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Local artist continues to paint despite physical setbacks

Andrea Williamson

Hartselle Enquirer

One Hartselle resident has managed to work against odds to continue pursuing her love of painting and jewelry making, and she is preparing to take new steps to share her art with the community.

Loris “Sue” Drake, a Virginia native who spent most of her adulthood in Decatur, has had many different experiences in her life. From competing in Miss Alabama alongside actress Fannie Flagg and working as a nurse at Decatur General Hospital to opening a frame shop with her husband and raising four children, Drake has tried many things. One regret she has, though, is that she did not spend more time pursuing her love of art.

“I wish I had given up framing,” Drake said. “I wish I had taught art classes and painted.”

However, while she may regret the time she did not spend painting, Drake is not allowing current setbacks to keep her from pursuing her passion. Drake suffered a stroke eight years ago, leaving her unable to walk without assistance. She also underwent heart surgery four months ago and is legally blind in one eye. Despite these hardships, Drake finds joy in her present life.

“I had 69 really good years,” Drake said, “and I still enjoy myself now. I had a premature granddaughter who was never able to walk without help, so I don’t feel like I have anything to complain about.”

Drake was forced to stop painting following her stroke. After her husband passed away 18 months ago, she decided to make jewelry again. One month ago, she was able to return to painting and has since completed numerous canvas works. Drake, who prefers the title decorative artist rather than artist, discussed her painting style.

“I tend to paint from memory,” she said. “Some people will criticize me for painting things that I have never seen in person, such as the African elephants, but I think people should paint what they like. I don’t like geometric shapes or primary colors, but I love rounded lines and subtle colors.”

Drake said that she was exposed to art at an early age. Many of her family members had an interest in art, and her stepfather was a professional artist. She said that she also learned from watching painting shows on television.

Drake said that she sometimes dreams of returning to her childhood home near the Cumberland Gap so that she could paint the mountains during different seasons, but she wants to stay near her children and grandchildren. Since moving here five years ago, she said that she has enjoyed living in Hartselle.

“I love my Hartselle neighbors,” Drake said. “I am also very impressed with the shops downtown.”

Drake will be joining the downtown community soon as she plans to open a booth at El Marie’s Antiques and Art Marketplace on Sparkman Street. She also plans to hold an open house event at her apartment on Sat., Aug. 1. Drake will be selling many of her paintings, along with over 300 necklaces and 150 sets of earrings. For more information about Drake’s works or her open house event, visit her on Facebook at Gems from Loris.