When it comes to my art, I am a late bloomer. The path has been a long and crooked one. I was raised in St. Louis, where I took every art course offered by my high school. I went to the University of Missouri- Columbia with a declared major in art. However, when I saw what the other students could do I gave it up, thinking I was not artistically talented. I was 19 years old. I could not see it then, but now, I consider this one of the biggest mistakes of my life!
I took a long break from college and worked as an administrative assistant and bartender. I had a successful wallpapering business also. It was during this time that I learned photography, which would later contribute to my return to painting and drawing. My father, Jasper Forrest McFarland, who was a gifted artist, passed away in 1993 and I inherited all of his art supplies. Tucked away in storage in the years after his death, they were calling to me, but for various reasons, the time was just not right for me to nurture my artistic side until later in my life.
When I was in my thirties I followed my love of birds and wildlife and returned to school to earn a degree in Wildlife Management. I worked as a natural history biologist seasonally for 8 years. Because I was not able to find permanent employment as a biologist, I again returned to school to become a physical therapist assistant. I worked as a PTA until my mother-in-law, Bertha, who had Alzheimer's disease, became unable to live alone. Bertha came to live with me and my husband in 1998 and I quit my job to spend the next 8 years caring for her in our home. The decision to stop working and stay home with Bertha was a scary and agonizing one, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made because it was during the time I cared for her that I took up art again. I was 47 years old. It had been 28 years since I gave up. What now?
My father always told me I could learn everything I needed to know to be a good artist by reading and practice. Although our relationship was strained at best, I do remember feeling close to him when I sat by his side, watching him paint a mural on the wall of our living room, asking endless questions, and getting insightful answers that stuck in my mind. So, while I was home caring for Bertha, I took his advice to heart and started reading a lot about art history and technique. I pulled out the supplies he left me from their hiding place in the basement and began drawing and experimenting. By this time, the internet had emerged as a valuable resource and I started using it too. Slowly, steadily, and with increasing excitement, I applied what I learned. I took some drawing classes and a watercolor class, but it was when I took a pastel class at the local vo-tech that things really began to happen quickly.
To my surprise, I had brief "eureka" moments of seeing like an artist - moments that I thought were not in my ability 28 years before. I partially attribute this to my experience with photography over the years. Those moments came more and more often. Over the next few years, I began attending more in-depth workshops with pastel masters and entered pieces in the local juried shows and accumulated some honorable mention awards. In September of 2006, Bertha passed away and my dear husband, my biggest supporter, did not press me to get a job but encouraged me to work as an artist. I was off and running! Norm is a great husband!
I especially enjoy competing in plein air competitions and am proud to say I have taken home a respectable number of awards from them over the years. I also love painting portraits of people and pets and have won awards for my work in that genre also.
I give private lessons in my studio and teach workshops too.