Sometimes it takes a lemon to spark a dream.

Linda C Smith

In late November of 2001 I suffered a mild stroke. I’ve lived for many years with a mysterious seizure disorder but this time it wasn’t the usual temporary ailment I was used to; this time I ended up with the news that I’d have to quit work and retire.

At first this was a blow. My job had recently turned into something I was looking forward to. My background was in marketing and I was finally going to get to use that. This enforced retirement stopped those dreams dead in their tracks. But something wonderful came out of the gloom.

During my convalescence a physical therapist came to our home to help me. But what this person did for me most was in encouragement. One of the things I dealt with because of the stroke was anxiety. I was worried about the future and what life would be like. Because of the deficits I was left with, for nearly two years I wasn’t able to drive and this alone made me feel very isolated. But this therapist taught me how to use music to meditate. And it was through music and meditation that I began to think that perhaps what initially seemed like a black cloud on my life was perhaps in actuality a gift.

I’m an artist. A painter. And for most of my life had to fit my painting time in amongst my work and raising my family. From time-to-time I would enter an exhibit; I did win some awards for my work, but I was never able to devote any real time to my art.

The gift was Time. I now had time to paint. I now had time to study my art as never before. I had time to experiment and develop my style. So for two years I painted and built up an inventory of work. By the time I was able to begin driving again I was motivated to join local artist groups in my community and begin showing my work. I began to think I could become a working artist and put my background in marketing to use in my own home art business.

My family and friends were incredibly supportive. Especially my husband. He has been a trooper helping me to take my paintings and booth setup to outdoor shows and has been an encourager during these economic hard times.

The past couple of years, 2008 and 2009, have been very difficult economically. The artistic world, like all other industries, has suffered because art is often seen as a luxury and people are just not purchasing. It’s making the cliched phrase “starving artist”somewhat real. Last year I did get discouraged and began to feel directionless. But once again it was my husband who stepped in and helped to recharge my creative batteries and get my art business back on track.

Last winter he bought me a large, bound, blank sketchbook. I sat in the evenings and began experimenting with designs. I had always felt as though I had not quite gotten to a point in my work where I was expressing everything on my canvas that could be. Then, out of the blue came the thought: what would happen if I put my expressions in the vehicle of a circle, rather than the traditional rectangle? Most canvases are rectangular in shape. Also I began to explore the image of the tree in abstract. I developed over 50 color studies over the course of the winter. Another inspiration hit just as spring came – what if I were to execute these new designs in their new structure through mosaic tiles rather than paint?

This has proven to be liberating and exciting. It has reenergized my work and my interest in furthering my art business. With the new year of 2010 I not only have been working daily in my studio, I’ve joined an artist critique group and began setting up a calendar of shows and exhibits for the year.

None of this would be happening if not for being blindsided by that stroke back in 2001. Who knew that it was possible to be grateful for ill health?

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