Aside from my family members, I can't think of another mentor that has so greatly impacted me and been around for such a substantial amount of my life.
I have looked up to this wonderful woman since I was in the first grade.
I have vivid childhood memories of my art teacher, the former Ms. Nussbaum— a passionate woman full of life, laughter, joy, boldness, and bright colors.
As an artist, I believe my love of rich, saturated, jewel-toned contrast was profoundly influenced from the floral prints, orange sweaters and lessons on Picasso, perspective, and abstract design she has been teaching since I was five years old.
Seventeen years older, I one day went back to visit this beautiful and vivacious woman, walking into the weird-feeling halls of my high school as a senior in college, an Arts Scholar student at The Ohio State University.
I knocked on the door of the room she was teaching. She immediately burst into tears and gave me one of the best bear hugs I have always known and loved her for.
As a first grader and throughout all my elementary school years, art was my favorite subject and Tricia was by far one of my favorite teachers.
Later in life, I was lucky enough to have her transfer to my high school when I arrived, and was able to learn from her another four years as I navigated being a teenager.
She was and is passionate, encouraging, giving, innovative and unique.
I love this woman with all of my heart, and look up to her so much.
She is an absolutely incredible artist with one of the biggest hearts of anyone I've ever known.
I've watched her as the years have rolled and life has been at times horribly cruel. She has felt through every moment, and I am astonished at how strong of a woman she really is.
With so much love, I introduce one of the most compassionate women I know:
KS: WHEN DID YOU FIRST BECOME INTERESTED IN ART OR REALIZE YOU WERE AN ARTIST?
TT: As a child I always enjoyed drawing, but didn't truly find my love for art until high school. My art teacher was also one of my greatest influences in my life. Luckily, my mom and grandfather were artistic as well. Watching them create brought joy to me, and I wanted to be like them.
KS: WHAT MEDIUMS DID YOU ORIGINALLY LOVE? WHAT DO YOU NOW LOVE? HOW HAS YOUR WORK SHIFTED?
TT: I have always loved drawing in graphite and ink, but over time painting has also become a passion. I specifically enjoy watercolor and synthetic oils. Watercolor is so delicate and soothing to me, while Synthetic oils have the look and feel of oil (my mom's favorite medium) but the ease of clean up with soap and water, without the toxic fumes.
Cut paper is also one of my favorite things to work with. I rarely draw prior to cutting, I just allow my hands and heart to guide the scissors.
My personal work is quite limited now. Four children and over 140 students a semester keep me busy. But some day I will be creating again...I know it!
KS: WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM TEACHING ART ALL THESE YEARS?
TT: This is a great question. I have learned quite a bit. I now know that hearts of children have so much to release and create.
I completely believe that every person has an inner artist and I've witnessed it. I have also learned that every soul needs someone to listen, to love and to trust in them.
Being an educator is the best career choice I could've made.
I try to connect with every student, at some level, to let them know that I care and am their advocate in addition to being their teacher.
KS: WHEN LIFE HAS BEEN DIFFICULT, WHAT KEPT YOU GOING?
WHEN LIFE IS DARK AND SEEMS HOPELESS, WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS TO KEEP THEM INSPIRED AND SEEING A GLIMMER OF LIGHT OR HOPE?
TT: My family and friends keep me going... my daughters, my mom, my husband, my friends that are like family.
I'm not certain how I made it through losing my sister and best friend, but I woke up each day to others whom I cherish, and this gave me hope.
My students help me as well. I told them they were my medicine when I was recuperating from donating bone marrow and t-cells.
Though the best advice I can give is to keep yourself busy and surround yourself with important people.
It's when you're alone to your thoughts, that when it's the darkest at times.
One person, one job, one situation should not have enough power to make you give up on YOUR life. We're all more important than that!
KS: WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE QUOTES OR MANTRAS THAT KEEP YOU INSPIRED?
TT: I choose to believe that a smile can change the world, that loving rather than hating is how humans will truly flourish.
I also believe that art is a necessity, that it envelops our very existence. The world needs beauty and passion to continue on, while repeating this....
- You are loved.
- You are wonderfully made.
- You are beautiful.
- You have purpose.
- You are a masterpiece.
- God has a great plan for you.
KS: SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS?
TT: I cannot remember the last time I sat down and read a book or novel, but I have always loved reading children's books. Shel Silverstein has my heart.
KS: AS AN ARTIST (AND JUST A PHENOMENALLY ALIVE WOMAN) WHAT THINGS IN THIS WORLD INSPIRE YOU?
TT: I am inspired by God, by the beauty that surrounds me, by laughter, by the smell of freshly mown grass, by artistry itself.
I take life in and I surround myself with color and texture and music!
I stop and look around often, simply enjoying what I am blessed to have...a beautiful family, an amazing career with friendships that have blossomed from my teaching, a wonderful home and my faith!
All of this inspires me!
KS: SOME OF THE BEST ADVICE YOU'VE RECEIVED IN YOUR LIFE?
TT: Never take yourself too seriously, for life is too short and laughter is far more fun!
My grandfather told me this when I was 16 or 17. I try to obey it, and use laughter as a tool through my kindness.
KS: WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE THINGS IN THE WORLD? LITTLE THINGS THAT MAKE YOU HAPPY?
- I love being a mother!
- I love learning.
- I love deep, meaningful conversation.
- I love sappy Hallmark movies.
- I love Coccia House pizza.
- I love school spirit!
- I love cleanliness.
- I love being in control.
- I love the color orange.
- I love alliteration and hyperbole.
- I love beautiful pink-orange sunsets.
- I love laughing uncontrollably with friends.
- I love holding hands.
- I love wearing dresses.
- I love the feeling of the sun on my face.
- I love hugs.
- I love the truth.
- I love high expectations.
- I love not having to awake to an alarm.
- I love peanut butter....on a spoon.
- I love feeling needed and appreciated.
- I love solving problems.
- I love listening.
- I love making connections.
- I love my husband's cooking.
- I love 70's and 80's music.
- I love surprises!
- I love giving to others.
- I love going to the dentist. (I'm serious.)
- I love high heels.
- I love clearance shopping.
- I love being quirky.
- I love witnessing success.
- I love looking through childhood photos.
- I love having a great credit score. Lol
- I love my handwriting.
- I love memories (good and bad), knowing that I've lived a blessed life!
- I love YOU!
KS: DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR THOSE WHO SAY THEY "AREN'T CREATIVE?"
ADVICE FOR THOSE OF US WHO ARE INTERESTED IN EXPRESSING OURSELVES THROUGH ART, NO MATTER WHAT STAGE OF LIFE WE'RE AT?
TT: The first thing I tell my students when I introduce new skills and what may seem impossible to them, is that you have to turn off that switch in your brain that says 'I can't'. This is our only limitation to creativity!
- We have more control than we give ourselves credit.
- New experiences should be liberating not daunting.
- Simply trying (even if disappointed in the result) is the first step.
Every skill must be practiced and honed. Athletes, scientists, mathematicians, musicians, poets, (the list goes on and on) all must repeat a skill again and again to achieve success...why should art be any different?
So, no matter your age or ability level, art IS such an incredible release of emotion, memories, fantasy, appreciation and joy!!! Get out there and try!
KS: ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D CARE TO SHARE?
TT: Thank you for thinking of me as an inspiration!
I always want to be a positive memory for my students....for anyone who meets me, for that matter.
True kindness and compassion are rare, but I want to rekindle hope for our future and spark beauty in all of us!!!
I love you, Kelli! Godspeed!