“It’s like this miracle happened and I’m trying to catch up with it and find out why,” mused artist Barbara Lewin.
The miracle the Westbury resident is referring to is the success and solace she’s found in painting landscapes. Diagnosed years ago with Myofascial Pain Syndrome, a chronic medical condition affecting the muscles and nerves in the body, Lewin frequently endures pain throughout her body and has uncontrollable shaking in her arms. However, despite what some might call a setback, Lewin is happily thriving with her artwork.
“The pain is usually always there with me and I try to not focus on it so much. It’s something that will never go away and there are days when it’s really bad,” she said. “I know that my artwork, once I’m in it and I’m teaching, I forget all about it.”
When Lewin was initially diagnosed with the condition by a pain management physician, he recommended she paint as much as she can because it could be therapeutic for her.
“I would go upstairs and spend hours up there and just transpose into this other world where I didn’t feel anything and it’s a great time for me to paint,” Lewin said.
Although she now teaches her painting techniques and helps aspiring artists reach their potential in libraries across Long Island, Lewin experienced a slow climb to confidence in showcasing her art and demonstrating her abilities.
Lewin first showed her work at an event at her local church, but expanded into the Glen Cove Library under the encouragement of one of the librarians.
“[The librarian] said, ‘We can do a reception for you, why don’t we have a show?’ and that’s how it started. That was the first year that I had [my art] out to the public for people to see and it’s very intimidating the first couple of times you’re out showing your work,” Lewin explained. “It’s like showing part of yourself, so it was kind of awkward for me.”
“Awkward” is a word no longer in Lewin’s vocabulary though. After taking painting courses and studiously watching Bob Ross and his unique way of painting on black gesso, a black base on which a painting is started, Lewin tried her own hand at painting on black gesso rather than white, and found it made for paintings that turned out rather good. With her newfound confidence and pride in her work, Lewin finally got the ball rolling after a chance encounter at the doctor’s office with a woman who alerted her of the Town of Oyster Bay Rotational Artist program.
“You have to apply for it, they look at your work and if you make it then you get to show your work to a lot of the venues around the area and you get to have a whole month display with your work,” explained Lewin, who successfully made it into the group and has since had her paintings showcased in libraries, banks and businesses.
As she’s grown into the artist she is today, Lewin has stayed humble and says she’s overwhelmed and in disbelief of what she’s achieved. Despite having classes at various libraries, she often sees familiar faces as her students follow her from class to class.
“How did I get here? Why do so many people want to learn with me? I don’t get it. I get lost in the awe of it all,” Lewin said. “I get lost watching them get lost in [painting] and the surprise in their eyes when they realize, ‘I can paint.’ It’s a really great feeling. It’s inspiring to see how you can take someone that never painted and they build and they build and thy want more. That’s what I get so excited about.”
Always encouraging her to push herself beyond her limits and take on artistic challenges is Lewin’s husband Pete, who also comes to each class to help set-up materials and distribute anything students may need during the session.
“I wouldn’t help her the way I do unless I thought it was terrific. I think she does a great job,” Pete said.
Lewin commended her husband for always telling her to “go for it” and always being there for her along her journey.
As she has no plans for letting go of her hobby any time soon, Lewin said it’s the freedom, interpretation and getting lost in the act that she enjoys most about painting.
“Every time I think I have a plan, something else comes up,” she said. “You never know what’s going to come out when you start painting, how you’re going to develop it, and I think that’s the fun of it.”
For more information about Barbara Lewin and her artwork, visit www.brushstrokesbybarbara.com.