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After suffering stroke, musician turns into painter

Diane Glassmiers watercolors grace lobby at Forest Grove Beehive

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: MICHELLE THOMAS - Diane Glassmier, 76, stands in the lobby at The Beehive in Forest Grove next to one of her many paintings. The former professional violinist turned to watercolors after suffering a stroke at age 37.“People inspire my artwork,” Diane Glassmier said with a laugh. “All kinds of people — children, parents, it doesn’t matter. Everybody brings such positivity to my world.”

Glassmier, of Forest Grove, began painting at the age of 38. It was, she said, the creative release she needed after a major stroke the year before left her in a coma for a month. When she woke up, Glassmier found her right arm and leg were paralyzed from the elbow and knee down.

She suffered two smaller strokes a week later, prolonging the return of her motor skills. Three doctors’ evaluations, as well as a grueling series of tests, never revealed the exact cause of the cerebrovascular incidents. At 37, Glassmier’s world had taken a shattering turn.

“I didn’t know what to do ... I just knew I had to stay positive for my kids,” she recalled.

At first her affliction didn’t bother her. But soon she realized her days performing as a musician were over. At the time, Glassmier was married and working as a professional violinist, having secured a career that spanned the U.S. She’d played with symphonies in Lexington, Ky., and Eugene and Corvallis, Ore., respectively.

Shortly after her strokes, however, Glassmier’s personal life changed radically as well. She had four young daughters to raise from her first marriage, was unable to find work due to her disability and was living with a disgruntled second husband, she said.

The couple subsequently divorced, making Glassmier a single parent. She and her daughters survived on monthly child support and disability checks. The women relied on each other to help make it through, Glassmier noted.

It was during this period she discovered her desire to paint.

“I started playing the violin at the age of 7. I loved it [and] when I realized I couldn’t play anymore it broke my heart,” said Glassmier. “I needed something to keep my mind occupied. I thought painting would be a great outlet for me.”

Glassmier chose watercolors as her media. She found them to be “forgiving,” she said, and — because she wanted something to help her stay focused long-term — they took the longest to learn. She also enjoyed the way the colors represented themselves on paper.

Having found her way to Portland via central Oregon, she decided to take two classes each from local art instructors Caroline Buchanan and Bill Chumbley. The classes, she felt, helped her understand the way the paint worked. She spent the next 30 years practicing her adopted craft.

When Glassmier considered moving to The Beehive Retirement Community in Forest Grove, she told manager Kathleen Leatham about her hobby. After viewing her work, Glassmier said, Leatham asked to display four or five paintings in the assisted care center’s lobby, and the artist readily agreed.

The paintings include landscapes, abstracts and portraits. New works of Glassmier’s are rotated in and out of the lobby every six weeks. With her girls grown and at a thriving 76 years old, Glassmier typically finishes one painting a day — because, she said, it keeps her happy.

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