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I grew up in Anaheim, California, a magical place where I watched the Disneyland fireworks before bed, played football in the neighbor’s yard, and skateboarded with my brother. By high school, I was active on the basketball, softball and soccer teams – and I studied art.

I went on to major in illustration and bio-medical illustration at California State Long Beach, and after graduation I married Lad Salness, a high school teacher and coach. Together, we coached men’s football and volleyball.

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When it came time to have kids, I put artwork away and focused on being a homeschooling mother of four.


One day a friend asked me to paint some murals in her home. That simple request changed me. I started thinking like an artist again… but after so many years, I needed to acquaint myself with other artists, to re-train my eye and re-build my skills.


I signed up for art classes to further develop my techniques.


I studied marketing to learn how to sell my work.


I found ways to meet and spend time with artists.


Because I knew that building an art business was going to require a lot of effort, I wanted a piece of art to inspire me. So, I chose a ceramic lantern made by my good friend Mark inscribed with a single word in Japanese kanji: “Perseverance.”


I had no idea how meaningful this object would become

My kids – Katherine, Thomas, Laurie, and Claire


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After about a month in the hospital and rehab, I came home in a wheelchair to relearn how to do everything.


My right side was paralyzed. (Yes, my painting hand.) I couldn’t form words or remember them. I had no idea how to spell simple words like “the.” Some days were incredibly hard.


Then the lantern, which I’d forgotten about, arrived in the mail.


And I discovered perseverance in myself that I never knew I had.


"Perseverance" ©Mark Heimann

I worked out every morning. I met with a speech therapist and physical therapist. I called on my past experience as an athlete and a coach.


I kept asking questions:

  • What works?

  • What doesn’t?

  • How can I improve?

  • What are reasonable goals?

Eventually I learned to walk and to talk again.


And one day I picked up a pencil and pad and started to sketch…with my left hand.


I started to paint again…with my left hand.


I began to see my left hand as a new tool that had to be trained.

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Today, I exercise and work in my studio every day.


I love it all: Being alone and listening to music and audiobooks and working on paintings. Bringing people together and teaching classes. Talking to people about the kind of artwork they desire and the vision they have for commissions.


Getting here took faith, an athlete’s work ethic, and so much support from my husband and kids, my family, and my friends. I thank God I have the ability to move my body, to laugh with friends– and to create.


Visit my studio and see how I set up still lifes, how I organize my supplies and generally how I work.

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