Frida Kahlo once was quoted as saying, “The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.” If anyone is familiar with Frida Kahlo, one would know that she led a tragic life of pain and misery, bed bound and prisoner in her own body. However, Frida turned her pains and sorrows into priceless pieces of art that are recognized throughout the world.
And we now find a similar comparison in Charity M. Ramsey, a local artist, mother, and professional. Charity has produced unique and intricate pieces of art, channeling her own struggles in her life. The results have been glances into her imagination, her salvation, and her endurance.
A Rough Start at Motherhood
Charity is originally from Montana where her family still lives and runs a farm. When she was accepted into PA (Physician’s Assistant) school she moved to Florida. While going to PA school, Charity noticed some strange symptoms in her daughter that she couldn’t quite identify. Her daughter was diagnosed with a very rare form of pediatric cancer called Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis. Not only is it a rare form of cancer, it is highly unpredictable.
Compared to a cancer like Leukemia, where a child may be on chemotherapy for a year, with LCH, her daughter was on chemo for over 8 years. Charity says, “The reason I tell you her story is because that’s a big part of the type of art I was lead to. Being her mom and being in PA school, was an arduous journey. But the story ends well. She’s knocking on 23, and she’s happy and healthy, but it took us 10 years to get there.”
How the Art Journey Began
Through the stresses and rigor of balancing school, family, a sick child, and own personal battles, Charity needed an outlet. She was offered a free session for Reiki, a Japanese form of energy healing, which is a choice for alternative medicine. Reiki practitioners use a technique called palm healing or hands-on healing through which energy is transferred from the physician’s hands to the patient’s, promoting emotional and physical healing.
Dealing with 8 years of her daughter’s chemo, Charity needed something to help her channel her feelings. Reiki provided this and giving herself permission to do so, Charity was able to visualize color, see and feel sensations, and this led to her first soul portraits. She says, “I could see and feel into these great sensations and started to have my own experiences and I wanted to bring this forward into a tangible visual art form. And that’s where I began”. Charity started to commission soul portraits in 2008 and still does so today.
After delving into soul portraits, Charity was ready to “stretch” herself as an artist and she wanted to work on a surfboard. She had done a soul portrait on a surfboard some time before, but she wanted to try again on another board. She sanded a board and prepped it and as life gets busy, she set it aside. One day while playing with her second daughter in the family pool, Charity jumped in the pool on the shallow end and struck her heel, or calcaneal bone, which is one of the strongest bones in the body. That heel fracture is one of the most painful to endure. Charity was now able to move only at the mercy of using a knee scooter to get around.
Being very active otherwise, Charity was not going to let her heel be defeat her like it did the famous Greek half god, Achilles. The very same day that she fractured her heel, she began prepping the surfboard. She had to be no-weight-bearing for 4 months and since normally, she was constantly moving, Charity thought she was going to lose her mind.
Because she was sitting around not being very active, Charity began drawing on that surfboard. It was only the beginning of a very beautiful and unique surfboard art collection. Laughing now, Charity says, “We now joke that if it wasn’t for me sitting solid, this may have never happened. But it really inspired me to start doing art on surfboards”.
Charity started with the image of a humpback whale which she considers her spirit animal. She was just enjoying doing what she loved. Some of the detailed work took 60 hours of love and artistic labor.
The Materials Used on Boards of All Sizes
Charity mainly uses acrylic pens and gel mediums. She had some boards around her property as her husband is a surfer. But she has also acquired some on online media such as Offer Up and Five Mile, or sometimes surf shops may have discounted prices or boards that are no longer surfable.
Charity has painted on long boards and short boards, but she enjoys painting on boards of all sizes. Charity has sold boards, with different price points, but she makes them first and then sells them. While she has not yet been commissioned a board, she is ready for her first one, whenever it may come.
While her art on boards are an illustration to enjoy, it is possible to paint on boards that are surfable. Some of the boards are surfable, and some are not.
Check Out Charity's Work!
If you love what you see, you can check out Charity’s work on her Instagram page at @soulart.bycharity. Charity’s work was displayed at Sugar Sand Park in Boca Raton but is no longer on exhibit. Stay tuned for the next one by following her IG.