Musician turns to painting after stroke
BY SARA PLUMMER World Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 01, 2013
1/01/13 at 7:52 AM
COLLINSVILLE - For most of Lorraine Howard-Stephenson's life, her passion was music, working as an organist and choir director until 2007 when she suffered a stroke.
After two years of rehabilitation, Howard-Stephenson had to find a new way to express her creativity. She found it in paints and brushes.
In the past three years the 81-year-old has painted close to 2,000 works in her apartment-style home at Frances Streitel Villa, an assisted living center in Collinsville.
Most of her work are landscapes painted on 8-inch by 10-inch watercolor paper that she keeps in binders and albums, but she also has larger pieces and canvases hanging up or stacked against walls.
Howard-Stephenson said she usually paints two pictures a day, sketching in the evening and then painting the next day on her drawing table that sits next to the window in her bedroom.
"The last one I've done is always my favorite," she said, taking inspiration from travel books, vacation photos as well as her own experiences. "I've done a lot of traveling so a lot is from memory. Some (paintings) I will mix a couple of places."
Paintings of English churches, rivers in China, green forests, snow covered woods and city skylines, including Tulsa, cover all available wall space, even in the bathroom.
"Suddenly I had the time to do it and couldn't stop," Howard-Stephenson said. "It's better than sitting around and watching TV."
Her daughter, Wendy Smith, said the painting has served as a form of physical therapy for her mother.
"She was completely left-side paralyzed. She went from having such numb fingers," Smith said, to now she's constantly painting and sketching.
"Over time, this is her thing now. She even taught the residents here a little art class," she said. "It's not only physical therapy, but occupational therapy. It's kept that artistic desire. It's so delightful to see. She just loves to create."
Howard-Stephenson said she's always liked to draw, and even sketched and painted a few watercolors when she was younger, but her musical career and family were her priorities. She always wanted to go back to art after she retired.
"I like watercolors. My son-in-law introduced me to acrylic, which is what I love," she said, and she finds painting calming and relaxing. "I never know what I'm going to do tomorrow."
When she first started painting in 2009, her pieces were more child-like, Smith said, but with encouragement and continued work, she's really become an artist.
"I never thought it would get to this level," she said, and her mother has become an inspiration to her. "When you think someone's life has reached (it's peak) and you see them go on to something, it speaks to what someone can do, even in their later years with practice."
Original Print Headline: Passion for painting
Sara Plummer 918-581-8465
Lorraine Howard-Stephenson paints a landscape in her apartment at Francis Streitel Villa in Collinsville. She had a stroke in 2007 and soon after began painting, which has become a type of therapy. She's painted more than 2,000 pictures. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World
Lorraine Howard-Stephenson shows off some of her paintings at her apartment at Francis Streitel Villa in Collinsville. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World
A painting of downtown Tulsa by Lorraine Howard-Stephenson is on display at her apartment at Francis Streitel Villa in Collinsville. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World