The Last Painting- My Adventure in Painting with Parkinson's
My Early Wildlife Painting
My Background in Art
I have been painting for many years now and always enjoyed doing art, even as a young child. When I was older, I studied under the famous artist, Wayne Thiebaud while attending University of California at Davis and later, after taking my art more seriously, attended the San Francisco Art Institute and learned to paint from several other famous artists there. After graduating from San Diego State College with a bachelor of Arts degree, I worked as an artist for Behavioral Research laboratories illustrating text books and a children’s reading series. Later in life I painted wildlife paintings for a living -to support my family. I had to do very detailed paintings so they could be made into etchings on glass for the company that hired me.
An Historical Portrait Painting
My Historical Paintings
Later, when I received commissions to do family portraits—I tried a new style of art —I called it “historical portraits.” These paintings told the life stories of the people I painted through pictures in the background about the important events in their lives—and became my unique style.
Later, I used this same style to paint the history of the Plume trade in Florida ( now exhibited at the Florida Audubon Society) and the history of the Iditarod in Alaska (which painting I donated to the Iditarod committee in Alaska to raise money for the race).
Diagnosed With Parkinson's
Within this last year, however, I have lost the muscle control of my right hand—which is very shaky now and also partial control of the left hand. When I went to a neurologist, he diagnosed me with Parkinson’s disease—and informed me that there was no cure, but several drugs that temporarily reduce the shaky hands. Sadly, eventually it gets worse and the drugs no longer work. As, by now, I can barely write my name —let alone hold a paintbrush steady—I decided to do one last historical painting—and change my style of painting—after this last detailed one.
Since the painting I chose to do was on the life of Christ—-I felt I would get extra help—through prayer and scripture reading.
Painting The Feathered Serpent
My Painting Adventure Begins
On April 7th I flew in to Austin, Texas to stay with my son and daughter there ( both whom are deaf) for two months. They were wonderfully supportive of my idea of doing a last painting on the life of the Savior—as both have great faith. They helped me to set-up my large canvas in their kitchen and they didn’t mind that I would be painting there each morning for several hours each day—except Sunday, as we would go to church together.
This painting would not only have small vignettes on the life of the savior in Israel—it would also portray his travels, after his death and resurrection, to the various native Indian tribes in North and South America and Mexico. I had read about his visits to the Americas in the Book of Mormon and the stories of His teachings there to these “His other sheep” spoken about in the New Testament. I had also read a book recommended to me by my foster Indian children—called, “He Walked The Americas”—which recounts the stories of the great, white bearded God that visited the native American tribes in the Americas—written by a non-LDS woman that had researched the stories from these various tribes for many years—to learn their legends.
I decided to frame the painting with the outline drawing of the “Feathered Serpent” found on many buildings in Mexico—of the God Quetzalcoatl—the God of Wind and Water—who represented Jesus Christ—( the one who controlled the wind and walked on water). I worked the design on the computer first and planned to paint one section at a time. I compiled a computer image, by combining different pictures that I found to use as a sketch idea—-as my hands were too shaky to draw them all out. I decided that I would read a chapter in the Book of Mormon and pray for help to be able to do this painting each day.
The Miracle Painting
The following day, I felt to start on the right side at the top and paint the first brown-tone segment—the figure of the Savior and the natives of South America—some of the figures came easily and others had to be done several times, until I got them right. I felt that I was being helped—Sometimes I would feel prompted to do certain areas of the little vignettes first—and if I didn’t listen—I couldn’t paint. Other times I would feel to take a break—-and again, if I persisted on my own—I would keep making mistakes until I stopped and rested—and when I returned—I would easily finish the rest of the little painting. This pattern continued throughout the painting experience—I would feel prompted to do certain things and if I listened and followed the promptings, I could paint well—If I thought I knew better, and didn’t listen—I couldn't paint well.
Although I was concerned that the figures of Jesus looked different—and wished I were better at painting Him right—I felt it was ok—if the feelings were right.
When I did the top figure of Jesus—I couldn’t do his hands—finally, after accidentally painting one hand that looked like he was signing I love you, they both ended up right—-signing “I love you.”
Although my hands would sometimes shake and also my leg—even uncontrollably —the pictures would come into being one at a time with the feeling, sometimes, that I was only uncovering them. I know that I could not have finished this painting without the Heavenly help that I was given—and I am deeply grateful that the Lord hears our prayers and that miracles still do happen!