Excerpt from Roberta’s book, Courage Reborn

Summer 2001  New York City

I want to paint. I have been painting like crazy. I need to paint. But it is summer school in the continuing education program and sometimes the classes do not fill up.

The teacher puts us in a room and tells us what they are offering. There’s a drawing class and a design class. I look at the the teacher, Richard Pitts, and say, “I want to paint.” He sees something in me, maybe in my eyes. He tells me if I sign up for his class, he will let me paint; so I do, and he keeps his word.

He puts me in a room by myself and sets up a still life. We decide on a limited pallet. Because I use so many bright colors when face painting, it will be a good challenge- white, black, yellow ochre, and burnt sienna. And for five or six weeks, twice a week for three hours, I am in a room by myself having a Zen painting experience.

Richard pops in from time to time. “Lighter lights, darker darks,” he says as he runs out the door. And I am left to study the objects. To get into their souls. I see entire universes in a plastic orange. I see galaxies in a piece of driftwood.

He pops back in, picks up one of my brushes, and with one stroke or a dab or white, an object has more depth. I think it is magic.

I lose track of time. Three hours turns into four, then five, maybe more. Richard tells me to lock the door when I leave. I have my own private painting studio that summer in a classroom at FIT.