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The Path That Led Me Here

Permanent Linkby RichardDevine on Mon Feb 24, 2014 11:14 am

The two constants in my life have always been a love of the outdoors and a passion to create. As a kid growing up in Ronkonkoma, Long Island, New York (back before houses filled every square inch of available property – we were one of only a few families in the area then) I would wander off often, exploring the woodlands surrounding my home. I imagined myself a great explorer, finding all sorts of fascinating wildlife under logs, in the ponds, high in the trees or under a rock - and I always enjoyed making drawings of what I saw and picked up.
By the time I was in high school I was dissecting frogs and fish and other assorted vertebrates, making detailed drawings of each dissection. I carved out a corner of the basement of my parent’s house and used it as my private lab and research facility and rarely came up for air. I don’t think my parent’s knew they had two sons until it was time for me to go to college.
College was great. I dissected more and bigger animals, and continued to make detailed drawings of my projects. I was even able to make a bit of income illustrating scientific articles for researchers and prepare brochures for Admissions. Curiously though, I never thought seriously about art as a career.
After I earned my Bachelor’s degree I was drafted into the service and spent three years in the Navy. I spent part of that time painting and doing portrait work. As my stint drew to a close I contemplated what to do with the rest of my life. I weighed two options - become a medical illustrator or go into marine science. I decided marine science was where I wanted to be. It was an exciting field and was in keeping with my curiosity with the natural world. In order to make some money first I took a position as an illustrator and photo re-toucher for a local business. After 2 years of work (which I really enjoyed), I was accepted into the Marine Science program in the nearby Community College and spent two years learning Marine Ecology.
Upon graduation I was hired by the Oceanography Department of Lamont Geological Observatory (part of Columbia University) and spent two years there before deciding that Florida was the place to be for Marine Science. During my time in College and at Lamont my art took a back seat.
After moving to Florida, and before job hunting, my wife, who was interested in orchid growing, suggested touring a local orchid greenhouse. I ended up taking a position there that day overseeing their thousands of orchids. It was a spur of the moment decision and wound up changing the rest of my working life. The seeds of a growing interest in horticulture had been incubating for a couple of years prior to taking this job, so it wasn’t completely crazy. Anyway, my position there led to a serendipitous meeting with wealthy clients who just happened to need a Head Gardener for their 25 acre estate (nestled in the rolling hills of a 1000 acre horse farm in Ocala, Florida). That meeting led to a very satisfying 32 year career in horticulture and garden design.
Although all my employer needed was someone to take care of their greenhouses, their estate needed development and I had a never ending supply of design ideas. It was a marriage of horticulture and art. I would design gardens, present the plans for approval and after discussions and changes, we’d install and maintain them. That went on for three decades.
As I neared retirement I longed to go back to drawing and painting and contemplated spending the rest of my life devoted to that other love – art (in addition to maintaining my personal Garden). I wanted to paint landscapes of wild and manmade beauty, botanical art and wildlife.
So here I am doing what I love. Painting (and gardening…I also build some period furniture – but that’s another story). I specialize in painting home and garden portraits and botanical art but also do some natural landscapes as well. My medium of choice is colored pencil but I’ve been trying more watercolor (a medium I’ve always loved but been intimidated by). The colored pencil paintings take many tens of hours to complete but I tend to get wrapped up in them – absorbed into the scenes I’m working on). One of my wildlife paintings (Elk in Cataloochee Valley) won top 100 in the 2012 Paint the Parks Competition and I’ve displayed many of my works locally.
I still love the outdoors and my wife and I (and our dear companion, Peaches, our Cocker Spaniel) travel into the Blue Ridge Mountains often to get out and explore and just marvel at nature. It’s where I still get a lot of inspiration for my works of art.

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