Local memoirist, Nita Leland’s artistic talent was long buried under the belief that she wasn’t creative … that it was her older sister who was the creative one in the family.
Hers is a story of transformation. She awakened to her innate creativity and transformed her early belief about herself. She transformed her husband’s 1970 surprise 37th birthday gift of watercolors from a “self-indulgent pastime” into an award-winning profession. She went from asking her husband’s permission to attend a weekend workshop to developing a respected career as a watercolorist, collage artist, author of beautifully-rendered art instruction books and videos, workshop presenter, teacher, and entrepreneur. She was a role model before women were even aware we needed one.
That was no small feat given that she had to balance two passions … art and mothering her four children. She did so with humor, skill, and creativity.
The Still Small Voice Within
What I loved most about her story is the way she came to trust the voice of wisdom inside her to guide her steps. Each stage of her career unfolded as she listened to that voice and followed its leading. She refused to be dissuaded by so-called voices of authority. She found her unique path and developed her own style.
A Feminist in Spirit
Because she gave equal importance to building her career and caring for her family, Nita was too busy to get involved in a movement. However, her story reveals a feminist in action and spirit. She didn’t allow male chauvinism or gender bias in the art world to deter her.
One example among many involves the way she learned from her male instructors but refused to cave in to their dictates.
They discouraged her from painting birds, seeming to prefer boats. She painted birds anyway. She was rewarded by her wildlife and waterfowl paintings winning awards and even commissions from a collector. Her work could be found hanging in prestigious buildings around town. A friend dubbed her, “The Bird Lady.”
Another example involved being asked by a skeet-shooting organization to donate one of her bird paintings for an auction at their annual banquet. She and her husband had contributed to the wetland conservation program that would benefit for years, so she was happy to donate a painting … until she learned that women weren’t invited to the banquet. She called the requester back and when he confirmed that was their tradition, she replied, “Well, in that case, I’ll just keep my painting.”
It is not her success that gives Nita her greatest joy. What she loves most is empowering people to believe in their potential and achieve their creative dreams. She shares what she learned so that others can experience their own creative awakening, as she did.
Still Going Strong
If it weren’t for COVID, Nita, at 87, would still be teaching advanced water color at the local recreation center. For now, she settles for teaching through her books and videos. As soon as it is safe, she plans to be back standing before her class and reveling in her students emerging creativity.
COVID makes marketing her memoir published in June 2020 challenging. I hope this blog post helps in some small way. During these difficult times, her story is sure to raise your spirit.
Nita’s memoir is a work of art in itself. She not only paints pictures with watercolors, she paints pictures with words.
Reading her book is almost like watching a movie. You will witness her newlywed life in France with her Air Force husband where she learned that she is responsible for her own happiness.
You will chuckle at her children’s antics and early critiques of her artwork. You will celebrate their validation of her as a professional.
You will cheer her on as she muddles her way through and overcomes obstacles with wisdom and skill.
You will be inspired by the way Nita makes a difference in the lives she touches. I know because she touched mine.
Divine Guidance ~ ~ Lucky Me
I met Nita sometime in the spring of 2012 at the local senior center where we both participated in a group called The Spirituality Forum.
We became writing partners. It kept us moving forward. Meeting every two weeks almost without fail for 4½ years, we had to have something written for critique. In the fall of 2016, circumstances in both our lives prevented these regular meetings. We continued collaborating as best we could.
When we began, I knew nothing of her career. I didn’t learn about her achievements and how well-known she is until I searched for her home address on the internet in order to send her a card. Humble, she never once flaunted her success.
My story is not a “happily ever after” tale of the kind of success in life Nita has enjoyed. What I valued most about our partnership is the way she critiqued my writing without a shred of judgment about my life.
One day, after I shared a particularly painful part of my story, Nita said, “I think I was chosen to hear your story.”
I replied, “It was definitely Divine guidance that brought us together.”
I’m not a visual artist, but Nita empowered me to believe in the worth of my story and to achieve my dream of writing it … an exercise that gave me a whole new perspective.
Because that’s just who Nita is … through her own transformation she knows to believe in people and loves empowering their dreams.