In kindergarten, the budding artist soaked her paper with water and then made a single line with her ample brush.
Fluid color streamed to the paper's edges and created perfect branches of a tree.
It was an "ah-hah!" moment for little Patti Jean, today known as PJ Commerford.
"God was telling me I was born to be an artist," she said during a phone interview from her Leesburg home.
Today, Commerford is a successful, nationally renowned painter and the featured artist for Art Harvest, a juried art event held every year in Dunedin.
A bumper crop of artists — 230 of them — will assemble under the oaks at Highlander Park this weekend. Browse and shop Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at what is billed as the largest autumn art show in the Tampa Bay area.
Presented by the Junior League of Clearwater-Dunedin, Art Harvest attracts an estimated 50,000 visitors each year — and this one is special.
"This is a significant anniversary for us," said Sarah Pickett, co-chair of this year's event. "It's the 45th anniversary of Art Harvest and the League's 60th anniversary (in north Pinellas County). We're grateful to have community support for so long."
She said the affair would likely raise about $100,000 for projects. In the past, proceeds have helped fund the Dunedin Fine Art Center, the UPARC Foundation, and field trip buses for more than 50,000 area public school children.
The league is currently focusing its efforts toward the foster care system.
Pickett said Art Harvest organizers just had to have Commerford as their featured artist this year.
"We are obsessed with her," she said. "Her art is high-color and whimsical, yet is finely detailed and beautiful."
Commerford received a master's degree of fine art from Florida State University. However, with all her education and skills, she retains her watery beginnings.
"I wet my canvases in the shower," she said. "Then I literally fling paint and ink at them and see what happens next."
Sometimes it can be a flower, a heart, a face or landscape that emerges.
"I'll strengthen the design and then leave it alone and come back over and over," she said.
Layers are created from transparent paint, micro-glitter, crushed glass, crystals, feathers, fabric, or things she finds on the ground.
"My children have to watch their toys," she said.
When she's satisfied with the result, she declares it finished.
"I paint every day," Commerford said, "and it comes from real joy in my heart."