You can be the unexpected artist with PD


 Chip Colley was an outdoorsman, not an artist. “I had friends who were artists, but I couldn’t paint at all,” he says.

Colley grew up fishing with his father on the Escambia Bay near his hometown of Pensacola, Florida. When his son, Zachary, was old enough, Colley introduced him to the timeless father-son tradition of pre-dawn angling.

And, when he was first diagnosed with PD, Colley fled to the cypress bog behind his house to reflect on this new, largely unwelcome phase of his life.

Early on in the disease, he was hit hard by bouts of insomnia that would last until three o’clock in the morning. Not a huge fan of television (“It stresses me out.”), he struggled to occupy these sleepless nights.

During the day, Colley frequented the three art galleries in town. He enjoyed perusing the creations of the professional artists until one day, one of those artists came up to him and asked, “Why don’t you try to paint something?”

He initially dismissed the idea outright. “My hands were always shaking so hard that I couldn’t even write my own name,” he says.

However, during one of the endless, empty nights, Colley made a decision that would forever alter his outlook on his disease. He grabbed a sheet of paper and some pencils and began to draw.

To his surprise, the drawings turned out “pretty good.” Colley began to expand his scope, digging through boxes of his children’s old art supplies. “I started painting with anything I could get my hands on,” he says.

He had questions about his newfound penchant for portraiture, but continued to allow his creative juices to flow. The next time Colley went to his neurologist for a checkup, he presented the doctor with a stack of paintings and asked, “What’s this about?”

The physician was impressed, but not surprised by Colley’s prowess. He suggested Colley enroll in a study about PD and creativity being conducted by the University of Florida. “We walked in and they just handed us a bag of art supplies and told us to do our thing.”

Colley’s art has gradually gotten better. He prefers painting and sculpting, sometimes combining the two to create paintings with embossed surfaces. “It’s been great. I’ve met so many people since I started doing art,” he says. “When you’re focused on a project, you tend not to think about your physical problems. It just takes you away.”

His advice for fellow sufferers: “Pick up a paintbrush, dance, sing. Do anything you want, but do not just sit there. Enjoy your life. I’m considered an artist now. I would never have dreamed it in a million years.”


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