I am not an artist and I do not pretend to have any particular talent in drawing pictures but I do enjoy it very much. My interest in art has come late in life and seems to have coincided with the onset of my Parkinson's disease. In fact before my diagnosis I did not draw nor even think to do so because there was no reason to, it was never a consideration that crossed my mind. Now I can't seem to put my colored pencils, pastels and brushes down as I attempt to re-create images and scenes that I see in my everyday life. I believe that as much as Parkinson's has taken away from me that in turn it has given me the gift of art and creativity. I'm drawn to landscapes and colors and seem to appreciate all of the beauty in the world that surrounds us which in the past was not always something that I focused on. I was too busy with my everyday life and the problems, challenges and yes some successes that came my way to be bothered with creating pictures.
After I was diagnosed I realized I could no longer work as a chef as I had for the past twenty two years. There's something about tremors, shaking, and a lack of dexterity that is hindrance to performing duties in the kitchen. The stress was not healthy and, with physical disabilities like these, working with sharp machinery and knives probably wasn't the best idea. Throughout the years on my days off I often substituted in my wife's second-grade classroom, which I found extremely rewarding. Thus I decided that I would go back to school to become an elementary school teacher, preferably working with those students in the special education department. I wanted to turn a negative into a positive and be an example for all the students showing them that the difficulties and challenges in our lives don't have to define who we are or what we can do. So I rolled the dice gambling with my future to see if I would have enough time left to complete school, get a job and have a positive influence on children of all ages. I was able to obtain a Master’s degree in education and have worked as a substitute in various elementary schools, obtaining a permanent position has been extremely difficult and is less easy as my symptoms progress.
When substituting in art class in 2015, I decided I would draw a picture along with the students to see if I could do as well as they did. Plus I thought it might be motivational for them to see that I was engaged in the same activity that they were doing. Thus, my first few pictures were not drawn with the intent of being part of the book or publication. I thought I would just draw for fun and to occupy my time during the periods that I had class. The strange thing is that once I got started I could not stop. The desire to continue drawing only increased with time. My first few pictures were based upon drawings that I had done as an elementary school student where I learned how to make Hills that seem to fade into the distance with the road winding on them. The fact that I remembered my art teacher’s instruction as a young child only reinforces my belief that going into teaching was the correct choice for me. Educators make a difference in a child's life. They did in mine and I still would like to be a positive influence to the students in the classes I will teach.
I hoped that the process of creating this work would indeed benefit all people who suffer from this terrible disease. My window of opportunity seems diminished and I would like to believe that by creating Pictures From Parkinson's I can still inspire people to persevere through their challenges and raise money for research as well.
The inspiration for many of my pieces has come through my travels with my family and especially my stepson who has von Hippel Landau disease and requires medical care in places far from home. We often traveled to Philadelphia, Baltimore and New Jersey staying in state parks and campgrounds outside of these urban areas in order to reduce the cost of our travels. Thus the many sunsets, farm scenes, ocean views and assorted landscapes come from being on the road and seeing different parts of the country. Albeit many scenes were derived right outside my back door, I still take inspiration from the extensive traveling that my wife, stepson and I do. I love the world of color, shapes, shading and proportion, which I hope to someday be able to more realistically portray in the works that I do. The world is a beautiful place filled with many wonders and a vast array of ever-changing hues and subtleties which I can only portray in a crude, amateur style.
I'm not an artist and there are multitudes of other people who produce works far superior to what I have done. In the end, I still love to draw, paint and sketch and I hope that this book will advance the cause of research and speed the cure for this terrible disease by raising a few dollars. I also hope that I do not seem to be selfish by hoping to benefit from this work but, given the options that I have, maybe people will see it as turning a negative into a positive by making the most of the hand I was dealt.
Parkinson's is a terrible disease which I have seen firsthand not only through my own experience but from my mother who suffers from this condition as well. My mom is a lovely woman whose life has been robbed by this villainous and insidious disease. In fact I try not to look too far into the future and live life day to day because to pry too far ahead to what awaits me is nothing less than depressing. My artwork however is therapeutic. When I'm in the world of art creating my pictures my tremors seem to cease as I become lost in the beauty of colors. I feel like by taking on this project my life has a higher sense of purpose because I will be able to contribute in a financial way to research for a cure for this disease and perhaps provide inspiration as well.
I would like to thank all the people who have purchased a print or card and even those who may have only taken a moment to look because it is through caring and concerned citizens that we can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. There is power in unity and healing that often comes through a communal effort which I have hopefully generated in some small way through my efforts in drawing my pictures. My faith is strong and my prayers go out to all those who are challenged by all diseases and disabilities because I know that there are many folks who are in a far worse position than me. I do not feel sorry for myself and I hope for the future and may God bless each and every person whether they are diagnosed, a caregiver or a loving compassionate person concerned with all people's well-being.