How many people dream of following their passion–doing the work they’ve always longed to do? Tish Lowe (Knoxville ’75, ’78) did just that when she moved to Florence, Italy, in 2003 to study painting. Lowe formerly worked for International Finance Corporation, which has a mandatory retirement age of 62.
“Since I expect to live to a ripe old age, I started thinking about what I wanted to do for the first twenty years after retirement. Art always headed the list.”
A downsizing at IFC allowed her to retire early at 55. “The package made it possible for me to consider the move to Italy to study, though it also meant a drastic reduction in income,” she says. “My decision to invest in professional art training was made as a career change rather than as a recreational activity. I applied to the Angel Academy of Art and a month after being accepted was on a plane to Florence.”
Lowe draws using a live model. “Angel Academy’s teaching method is based on nineteenth-century academic training in France,” she says. “The academic method is founded upon painting the human figure, since it is the most difficult thing to paint. If one can paint the figure well, one can paint anything.”
Last spring, Lowe won first place in Florence’s citywide art exhibition for her oil painting Portrait of a Young Woman. She paints in the style of classical realism, “like the old masters of the Renaissance.” She has been selling her work for about 3 years and has paintings in collections in Europe and North America. Having finished Angel Academy’s fundamental 4-year course and extra instruction in portraiture and composition, she is now a professional artist working out of her home in Florence.
Lowe shops at the local farmers’ market and sings in the choir of an English-speaking Episcopal church on weekends. And though she’s living a life many only dream of, it’s not without its challenges. “Since the dollar has lost approximately forty percent of its value vis-Ã -vis the euro since I arrived in January two-thousand-three, I have a new appreciation for folks living on a fixed income and a strong motivation to earn a good living at this new profession.”
But her purpose as an artist doesn’t waver: “My goal is to create art that holds a mirror up to the human soul so that viewers will gain insight and be changed for the better.”