Saturday, June 22, 2024

Art with heart

Local painter teaches art therapy


AZLE — Even at 91-years-old, Gil Pearson has not found himself slowing down in either of his life’s passions. Award-winning painter and lifelong traveling evangelist, Pearson came to Azle from Florida a little over two years ago to be closer to family. In that time, Pearson found a place for his painting and his ministry at the recently opened Grace & Faith Center after pastors Larry and Donna Davis invited Pearson to use their facilities as a part-time art studio.

Today, Pearson uses his passion to teach and help others. For about a year, Pearson has been teaching Brooklyn Bugarin to paint. Bugarin, a 24-year-old Azle High School graduate is on the autism spectrum and has always loved to color. She lives with her parents in Azle and in spring of 2023, Bugarin’s mother approached Pearson in hopes of getting her painting lessons.

“(Bugarin’s mother) maybe suggested that I be sweet and kind and all that, but I don’t have to be sweet and kind because Brooklyn is a good girl, and she loves colors,” Pearson said. “I’ve gotten attached to the whole family. We’re like family now.”

The two started out their classes at the Grace & Faith Center building, 11701 Jacksboro Highway in Fort Worth, but eventually moved on to doing weekly classes at her family’s home. Bugarin said she has learned a lot and enjoys painting. She previously colored hummingbirds and flowers before painting with Pearson. Along with painting professionally, Pearson used to teach art therapy in the past and is convinced of its benefits, even for his own health.

He hopes to soon begin teaching people with other disabilities and offer art therapy to injured veterans specifically. The art teacher said he has always had an interest in working with the Wounded Warriors Project and through connections he has made with acquaintances of Pastor Davis, he anticipates making that dream a reality.

“I get a lot out of helping people,” Pearson said. “That is perhaps the biggest reward I get just to know I’m helping somebody. It’s just the human spirit, we like to feel like we helped somebody.” I think there’s a lot of sympathetic people out there. (Art is) good therapy. It’s kept me alive for a long time. Really truly, I’m serious about that. When you get your mind on that painting and that art piece you don’t think about any kind of bills or any kind of problem. That’s why it’s such a good therapy for wounded warriors. I would really like to invite them to give it a try if it’s only a class or to see how they go with it. I would do it for next to nothing to help them because it’s therapy, you know.”

Pearson and Bugarin are currently selling her paintings for $20 per piece with the goal that 25% of the proceeds will go to Bugarin, 25% to Pearson and 50% to the Wounded Warrior Project.

Pearson charges Bugarin $35 for each two-and-a-half-hour class but before taking on a new student, Pearson likes to speak with them to figure out what they can afford. Pearson reports that Bugarin has already sold some of her paintings of butterflies and sea turtles to her relatives.

“It’ll help,” Bugarin said of the plan’s impact.

Pearson can be reached at 352-220-2222 for those interested in learning.