CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Amy Vance had long found creative outlets in photography and jewelry making.
So when her best friend suggested she take up painting, Vance was both mystified and curious. Her friend, Dennise Smith, thought she needed another way to express her creativity and Vance was game to try.
The results were pretty disastrous, and Vance hated the outcome of her fumbling with brushes and acrylic paints on canvas.
"I've never known how to draw and paint. When I started, I was really discouraged," Vance said. "But Dennise said, 'Don't give up.'"
Vance decided to go a different route. Taking inspiration from another friend, a gifted graffiti artist who uses spray paint, she decided to put down the brushes and pick up some cans.
Cue up aha moment.
"Pretty much after I started using spray paints, that was it," she said. "It's a completely different style of painting."
A longtime personal trainer, now for the Nautilus center in Kanawha City, Vance also is an avid outdoorswoman who enjoys hiking. She found endless inspiration in nature, picking up bits and pieces of fallen foliage, twigs, plants, feathers and even stones that she uses as stencils, layering color and form until the piece looks finished to her.
"I don't kill anything," she said of materials she uses for stencils.
Spray paint presents its own challenges. She can't work on days below 58 degrees. She has to work outside and wind is not her friend. Neither is rain.
"Mother Nature has to be on my side," she said, adding she wears a respirator to protect her lungs from paint mist.
When conditions are good, Vance has learned to dig in and work on a bunch of canvasses at once - although she also paints on tile, shale and wood.
She spreads a large tarp in the backyard of her East End apartment and gets to work, laying pieces flat on the ground.
"A few of these pieces I'm able to finish in one sitting," she said. "Others, I want to add to - some have taken four different evenings to finish them."