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 C�zanne 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