Although she had never painted before, Pamela Prince became a fine artist overnight.
During a sleepless evening seven years ago, Prince, enduring severe pain from chronic medical issues, had a vision that altered her life.
She saw her bedroom filled with beautiful paintings on easels. Seeing the canvases very clearly, Prince, then 50, says she could even smell paint fumes.
"I felt my hand holding a brush and stroking the wet oil paints and said to myself, 'Dear God, you can't be serious. I don't know where to begin to paint that way.'"
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Prince then heard what she calls a voice or a loud instinct say, "I will guide you." The rest of the night, sketches poured from her mind.
Prince, who lives in the Five Knolls neighborhood, jumped into her series "Reminders" - allegorical dreamscapes that contain symbolic messages about life's lessons.
Prince said her works are based on the premise that we create our realities through thoughts and feelings.
Prince, now 57, uses the name P.S. Thibodeaux for her work because she thinks her French maiden name sounds artsy.
In her art, carefully proportioned props are posed with models to communicate thoughts and perceptions. The model's face and hair are concealed. Drapery substitutes for clothing, fashion and style, while adding mystery and drama to the image.
Models are carefully selected for the character and personality of each painting. Prince has used dancers from the North Carolina Dance Theater, thespians from the Actor's Theater of Charlotte and a yoga instructor and massage therapist.
"I'm so particular," she said. "I will go through several models and many modeling sessions for just one painting until I feel it is a perfect match. It's almost like type casting. I've been very fortunate to find wonderful women who love my work and are eager to be a part of the series."
Prince, who took drawing and sculpting classes in college, makes many of the intricate props for her paintings.
The inspiration for her work comes to her faster than she can finish, she said. "I have a pile of sketches and ideas that come from seeing each completed painting in my mind's eye before I begin anything," she said.
Prince instinctively paints using Old World Master glazing techniques, a style that captures intricate forms, rich hues and dramatic textures of real life.
"The single light source from above gives each painting its flow and depth to lead the eye while symbolizing the heavens or the light," she said. "The paintings actually glow with luminescence in the dim lighting of a room."
Prince has sold some of her work through local galleries and at local events. Her originals range from $2,000 to $6,000, with prints costing $200 to $650. She is not yet supporting herself through her art but is looking for a gallery to represent her.
"My husband (Jim) is very proud and supportive of me," she said. "He saw my painting talent came from nothing. One day I was into gourmet cooking, and the next day I was a painter.
"He put lots of money into my art career and never batted an eye. When I felt like I would fail he'd say, 'You're going to make it.'"
Prince says her "download from the heavens" was a gift that gives her something to live for and look forward to.
"Suddenly middle age is just the beginning," she said.