They say music soothes the soul, but for Westbury artist Barbara Lewin, it is painting that uplifts her spirits, and as she explains, it is literally just what the doctor ordered.
“My doctor knew that I was an artist and for physical and mental therapy he told me to paint,” says Lewin.
That prescription came after a diagnosis of Myofascial Pain Syndrome or MPS, a medical condition that causes excruciating pain at times, and also severely compromised Lewin’s use of her right arm. Being right handed this potentially jeopardized her work as an artist.
Lewin spent years going from one doctor to another trying to find the source of her pain. After nearly a decade of being misdiagnosed, including a “terrifying” misdiagnosis of breast cancer, Lewin finally had a correct diagnosis for what ailed her. She began undergoing medical treatments, including her favorite therapy sessions, painting.
“I have painted more in the years since my MPS diagnosis than ever before in my life,” she proudly proclaims. Lewin first noticed her affinity for art at Bethpage High School when her art teacher Mr. DiGuardi recognized her potential and inspired her talent.
Motivated by her teacher’s words of encouragement, Lewin attained an Advertising and Art Associates Degree from SUNY Farmingdale. Finding work in her chosen field proved difficult though so Lewin put her passion on the back burner and found a job in retail.
It wasn’t until years later when she met and married her second husband and biggest fan Pete, that her joy for art fully emerged again. “Pete would say ‘wow you need to show your work,’” said Lewin.
Reluctant to heed his advice and put her work on display, Lewin quietly continued to paint from home. She drew her inspiration from her unwavering faith, which is what she says truly drives her. It motivates her to capture her favorite landscaped settings of mountains, sunsets, waterfalls and snow covered country scenes. All of her work, says Lewin, is literally guided by her deep connection to her faith. “I always have to remember where my art comes from,” Lewin says.
Her fan base started to grow in her faith setting. In addition to Pete and her two adult daughters Jodi and Amy, her fellow church members began to motivate and encourage Lewin to show her work. Fittingly her first exhibit was at the Christian Coffee House at Hicksville United Methodist Church. From there it was a show at the Glen Cove Library.
Then a chance meeting in the waiting room at a local doctor’s office put Lewin in contact with a fellow artist who not only became one of her greatest mentors, but set off a chain of events that would increase her exposure as an artist.
“It all started with small talk with an artist named Sandee Lawson. She left me her card urging me to submit my work to the Town of Oyster Bay’s Rotational Artist’s Program,” Lewin explains. To be considered for the program, an artist must submit three pieces of work to be judged for approval.
Unsure whether she wanted to have her work judged, Lewin slowly mulled over the idea, when just weeks later another chance encounter solidified her decision. It was her 40th high school reunion and during another moment of simple small talk, she met an artist who happened to run the very same artist’s program.
“Then I knew I just had to do it,” Lewin said. Her work was voted in, and Lewin has been showing her work steadily in the program since. This led to more exhibits and most recently Lewin has been asked to do painting demonstrations at many local libraries, including a recent one at the Hicksville Public Library.
She proudly demonstrates the techniques she has learned and honed through the years, including Palette Painting and Black Gesso, where the artist starts off with a black canvas instead of using a blank canvas, and creates the work from there. “I learned all about Black Gesso by watching one of my greatest inspirations artist Bob Ross on television,” muses Lewin.
An inspiration herself Lewin continues painting almost daily despite continued pain from her MPS. “It’s absolutely incredible that when I’m painting I don’t feel the pain,” she says.
To view Lewin’s gallery of work visit her website at www.brushstrokesbybl.com.