Bernard uses art as therapy after stroke

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 24, 2008

Painting faces isn’t just a job for Catina Bernard. It’s a miracle.

A Natchez artist with a gallery on Franklin Street, Bernard paints portraits, landscapes and buildings, among other things.

For 15 years painting portraits has been one of her focuses in life. But in 2004 she had a stroke that served as a wake-up call.

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She was paralyzed on her right side and had to learn to walk and talk again.

“After experiencing this miracle, I was inspired to use my art as a form of therapy,” she said. “I decided some months later it was either now or never to make a change for the better.”

So she opened her art gallery.

And since then, her art has been her life.

Her first portrait was a self-portrait. But capturing a face of someone else is a challenge of its own.

“Some people want to camouflage their flaws and ask me to change things but I let them know that’s not right,” she said. “I use bright lights to get as much detail as I can. Dimples, moles, these can help show different characteristics in a person, and to catch a person’s true spirit is what you want,” she said.

“Pursuing something you’re not lets you have doubts, so I try to show things as I see them.”

Bernard has a portrait of Mayor Phillip West, a painting of Martin Luther King Jr. Street and abstracts on display in her gallery.

An artist since the age of 12, Bernard has had more than enough time to hone her skills, yet admits she stills feels a little pressure when she sits down at her easel with a blank sheet of paper. The key to finishing, she said, is patience.

“Just have a little patience with your subject and your work, then you’ll be alright.”

Bernard uses music and lighting to set the stage for her work.

“I try to incorporate what I call ingredients of my artwork,” she said. “Inspiration, mood and spirit, balance and measurement, mind and soul.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m painting in my home or in my studio, if the mood is set with music and lighting, I can work.”

And she doesn’t have a scheduled time to paint or draw. She paints when the inspiration and the focus comes.