I have always had the most inspiring people in my life who have encouraged and influenced my creativity in many ways. From the time I was two years old, my parents surrounded me with tools to draw, paint and sculpt.

My father was very talented, himself, and would sit me on his lap while he sketched my favorite characters at the time: Popeye, Felix the Cat, Disney characters and animals. He was colorblind, which I think may have influenced him to work with pencil and paper most of the time. My mother, however, had always been great with color and balance, which clearly showed in her ability to decorate our home. My parents' encouragement was the perfect formula to set me on my way into the world of art.

The Franciscan Sisters at St. Anthony School in Winsted, Conn., where I attended grammar school, were so proud of me that they would ask me to decorate the bulletin boards for them weekly. But it was in second grade when actor and comedian Danny Kaye made a guest appearance in our hometown that boosted my confidence.

I was chosen as one of a small group of students, of all grade levels, from St. Anthony's School along with students of other elementary schools to participate in a Danny Kaye poster contest and Mr. Kaye chose mine for third place!

My high school art teacher encouraged me to enroll in oil painting classes with master impressionist artist and teacher William J. Schutz, A.I.S., P.S.A. Mr. Schultz further encouraged me by telling me during one of his classes, "I wish I could have painted like you when I was 16." In my latter teens, I was commissioned to paint a mural at a restaurant in Connecticut called The Freight House. The historic building was a storage facility for the former nineteenth-century train depot, which was raised in the 1970's.

After searching records for information and photos, I recreated the depot as it would have looked in the late 1800's, with characters in period clothing and a locomotive nearby. More recently, I was commissioned to paint a mural at The Red Parrot Restaurant, Newport, Rhode Island. I briefly studied art in college until I became a Navy wife and started a family. While stationed in Puerto Rico, I joined La Liga de Arte in San Juan and continued to study with great artists. I also taught drawing, painting and calligraphy in the Navy community.

But it was Charleston, South Carolina, where I was drawn into the fascinating world of translucence and watercolors after seeing the work of a master watercolorist, Virginia Fouché Bolton. We became close friends, and up until her death in 2004, she would call and check up on me to make sure I was still painting.

After the Navy relocated us to Newport, I continued my education at the Rhode Island School of Design.

It was only until recently that I continued my interest in jewelry design, an interest that I dabbled with back in the 1970's, when I studied under a renowned pewter-smith at the Farmington Valley Arts Center in Avon, Connecticut. My experience has truly been a blessing. If you make it to Newport, please stop by the Newport Restoration Foundation store on Thames Street to see my latest designs, or email me at colleen@townsendjewelry.com for the latest news!