Sept. 29, 2005 St. John artist Kimberly Boulon always had a creative bent, but it wasn't until her two sons were almost grown that she finally began to express herself on canvas.
Boulon said that a 12-day vacation to Italy was the beginning of what has become her life's work.
"It was like one canvas after another," she said, speaking of the country's beauty.
She returned home and got to work, first sketching at the encouragement of her husband's aunt, Erva Denham, and then learning from other St. John artists. Eventually, she took classes from St. Thomas art teacher David Millard.
Her works are now for sale at Bajo El Sol gallery and the Artists' Association of St. John gallery, both on St. John, as well as Gallery St. Thomas in Charlotte Amalie.
Boulon, 56, came to this point in her life by a circuitous route. Born in Missoula, Mont., her family moved to a five-acre farm in California's Central Valley when she was a child.
"We grew 52 different kinds of fruits and nuts," she said, fondly recalling those days where fresh fruits and vegetables appeared at every meal.
She said horses were her passion, but she did occasionally do some drawing.
A trip to Hawaii as a child convinced her that she wanted to live out her life in the tropics.
She went off to Humboldt State University in California to study geology, but an auto accident interrupted her plans. When she returned to school, she switched majors to wildlife management.
Her sister and brother-in-law, Milbrey Leighton and Doug Shapiro, were doing a research project on the sex reversal of tropical fish at Aldabra Atoll, an Indian Ocean island about 400 miles southwest of Mombassa, Kenya, that is controlled by the Seychelles. They wanted some help, so she flew out to join them.
When they left after six months, she stayed on to work on a coral reef project.
Her sister and brother-in-law moved on to the University of Puerto Rico. When Boulon decided to get a master's degree in coral reef ecology, she moved to Puerto Rico to study.
Fate intervened in the form of Rafe Boulon, who was then a student studying for his master's degree.
"Doug happened to have a student named Rafe," she said.
The two married and moved to her husband's home at Trunk Bay, St. John, in 1981. Although they planned to continue their schooling, Rafe Boulon found a job at the Planning and Natural Resources Department's Fish and Wildlife Division. He's now the resources management chief at V.I. National Park.
Although she was still thinking about completing her master's degree, son Devon came along in 1982.
"After I had my baby, I didnt give a rip about finishing my master's degree," she said, laughing.
Son Revel followed in 1984, and Boulon was soon caught up in family life. She home schooled both her sons all the way through high school, got involved in setting up a sports program, helped out with the Kids and the Sea program and worked with the Friends of the V.I. National Park and the St. John Community Foundation.
Boulon was one of the movers and shakers in establishing the St. John Artists' Association of St. John and held the post of president for three years.
She now paints outside en plein air and in her studio, combining realism with the abstract to create landscapes and portraits. She said she draws on her life's experiences and years of observing nature to create her works.
"My style is developing because I want to try out different ways," she said.
See Boulon's works at www.kimberlyboulon.com
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