Art was my first love. As a young child, I pored over my grandmother's books filled with art prints. I was particularly enamored of the Renaissance and Baroque masters and the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. I loved the colors they used and their visions of foreign people and places seemed quite magical. To this day, I tend to view people in light of these images, imagining people I see in period costumes and musing about which painter would best portray them. My early exposure to the still lifes of Manet and CÚzanne taught me to see breathtaking richness in ordinary things.

My father was a commercial artist and taught me the rudiments of drawing. At age four, I won a prize in the local children's parade for my tricycle float, which was decorated with my drawings. In elementary school, teachers praised the "personality" they saw in my work. I executed many commissions for my elementary school peers, earning censure from my third grade teacher for "drawing all the time." Art training in school became more rigorous as I got older. I only earned a "C" in junior high art class due to my failure to draw accurate floor plans.

Visual art eventually took a back seat to acting and addictive reading. By high school, "Protesting The Establishment" was my primary creative outlet. I enrolled in one painting class in college where, in the age of Abstract Expressionism, I drew criticism from my peers for being "too illustrative." In adulthood, I became a psychotherapist and mother of two children. I tried a variety of crafts, including handweaving and paper arts but felt restricted by the technical requirements.

In 1990, I got brave enough to pick up a brush again and started with decorative surface design. By 1994, the pillow covers I was making began to look suspiciously like paintings. After a life-changing trip to Italy the following year, I switched to oil and canvas. Since that time, I have devoted myself to making art. I continue to study from my historical mentors and to be inspired by the magical qualities of paint.

Serena Barton