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Life After My Husband's Death: How Art Renewed My Soul

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Eighteen months ago my husband Bernie Brillstein died. Anyone who knew Bernie knew what a "larger than life" personality he had. He filled a room with joy, love and laughter. We met on a blind date 12 years earlier, married after two, and spent the most glorious life together...now what?

After several months of mourning and feeling a bit lost I wondered how do I get my life back on track? I had worked all my life -- it defined me -- now what can I do to fill the void in my life?

I felt like I needed a creative outlet. What about an art class? I had never held a brush in my hand, never sketched or even doodled. But I love color. People always kid me because I'm obsessed with the color purple. It makes me so happy. I thought, what about an abstract art class? How bad could I be? I called the Brentwood Art School in LosAngeles and enrolled on the phone. I signed up for a class every Monday -- three hours a week of a totally new experience.

They sent me a list of acrylic paints to buy. I was like a kid buying a notebook going back to school after summer break. Everything seemed so new and shiny. New brushes, tubes of paint in a rainbow of colors and a couple of canvases. I set the alarm on the first Monday of class, not to be a minute late, arriving with a sense of creative freedom and excitement. Our teacher Jill showed me how to mix colors. She said that 50 percent of creating a painting is deciding on what to paint, 25 percent is mixing the colors and 25 percent is actually painting the piece. I had brought a picture of a painting I had seen in a magazine, I tried to use that as my guide and of course it was all shades of purple which even made me happy to mix. I found myself smiling through most of the three hour lesson.

Jill said, "it's good, don't do anymore." For my first painting I felt so proud. It wasn't an embarrassment. I raced home like a kid bringing artwork for their mom to hang on the refrigerator. Fortunately, I have a wonderful woman who works at my house who is extremely handy with a nail and hammer. She made a frame the next day and I hung the painting with such pride in my closet, not quite ready for it to be seen by anyone else. But it was only the first day.

That next Sunday I woke to a sunny, clear Los Angeles day. I thought, I have an extra canvas in my trunk, I could give it a try and create another piece of happiness. I had watched the movie "Pollack" and was inspired by his story as well as his style. I put a canvas on the grass, turned up the music, poured a class of wine and let myself go free. Bernie must be looking down on me with a huge smile. I started to mix my colors: celadon green background, purple and orange. I started to fling my brushes to get the paint to land on the canvas...I was letting it rip. Two hours later, and after one of the best cardiovascular workouts I had had in months, I had the most joyful, colorful addition to my closet wall. Again, I felt that smile on my face throughout the whole experience.

I've been going to class now for five or six months and love every minute of this creative outlet. I've been going to museums more to study other artists' work, get new ideas, appreciate the unique qualities of different mediums. It's a whole new world I'm going to explore. I'm even starting to move some of my pieces into the entry hall of my house so everyone can see them. The canvases are getting bigger, the colors bolder and my soul is feeling fuller.

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