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I lived next door to a painter when I was young. This kind old man with a short white beard would sit in his house and paint still lifes of fruit and baskets and cloth. When many of my friends would be riding their bikes or playing in the yard, Mr. Cummings and I would draw for hours on the sidewalk. He was the first artist to make a significant impact on me, but it wasn't just because of his paintings or the time we spent drawing. Simply, he taught me to always sign and date my work, even a chalk drawing that would soon be washed away by rain. He made me understand that it wasn't the permanence or importance of a piece of art, or even that anyone would ever see it that makes it worth signing. It's that I created something where there was nothing, and I need to claim my creation as my own. I often think of going back to the old neighborhood just to let him know the chalk never did wash away.

I would be remiss not to recognize the indelible impact of my family in shaping who I am today, because each in their own way has influenced my life and in turn, my life's work. In fact, creativity runs through my family like blue eyes and modestly thinning hair. Although I am the only painter, I was raised in a family rich with talent. But art, and especially the ability to create it, is about so much more than just creativity. From my family I've learned the importance of education, love for the written word and the joy of storytelling. I've learned to see beauty in imperfections, and that an heirloom's importance lies in its meaning, not just its worth. I've learned selflessness, empathy and the lasting effects of encouragement.

Because of my family, I am more than my own talents; I am the sum of theirs, the benefactor of their countless contributions. If the book of my life is at all a good read, it is because they have so generously written the forward. If it holds up over time, it is because of the skill with which they stitched the binding. When I'm asked "Is anyone else in your family an artist?" I will simply say, "Yes, but more than that, they made me one."


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