Colleen Latimer didn’t grow up dreaming about becoming an award-winning artist.
It just kind of happened – eight years ago in Florida.
The longtime Independence resident was living in Palm Coast, Florida, and simply had too much time on her hands.
She had always had a creative sense of style and was once a respected floral arranger at the five-star Royal Beach Hotel in Eilat, Israel, where she lived from 1993-1998.
“I was married to an Israeli citizen and was looking for a job,” said Latimer, the featured artist this month at Art Squared, 111 North Main Street, on the Independence Square. “The opinion in Israel at that time was that a woman of my age was unemployable.
“Unemployable? I thought to myself, ‘I’ll show them.’”
And she did.
She started out doing floral arrangements for the hotel’s five restaurants and lobby. Soon, she was designing massive 10-foot tall arrangements that made the Royal Beach Hotel the showcase of Eilat.
“We did an arrangement with 400 roses,” she said proudly. “I really enjoyed it.”
She was bitten by the artistic bug, and found the cure in Florida a decade later, where she began taking art lessons.
“After a few lessons, her teacher approached Latimer and said, “I’ve taken you about far as I can.”
That proved to be the ultimate compliment, as she had no formal artistic training.
“I found my niche, I felt like I had found a new home, something special that was a part of me,” said Latimer, whose work is primarily watercolor and mixed media. “I love creating something special, something creative that appeals to other people.”
Her work certainly appeals to her two grandsons, Matthew, 12, and Michael, 14, who helped Latimer set up her display at Art Squared.
“I’m proud of her because she paints cool things and does things that no one else can do,” said Matthew, who lives with his family in Grain Valley. “I look at her stuff and wonder how she does it. She’s good, really good.”
Added Michael, “We never know what she’s going to do. She does cool stuff and we like seeing it. And everything she does is so different. I like that a lot. She doesn’t just do the same thing over and over again.”
While much of Latimer’s work honored by the Independence Art Association is abstract, she also does the occasional portrait and is proud of a nativity series that features water color on tiles.
As she talks about her work, a couple enter her display area and praise her work as Michael and Matthew give grandma an enthusiastic thumbs up.
“The confirmation of something you value is one of the most important parts of this process,” she said, smiling. “I love what I do, and I really love it when someone else appreciates it, too.”
Her work is on display from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.