Gloria Renzi remembers the heartache like it was yesterday.
She was only a child when she first discovered her love for painting, but she vividly remembered one relative trying to put a stop to it.
“I started painting when I was a young kid, but I never got anywhere because my aunt ripped up my painting of the horse I did,” Renzi said. “So, I was determined from that point on that I was going to teach myself because I couldn’t afford to go to college, and all that.”
Little has stopped Renzi from pursuing her passion. She has raised a family, beaten cancer and endured loss, but painting has always been there as a release. She had some of her work on display at the Johnston Senior Center last week, as members got a peek at everything from sprawling landscapes to portraits of Jesus Christ and Elvis Presley.
Renzi said having more free time in recent years has allowed her to pick up the brush again and spend anywhere from a few days to several months creating a masterpiece.
“Some take a day or two, others weeks, and some months. The ones with all the details and stuff. I finish and I have to do it to perfection, or I won’t do it at all,” Renzi said. “I haven’t given it up and I’m 78 years old. That’s my story. I put it on Facebook, I have people interested [in my work].”
Renzi said she doesn't have a favorite piece of art, and likened selling her work to parting with a child.
“People, or scenery, or pictures, things I’ll see,” she said of her favorite subjects. “The outside world and stuff like that. I’m religious. I still have my faith. He inspires me. I did a little reading this morning, I said, ‘It’s all up to you now.’ I’m tired.”
She said she has tried to get copyrights on some of her original works, but the cost exceeds four figures.
It’s just another obstacle Renzi has overcome. She said she recently finished a “Game of Thrones”-inspired painting, which will join more than 100 other works of art occupying her home.
“I knew I had a talent, and I said I’m just going to start painting, doing things, I just started doing it in my house,” Renzi said as Senior Center patrons walked by her exhibit. “This is the first time here. I wanted to do it before, but I’m always busy taking care of somebody. So I said, this is time for me now. And I love it. I just love it. I had to give it up for a while because I’m busy, but I go right back to it.”
Renzi said she had received overwhelmingly positive feedback to her art gallery at the Senior Center, with a couple of her paintings getting sold. She said she knocked down her prices because most art goes for “sky high” amounts.
“My God, I just love doing it,” she said. “I just love doing something. I have to do a picture of our Lord, or our Lady, and then I go back into the painting work again. A woman just bought two paintings from me. It was awesome. It’s up to you, God, I did my share, now it’s you.”
Aside from playing bocce, Renzi said she relies on painting as a stress reliever when days are tough. She said the most difficult aspect of her hobby, though, is finding the time to concentrate on her work. Once she gets in her space, any anxiety starts to melt away.
“I’m always doing something,” she said. “I’ve been a caretaker. So I said, ‘I’ve just got to concentrate on one thing I love.’ That is artwork. I had cancer way back, too, I’m a cancer survivor. That also kept me going. I raised five children and I told them it’s their turn to help me do my dream.”
Despite the breaks Renzi has had to take from her passion – throughout the course of a life filled with caring for loved ones and bringing up her children – she remains dedicated to her craft.
“It’s been my dream,” she said.