Throughout my life I never considered myself to be much of an artist and besides a few YouTube videos I really haven't had any training which some readers will undoubtedly recognize. However I do not claim to have any particular talent as a so-called artists but I do enjoy the positive force that art can only be. My interest in art has come later in my life and seems to have coincided with the onset of my Parkinson's disease. 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 materials 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 feel drawn to landscapes and colors and appreciate 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 22 years there's something about tremors, shaking, and a lack of dexterity that is a 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. 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. 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 less easy as my symptoms progress.
When substituting in art class in 2015, I drew some pictures along with the students to see if I could do as well as they did. I thought it might be fun for them to see that I was engaged in the same activity that they were doing. Working alongside the students can be motivational and a benefit for everyone. The first few pictures I did with them 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 teachers’ 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.
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 have often traveled to Philadelphia, Baltimore and places in New Jersey staying in state parks and campgrounds outside of these urban areas in order to cut the cost of our travels. Many of the 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 marvel at the world of color, shapes, shading and proportion, which I hope to someday be able to more realistically portray. The world is a beautiful place filled with many wonders and a vast array of ever-changing hues and subtleties which really are awe-inspiring.
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 insidious disease. I try not to look too far into the future and instead live life day to day because to pry too far ahead to what may await 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 by taking on this project and through my art that my life has a higher sense of purpose because I will be able to contribute in a variety of ways to research for a cure and raise awareness.
I would like to thank all the people who have purchased a print, painting 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.