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Angela Marlow: Joy comes in the morning

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By Crystal Huskey

First things first: please go to the Campbell County High School’s art show on Sunday from 2-4 p.m. If you want to support the arts in Campbell County, support the students! I’ll be there with my family taking pictures, so come say hi.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Greg Marlow. He told me about his wife, Angela, a local painter.

“I truly think this is newsworthy,” he wrote. “I guess what makes her story kind of unique is that she never tried to do anything outside of her little studio. That is, not until I talked her into entering the Louie Bluie contest.”

Husbands: be like Greg.

She won first and second place as well as Best in Show that year.

“That gave her the confidence to strike out and make a career of it,” he wrote.

Angela believes that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger; if that’s the case, Angela is a true warrior. The oldest daughter of seven children, she helped raise her siblings, and continued filling that caretaker role her entire life.

“I’ve always had a passion for art and wanted to paint all my life,” she said.

But, life got in the way.

She attended art school for a short while at the University of Toledo, but quit due to financial reasons. She moved to Tennessee to take care of her grandmother, who was diagnosed with cancer, and did that until her grandmother passed away. Her family seemed to get hit by wave after wave of illness after that: her father passed away in 2001, leaving her mother with no transportation or support; her son was born with a heart disease, Greg was diagnosed with stage 3 high grade sarcoma cancer and given only a 20 percent chance of surviving; her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, and Greg’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

She moved her mother down to Tennessee so she could take care of her. That included moving down her brother, who is permanently disabled.

“With a small child, an elderly mother and disabled brother, art took a backseat,” she said. “My plate was definitely full.”

There was rarely time to breathe, much less paint.

Despite her many obligations — or maybe because of them; sometimes the more you have on your plate, the bigger your plate gets — she and Greg founded a food pantry called “See the Need” in LaFollette in 2001. They ran it for seven years and fed an average of 200 families each month.

“There were so many grandmothers raising their grandkids,” she recalled. “We were blown away. We wanted to do something to help out.”

That ended in 2008, when Greg’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Now, Greg has won the battle against cancer (although he still has a couple of years to go to be considered cancer-free), and her son, Luke, had heart surgery that fixed the problem.

“For the first time in my life, I’m now able to paint,” she said. “It’s amazing, because I’m painting fine art, and I had never even picked up a paint brush in my life.”

Angela primarily did portraits with graphite, but had never painted, despite her dream of doing so.

“This is how God works,” she said. “I believe He has given me this, because I’ve waited all my life to do it. It’s blown me away. If I had just known I could do this earlier in life! But, I feel like God has just now given it to me. I’ve waited my whole life, and I think he’s blessing me to be able to do it.”

Now, she goes to her room and loses herself for hours at a time. She sees the world through a painter’s eyes: she can’t even watch a TV show without studying the lighting and shadows on the faces of the actors.

She estimates she paints between eight and 12 hours a day.

“It’s so calming and relaxing,” she said. “God gave me this to get me through everything.”

She will be featured at the Master’s Edition Gallery of Light at Walden’s Landing art show in Pigeon Forge the entire month of June, and will be featured in other galleries across the region soon. Her work is mostly fine art and folk art with a whimsical twist. She specializes in landscapes and works in various mediums, oil, acrylic, mixed media, pastels, charcoal and graphite.

To follow Angela and see more of her work, visit her Facebook page at Facebook.com/angelanmarlow.

Crystal Huskey is a general assignment reporter for the LaFollette Press, covering county commission, municipal beats in Jacksboro and Rocky Top, as well as business and features. She can be reached at chuskey@lafollettepress.com.