were encouraging, understanding and took the time to really teach what they knew without forcing me to do things a certain way.

I was in a long distance relationship with my fiancé, whom I had met in the Army. Soon after graduating, I was married as a military wife. I saw Hawaii for the second time and felt at home but dreams of the married life called to me.

We moved a lot. I changed jobs a lot, making sacrifices for his career. The only constant was I continued working on my art. I applied to galleries, agencies, businesses and was rejected time and again before landing the perfect job at a screenprinting company. I worked there for a couple of years, happy to be able to create for a living. Soon, we moved again for the military 150 miles away, so I started with another screenprinting shop. It was a pay cut but a different process to learn. I soon found a drawing group at the local college, got my work out at art festivals in the area, some group art shows and developed a small following. I even taught adults and children to draw and paint at a non-profit. We planned on staying there since he was eligible for retirement. We got a house. Then the unforeseen happened, I was involved in a major car accident, sustaining damage to my right hand and a head injury. It took me a year to regain full mobility of my hand. Something the doctors told me would never happen. An assortment of problems with the head injury continued. Several months after the accident, during the realty/ bank crisis, the military told us to move again. We sold at a loss and moved to Hawaii.

This was my third time to Hawaii and I again felt at home, like I belonged here. I had been promised move after move this would be the last and I could work on my art, so to me, this is was it. We made a deal, if I got into a gallery, we would stay. My husband was deployed within 6 months of arriving on island. I was still incredibly sick from the accident and working on my hand. It took me a long time to get a regular job. In the meantime, I continued applying to galleries, businesses and festivals but was not immediately successful. Eventually I entered a contest, and was accepted into a group show. This opened the door to a gallery! So I kept creating for the group shows, eventually finding a variety of regular jobs to help with bills. My husband retired from the military and went to the mainland for college. He never came back. We were divorced a couple years later. I remained here in Hawaii struggling to make ends meet and still create art. During this time, I illustrated two children’s books, some skateboards, logos, hot sauce labels and assorted gigs. 

Today I work at a fruit stand most days to pay bills so I can focus on art. My work can be seen at Cedar Street Galleries, Rainbow House Shave Ice and on Centaur Skateboards. I live in Windward Oahu with my cat, Luna. I paint and draw what strikes me, by color, light or imagination, as I continue my lifetime as work as an artist.


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