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“When I paint, I’m someplace else good.”
Navy veteran Jim Waters has begun a new chapter in his life as an artist. After a series of misfortunes, including the death of his wife, Felicia, Jim felt as if he was experiencing life behind a “dark curtain.”
Jim’s path took a fortunate turn when he met artist Diana Rice, the Project Coordinator at a Boston-area arts studio for individuals with developmental and physical disabilities, called Outside the Lines (OTL). Diana taught Jim the basics of drawing, and since their initial encounter, Jim has become an active member of the OTL community. He is currently enrolled in several art classes and spends a significant portion of his free time at the OTL studio, working on his paintings and playing his guitar. Creating art has given Jim a strong sense of purpose and a renewed vigor to make the most of his life.
“Each day brings you a little closer to the next world, and I hope to keep on painting and writing and playing music until I can’t do it anymore.”
Jim grew up in North Cambridge, just outside of Boston. Looking back, Jim recognizes that art played a more significant role in his life than he fully realized at the time. In his earliest years of school, art was Jim’s favorite subject. Although he did not think of himself as a “color-book kid,” he enjoyed expressing himself. When he was in the seventh grade, he participated in a contest at the Catholic Archdiocese. His entry, a portrait of Jesus entitled Suffering, won an honorable mention. Jim eventually dropped out of school, joined the Navy, and later the Merchant Marines. He lived what he describes as a very “destructive lifestyle,” including a struggle with alcoholism.
In the early 1980s, Jim attempted to make a change. He and his girlfriend went to New Orleans on the promise of a new opportunity, but they were robbed and lost all of their savings. Nonetheless, New Orleans opened up a new, dynamic world of art and music to Jim - he would call it his “spiritual home.” Jim explains that painting helped him find a sense of peace until the couple was able to return to Boston.
“I had one of those cheap watercolor trays and some paper, and spent hours painting pictures. That alone helped me keep it together during our stay in the Big Easy.”
When Jim lost his wife twelve years later, he immersed in unhealthy habits, but ultimately sought refuge in painting. Later, after his partner of several years passed away, painting has proved to be a powerful grieving tool. Jim explains that he finds peace while creating art. He says, “Painting puts me in a good place. It gets me out of reality and into a zone where I don't have to think about anything else.”
Jim has been thriving within his new community at OTL. According to the program coordinator Diana Rice, “His studio mates are always happy to see him. People are inspired by his work, and his seriousness about painting has influenced many. He offers them real friendship, stories, feedback on their art, and shares his music.”
Jim observes that continuing his journey as an artist by joining the ArtLifting platform has made his life significantly better and “increased its value.” Jim is grateful for the opportunity to have his work viewed by a larger audience, and for those who are interested in his work.
“It’s nice to be appreciated.”
ArtLifting empowers artists impacted by homelessness or disabilities through the celebration and sale of their artwork. Learn more here.