One of my earliest memories—I was probably 4 or 5—is a chilly evening. For some reason outside of my childhood concern, my parents had a giant pile of gravel in front of our house. I was sitting on top of this with my Dad and my little brother staring up at the clear night sky. I remember hearing crickets and being in awe of the tiny little sparkles of light in the sky, feeling so happy and content by my Dad’s side. I’m sure he was telling us stories, that’s what he always did. My Dad has always been the best storyteller. I have many more memories of staring up at those starry skies, from many different places in the world. I remember sitting on top of the boat we lived on full-time in the middle of the ocean, feeling like I was surrounded on all sides by stars as the twinkles above met with the reflections on the smooth ocean surface where you could hardly tell the reflections from the actual stars in the sky.

The stars always center on me and leave me feeling fractured at the same time—like I’m just a million tiny sparks of light held together in one person. When I need to ride through emotions or bring myself to rip life down into more bite-sized pieces, to expose the true importance of life from the chaff, I always return to the stars. It’s like all is exposed under those little lights, and it’s easier to find my path. 

When I started my art career in 2010, it was a pivotal moment for me. It seemed as if everything in my life was being torn to bits, ground down into a fine powder, and blowing away. As the dust cleared, it was like the skies opened up and those stars kept shining so brightly that my path no longer felt dark. It was lit with hope. In the cold lonely nights of reflection, my heart found what really mattered and I held tight to that, letting that guide me in my choices. Art was something that allowed me to process emotions and find strength and peace again. I realized that I wanted to be able to share that with others.

And I wanted to be able to raise my two sons to understand that to be truly successful and happy in life we must follow our dreams, and find joy in the life we live. It’s not about how much money we make, it’s about how we use that money and who we spend our time with, which is so much more precious than money. Time, and the ability to use it in a way that brings us joy, to be with those we love, is true success. On those dark nights, I started signing my paintings with 2 tiny stars, those little sparks of light being reminders of the little boys I was raising, the light that gave me the strength to pick up the pieces of a shattered life and build something absolutely beautiful. You’ll always find two tiny stars hidden in my paintings someplace, a constant, a reminder that people can find light in the darkest of places and go on to shine so brightly that it lights not only their path but that of others as well.

I recently had the chance to stare up at those same stars from another place, one that was kind of unexpected. The uncertainty of my path unfurling before me, leaving me feeling exhilarated and looking forward to whatever comes. Knowing that the path, although unknown, will be lit so brightly.