By the time I was a sophomore in high school I'd taken all the classes our high school offered so my art teacher helped me apply to the local university and starting my junior year I'd drive there in the afternoons and take my basics like drawing 101, etc. It was amazing and only slightly weird that there were naked models walking all around. I didn't want to make it weirder so I didn't tell them I'd just turned 16.
I really wanted to paint like the Old Masters I was seeing in my art history books. I asked but we didn't have classes in how to paint like that. It just wasn't really in style. I worshipped Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Titian, I'd study the plates in books and wish I could see the actual paintings. It's been a dream of mine since then to learn to paint like that but I couldn't find anyone then to teach me. I didn't know where to look for a classical realism atelier.
I finished my bachelor's in figure drawing but discouraged and disinterested in doing the kind of art that was in galleries in the mid 80s I just moved on to something else. I decided to attend a top creative design and ad school in Atlanta instead of an art school for my MFA. It worked out fine.
I enjoyed my 15 year career as an agency art director a lot, I did really well and worked for some top firms and made a lot of lifelong friends but ultimately I just wasn't cut out for that world. I do a lot better in my little studio painting all day.
Around 2000 it's like painting started to emerge everywhere again, realism started popping up everywhere and artists were painting again and it was hard not to want to join it. And soon there were resources like access to teachers and everyone was talking about painting. I started to paint again a lot more often and it wasn't long before I was in the studio full time and soon I quit my job all together and was supporting myself with my art.
It's been a long road, I'm always trying to improve my painting skills. I continually adapt and change year after year, always trying out new methods and media. It's what keeps it interesting.
I feel very lucky, I don't think I could ever get tired of painting and sharing it with others through teaching classes and workshops.