Artist Susan Kubes doesn't want to be defined by her health problems.
Although heart troubles, diabetes and spinal degeneration are part of her life, she prefers to focus on exploring and expanding her skills as an artist.
"This has been my worst year healthwise and my best year for my art," said Kubes, 62, of Largo.
I heard about Kubes from a friend, who showed me her Web site. I loved her paintings immediately. They are so vivid and colorful, just looking at them gave me a feeling of warmth.
Talking to Kubes gave me a whole new appreciation for her passion. She's so excited and animated when she talks about art. Painting is more than just her hobby; she has begun successfully showing and selling her art with the help of VSA Arts of Florida.
An international nonprofit group, VSA Arts aims to help people with disabilities learn through, participate in and enjoy the arts. VSA of Florida is housed at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
"I owe a lot of my success to the folks at VSA," Kubes said. "They have helped me locate places to exhibit, helped me get entered, and sometimes given assistance in getting art pieces to and from shows."
I could also relate to Kubes' struggles with her health. I know what it's like to live with chronic pain because I suffer from a form of spinal degeneration like Kubes, although my condition is managed with medication. I understand how feeling passionate about something can help you move away from the pain.
Kubes has been a lifelong painter. Her first love is realism. She combines her eye for detail and proportion with a love for color to create vivid landscapes and flowers. Her talent for painting animals is called upon for pet portraits.
During the past year, Kubes has had a space at the Tampa Artist Emporium at Hyde Park Village in Tampa and has entered shows around the state.
"My work has been very well-received," Kubes said. "It has also been exciting to be in the midst of other artists. I enjoy getting to know people and learning from them."
Recently, Rubes won two blue ribbons at the Largo Festival of the Arts, and participated in Artspring in South Pasadena. In another competition, Kubes won the honor of contributing an illustration to the Tampa Bay Business Journal's 2008 Book of Lists.
"They chose a painting of two manatees," Kubes said. "Its focus is unusual because it is done as if you are in the water below the manatees looking up at them. As I child I swam at Weeki Wachee, and I painted from that perspective."
Kubes has recently begun experimenting with new mediums and abstract art. She says painting helps her cope with her pain and limitations. "When you're painting, you are so in the moment," she said. "You almost feel you can fly. It is exhilarating to create."
LaRita Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4156.