“Every now and then one paints a picture that seems to have opened a door and serves as a stepping stone to other things.” ― Pablo Picasso

Even though it was more than a year ago when my wife and I visited Southeast Alaska, the journey has stayed with me, I find myself reflecting back on the memories frequently.

I find experiences a better investment than things, more and more these days. If you’ve read my vow for this year, you know I am trying to “not purchase anything I don’t truly need” However, when I met a gifted painter with the rare talent for capturing an experience and bringing it to life, I began to think about one possession I might just want after all.

Artist Dottie Leatherwood
Artist Dottie Leatherwood

Dottie Leatherwood was working in her studio the day I visited Paul Hastings to talk about a story I wanted to write on The Dilworth Artisan Station. Dottie is a rising star in the art world and will have one of her works in the American Impressionist Society 17th Annual National Juried Exhibition, so I was happy to meet her.

As I looked around her studio, I was impressed with her work. It was like I could step into any one of her paintings and feel right at home. Dottie says,

“Painting to me is about capturing and preserving the emotion and energy of a moment in time with the simple instruments of brush and paint. … If I can make the observer feel as though they are immersed and transported through the color and enthusiasm of my painting then I have succeeded.”

Thus began the first step in a choice I will enjoy for the rest of my life. I gave Dottie my Namasté in Alaska story to read. Then I asked if she could capture the written experiences of my story in a painting. With her usual enthusiasm, Dottie said, “Sure, I can try.” That was all I needed to hear.

She did the painting, then wrote about it on her blog

“The scene Bruce had in mind, was of Pavlof Lake on Chichogof Island in the southeast corner of Alaska. It is much more to him than just a beautiful place. It has a sense of peace, clarity and stillness, and the interconnectedness of life. Bruce wanted to capture it all. His vision was clear and that is such a wonderful thing for a painter doing a commission.”

Namaste in Alaska - Framed
Dottie Leatherwood’s painting, framed – in it’s rightful place.

I already had a special frame for the painting, a frame I had resized and refinished when Joyce and I were first married, almost 50 years ago. My project back then didn’t get the frame exactly square, so Dottie had a special canvas constructed to fit perfectly in my old frame. Then she went to work.

Dottie captured every emotion, every feeling, every thought I experienced in Alaska, and continue to feel each day back in Charlotte. Then she channelled that energy through her own artistic expression in the painting, “Namasté in Alaska.” I am fortunate to have walked into her studio that day, to have met such a talented artist, and to have made a choice that will matter to me for so many years.

Joyce in Alaska
Memories of Alaska .. “Aboard National Geographic’s Sea Lion, we were able to get close to everything and the ship’s small rubber Zodiac’s let us venture even closer. Whales, otters, sea lions, bald eagles were everywhere, even floating icebergs were touchable.” – Joyce McIntyre

Dottie’s artistic representation of my experience in Alaska does not feel like just more “stuff.” It’s a visual celebration of deeply important experiences in my life including the beginning of my marriage, the enduring nature of our commitment and the experiences we shared traveling to Alaska after 50 years together.

As time goes by, no matter what other possessions are around me, this painting will be in plain view, where I can look into it often and feel right at home, comfortable.

Do you have special memories from your life experiences captured in a snapshot? Are you fortunate, as I am, to be able to ask someone like Dottie to bring your snapshot to life for you? What benefit would you see in doing this, for you, and for the many Dottie’s in our community?

Do you have photographs around you that tell a story, without featuring people, or do you only have images showcasing loved ones? What is the difference in these two and how are the difference important to our discussion?

As always, the conversation starts here.

“In the ordinary choices of every day we begin to change the direction of our lives.” – Eknath Easwaran


Alaska may not be the best choice for everyone, but it was the right choice for me. It gets it, and I am just trying to figure it out.

Thanks again, Brian Christiansen for this great video. Click Brian’s link to spend a moment on his new site and appreciate his creative talent.