My Art Path. Dream, pivot, re-invent and pursue!
Updated: Jan 6, 2022
I always knew I was born to be an artist. I grew up in a Beaver Cleaver home , Dad was a chemist and loved his job and Mom was a super capable woman that could do anything she set her mind to, all while raising four kids...we were a houseful! Drawing as a small child was a constant activity. I couldn't get enough. In high school I contemplated my options to pursue my art passion, looking at the Art institute of Pittsburgh, Sarasota's Ringling School of Art and Pratt in NYC. In the end, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh made sense, it was close to home and affordable.
I packed my bags and left Poca, West Virginia the fall after Elvis died. Funny how you remember times in your life by world events. I arrived in Pittsburgh knowing only one other person, my new roommate Cindy.
I majored in visual communications and graphic design. Fine art instruction and classes were part of the program so I felt I had a broad exposure in art vocations. I loved AIP and loved living in Pittsburgh. I met the most incredibly talented artists...it was "all art, all the time"!! The teachers were inspiring and talented and I felt I had found my people!! Pittsburgh was vibrant and full of culture, big sports teams and spirited and for a small-town girl... exciting beyond my expectations. Those 24 months flew by, friendships made to last a lifetime. I treasure those people who made me a better artist and person.
I left Pittsburgh after graduating from AIP in August of 1980 at the age of 21. I went to work immediately as "Artist in Residence" at Snowshoe Ski Resort in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia. I grew up visiting those mountains as a little girl as my mother's family was from Pocahontas County. Ski resorts are akin to beach towns...Wild and Crazy. I drew caricatures in the bar, created resort advertising and skied any day I wanted...fun times. It was a great gig…but spring came, and it was time to move on.
I headed South to Nashville where I had some family.. I knew that's where I belonged. I found a starting level job in Nashville, at a small advertising agency and fell into that world immediately. Deadlines, rush jobs, marker comps, photo shoots and working with ad execs. And this was before the magical mac computers made design work a breeze! I worked my way into art director and after 6 years decided it was time to start freelancing so I could build an independent career. I had other plans and dreams. Additionally, I was tired of constantly checking my wristwatch as everything was deadline critical... this was before we all carried cell phones.
I built some solid clients and I married John Padgett (ironically an ad exec for a radio station). After 4 years of freelancing, designing product packaging and advertising layouts for some nice clients, creatively...I was spent. Did I mention we now had 2 children, Kelsey was 3 and Will was 6 months old? I wanted it all! I decided I was needing to give my little ones my full attention., so I put my career on hold. Great decision.
Married to John since 1985, he recognized I was searching for a new direction to give what little time I had toward something creative …nurturing my art spirit. Kids are exhausting...I missed my creative self. I began taking painting classes when my second born was 6 months old.
Cheekwood is a fantastic local treasure in Nashville with gardens, an historic mansion once home to the Maxwell House folks and a fantastic education center for the arts.
I began an oil painting class in 1992 (30 years ago) at Cheekwood and studied with a young, just out of college painter. Every Monday night for 3 hours I was absorbed into my own world. I was hooked and my teacher lit the fire under me. He was a great teacher, and I could not wait for my weekly paint night out. His name was Michael Shane Neal..."The" Michael Shane Neal, now a renowned portrait painter who has work in the Smithsonian Museum, the Capitol Building and in fortune 500 offices and private collections across the country. He stressed the importance of teaching for his own personal growth. Such valuable advise that I have taken to heart.
I studied with Shane privately for several years however with a young family I decided to move towards landscape and still life genres. It takes a very special patient person to tackle portraiture. I took the tools Shane shared with me and began a new start...I’ve been painting ever since.
Workshops are vital to new painters! Over the years that I have taken dozens of workshops with Dawn Whitelaw, Ken Auster, Matt Smith, Scott Christensen, Carolyn Anderson, Peggy Kroll Roberts, Matt Smith, Nancy Chaboun and many more... fantastic teachers and painters...too numerous to mention. I am grateful to each of these painters. Colleges and universities for the most part rarely teach traditional foundations of painting, workshops are where you immerse yourself and engage in real practice.
Those early workshops, thousands of paintings and hard work paid off. I fell in love with plein air painting, traveling and spending so much time outdoors. I could never have planned my career of this journey...it just happened to me.
I landed in a gallery in Leipers Fork Tennessee, a blessing that I am still part of today after 20 years! Leipers Creek Gallery is my home gallery and Lisa Fox and the folks there are like family. It just fits.
All this leads me to my own teaching experiences. Teaching is crucial to developing your own path in this great profession. It is an amazing and gratifying thing to see a student grow and develop their own "voice" or painting style. There is no short cut to being a good painter...it takes thousands of hours of practice and experimenting before the easel. Fear of failure is part of the pathway. In fact, failure is essential (Much like in life)! But when you stand back and can feel accomplished with some brushstrokes you have laid down on a nice piece of linen....it pushes you to do it again, and again and again.
Lastly, never stop learning!! There's so much to paint and endless inspiration. My favorite people are those that never get bored with life because they are too busy devouring it!!
Follow your passion and paint away...and pivot when you need too!
Happy Trails Ya’ll!
Pamela B Padgett AIS