Moran resumes painting 5 years ago after 30-year hiatus

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As an artist, Trisha Moran has come a long way since learning to paint as a young girl growing up in her native Saigon, Vietnam.

After putting aside her passion for art for years to work and raise her children, the Cartersville resident picked up a paint brush again about five years ago and has since created hundreds of pieces on everything from wood and canvas to seashells and gourds.

Moran's work is being spotlighted for the first time in the Cartersville Public Library's art gallery through the end of September, and the collection includes 14 wood-burned and acrylic paintings of butterflies, flowers and birds; one piece featuring a Japanese-style crocheted doily; and display cases in the gallery and near the front entrance filled with rocks, shells, gourds and other items she's painted. 

"She originally just sent me her butterfly pictures, so that's what I had to go on at first, and I really loved them because of the colors," said adult services library assistant Meghan Stipe, who is in charge of the gallery. "Then after we started talking and emailing back and forth … she sent me pictures of all of her other things. She does so many different things. After she started sending me more pictures, I'm like, 'This is really cool,' and they're all on wood, so it's completely different than the stuff we usually hang, but I like it a lot."

Moran, who turns 59 in January, said she bought a house about 2 miles from the library just before Thanksgiving last year, and that's how she found out about the library art gallery. 

"I used to work in the [Fairfax County, Virginia] school system so library like second home to me so I always try to find the library [wherever she's lived]," she said at her artist reception Tuesday. "I come here quite often, and then I ask about how to do display or whatever so then I put my name in there, and [Stipe] called me."

The gallery space is "really nice," she added, noting she loves how easy it was to hang the work.

Moran's medium of choice is acrylics painted onto designs that she first burns into a piece of recycled wood.

"I do in the canvas, but because canvas, you have to buy it, and everything expensive, so I started look at recycle," she said. "This wood supposed to go in the trash, and I know a person who work in the cabinet industry, and then he say that his company throw away lots of wood, so I ask him to save for me so once in while, he give me the wood."

The artist, who has 500 "very heavy" paintings, said she paints from photos she's taken at places like the Atlanta Botanical Gardens or borrowed from her photographer friends. 

"I find it a challenge to mixing the colors that I like, and try to capture [the spirit of the photo] in the painting is what I like the most, but to capture in my painting, that's a challenge, and that's what I enjoy to do," she said. "When I look at the photo, I say, 'How can I do it? How can I capture that to put in my painting?'"  

Moran, who also features dogs, cats and people in her work, said painting from photos is easy, "but I cannot imagine anything."

"I'm a person that I have to see it to do it," she said. "If you tell me to imagine, I say, 'Oh, my goodness. What do I think?' I draw a blank."

Mostly self-taught, Moran said she "learned how to paint when I was little, but I never do it anything." 

"When I was little, my father hire a tutor for a few months, and he's a friend of my father, and he taught me watercolors," she said. "Because my mom and dad, they live separately, and when I came to my mom, I learned another three months of black pencil, and then that's it."

In 1980 at age 20, Moran said she left Vietnam by boat.

"I was a boat people, a refugee," she said.

She ended up in the Pulau Galang refugee camp in Indonesia, where she taught art to refugee kids to earn money for food, before coming to Virginia and learning to speak English.

Eleven months later, Moran went to West Valley College in San Jose, California, and earned a degree in fashion merchandising and fashion design.

But as life unfolded, Moran put her painting on the back burner for more than three decades to work full time, get married and raise her three kids, sons Travis Nguyen, a firefighter in Fairfax County, and Truman Nguyen, an air-conditioning and heating technician in Virginia; and daughter Tracey Nguyen, an art major at Concept Design Academy in California.

After her daughter left for school, however, the artist said she began thinking about picking up where she left off with her hobby, "so I started painting five years ago" as a way to reduce stress.

"Painting and crochet, it's just thing to do to reduce stress and make me happy," she said.

Excelling in anything requires a lot of practice, and becoming a good artist is no different, said Moran, whose work has won first and third prizes at the Delaware State Fair and has been sold in art galleries in Delaware and Georgia. 

"I told everybody that it's not called a talent," she said. "It called practice make perfect. If you have talent, and you don't do anything, it just doesn't have anything. But if every day you practice, then sooner or later, you learn."

Moran moved to Georgia four years ago after spending 10 years in California, 10 years in Virginia, where she retired as an instructional assistant from Fairfax County Public Schools, and 10 years in Delaware.

She's only lived in Bartow County for nine months, however, and calls herself a "new local resident here." 

"I like Cartersville," she said. "That's why I choose to live here. I told my real estate agent, 'I like small town,' so she looking for houses in small town for me because I know I'm the only Asian in the town I live in. I'm the only one Asian in the whole town I have seen. I don't see any except the Chinese food people, but that's it."