Three Friends Painting - Featured Artists at Swift Creek Mill Theatre During Cyrano de Bergerac, January 26 - March 2, 2019




(See also the Featured Artist page HERE.)



Who are the Three Friends Painting?
Terry Atkinson, Jean Kleeman, and Carolyn Velletri

“We truly just started as three people taking the same art class at a local community gallery. Somehow there was a connection that just grew, and along the way, they have become my best friends."

Tell us a little bit about your backgrounds and how long you have been creating art?
Terry - We first met in a pastel class. After painting together a few years in classes, the idea of painting together weekly, in Carolyn’s home studio, came up. Three years later, we are still painting together weekly. During that time, we have also become good friends, supporting each other not only in our artistic lives but in our personal ones.
Carolyn - I have been creating art ever since I can remember…. first coloring, then taking art in school, exploring crafts, and on and on. However, I did not become serious until mid-life and at some point, decided “I am an artist.”
Jean - I actually have a medical background, worked for 30 years as a Medical Technologist. What’s interesting is that all three of us have a science/mathematical background. I guess it’s good to use the other half of your brain no and then! I didn’t have any art experience before taking up pastels about six years ago.


What (or who) inspires you?
Terry - The wonder and beauty of nature inspire me. I am also inspired by looking at the work of other artists; I love going to art museums, galleries, and community exhibits and studying the work of others.
Carolyn - Primarily my inspiration comes from my love of the natural world – landscapes, flowers, animals, and more. I also do like people and portraiture.
Jean- I love animals and the outdoors so being able to paint them is very satisfying.


How did you find the medium that best worked for you? What was that process of discovery like?
Terry - I was working full-time, but felt a lack of creativity in my job. I picked up a flyer for a local community gallery determined to find the time to take an art class, closed my eyes, and where my finger landed was the class I was going to take. It was a pastel class. It took me two class sessions, 16 weeks, to finish my first painting. After my third painting, the instructor encouraged me to enter a show, and I was hooked. I have been painting and exhibiting my art ever since.
Carolyn - This is an ongoing process of discovery. Sometimes it is happenstance; sometimes it is a gentle nudge from a fellow artist – however, I think it is a willingness always to explore and keep an open mind to new possibilities. I would say there is no one medium that works best for me. Currently, I am leaning toward pastel but still do other mediums as well and who knows how things will evolve.
Jean - I have tried various mediums, pen & ink, watercolor, colored pencils and enjoyed them all, but pastels seem to fit my style the best. Also, the depth of color you can achieve is great!


What were some of your early influences to pursue the arts? Did you always want to be an artist when you were a child?
Terry - Art was always important to me as a child, I would draw and paint for hours, and my parents were always giving me art supplies for Christmas. But, I needed to make a living and believed at the time that I could not do that in the arts. So, I pursued other passions, had a great career in the budget, finance,and administration before coming back to my passion of art. I was not sure if I still had the talent and was gratified to find that the talent was still there, waiting.
Carolyn - I can’t recall any influences…. I was always driven to pursue art and creative endeavors.
Jean - I’ve always loved art but never thought I was truly any good at it. I’ve always been creative though so I guess it was just there waiting to be discovered.


Outside of your art—what feeds your imagination and brings you joy?
Terry - I am a Virginia Master Naturalist, so being a citizen scientist and closely observing nature brings me joy. Every hike, every volunteer experience feeds into my art.
Carolyn - I like to walk and hike and be outdoors. I love animals and am always interested in the human species and their differing perceptions of the world. I like to plan and organize and host a great event!
Jean - Ofcourse my family and our pets. We have a home in Wintergreen and my husband and I love the beauty of the area.

What creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
Terry - I would love to learn how to use oils. But, every time I try, I run back to my beloved pastels. I keep telling myself that one day I will try again.
Carolyn - I want to throw pottery on a wheel. I also tried stained glass one time but wasn’t very successful. I might like to try that again.
Jean - Photography. I’d really like to be able to take better photos. Then I’d have more to paint!


What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever created?
Terry - My favorite painting is one of a juniper tree, old and stunted, that was at the top of a mountain hike I completed in Colorado. It reminds me of the persistence of life that such a beautiful tree can grow in the worst possible conditions.
Carolyn - My first inclination is to say I don’t know how to answer that…. I really don’t. Realistically, there is not one thing, one medium, and it may not even be “art.” I think it constantly changes….and I hope it always will continue to evolve.
Jean - Aside from my children? Ha, ha! The paintings of my pets are special.


What are you trying to communicate with your art?
Terry - I only paint what brings me joy and it is the stunning beauty of nature that most inspires that joy for me. If I can bring that joy to someone looking at my painting, then I feel like I have succeeded as an artist.
Carolyn - A love of nature and all things natural. Also, it is an expression of emotions.
Jean - I don’t think I’m really trying to communicate anything. I paint what I love and if someone else should happen to love it too, that’s a bonus!


What advice would you give to people looking to explore becoming an artist?
Terry - Paint what you love, it will show in the work.
Carolyn - Please don’t be too hard on yourself! If you have an interest, it is likely you are an artist! Find good teachers! Explore! Constantly try new things! And never ever give up. Remember as one teacher told me years ago, “It is likely only one in ten of your paintings is frameable,” so why do we think they all are frameable???
Jean - I tell people all of the time that anyone can be an artist. It is a learned skill just like anything else. Find something you love and just devote the time to it.