Valeria Marcus was only 4 years old when she used crayons to draw a mural on her bedroom wall.
Now 57, she still can't suppress her artistic inspirations, which have flourished into her own home-based art business in Matthews called Blue Rain.
Marcus grew up in Atlantic City, N.J., where she practiced art from her earliest years until graduating high school. Her parents were always supportive, creating a little art studio space for Marcus in every house they lived in.
"They were blue-collar workers, but they spent the money to buy me art supplies," Marcus said. "They didn't deny me."
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While in high school, Marcus won a scholarship to attend the Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia for a summer. She took the bus every weekend for figure-drawing classes.
As a girl, Marcus thought she wanted to become a doctor, but art changed that, she said.
"I never really stopped doing art, and that's what prevented me from pursuing being a doctor," she said.
After graduating from Atlantic City High School, Marcus attended Moore College of Art and Design, majoring in photography.
"I didn't know anything about photography and I'd been painting since I was a kid, so I thought I would learn something different," she said.
When she graduated from college in 1981, she moved to New York City, where she freelanced as a photographer and artist for 18 months before moving home to take care of her aging parents. She sold art out of her home and started her own photography business, Valeria Jean Photography. She also worked as an Atlantic City social worker for 13 years.
When her mother died in 2001, Marcus' high school sweetheart, Richard, came to the funeral. They reconnected and were married in 2006. Marcus joined her new husband in his Matthews home and tried to start over with her art business.
"I'd been thinking about doing greeting cards since I was 25, and there were no jobs here," Marcus said. "Painting is really my first love, so I started painting again and let my photography business go."
Her greeting cards now are available at Southern Evangelical Bookstore, her cards and original abstract art are for sale at FastFrame in Matthews Festival Shopping Center and three pieces of her art are on display at SouthEnd Dentistry off South Boulevard. She continues to sell art online and out of her home, and even when no one is buying, she says, she can't help but keep producing. It is in her blood.
Marcus said she looks up to Picasso as an artist.
"He did what he wanted to do," she said. "When he was in his blue period, people asked him why he did it and he said, 'Because I want to.' He was honest and he was always doing his own thing. And he kept at it until he made it - I think that's wonderful."
According to Marcus, it is hard for a woman to make it in the art world on her own. Painters like Georgia O'Keeffe and Frida Kahlo were made famous through the promotion of their work by their famous husbands.
Yet it is Marcus' dream to become prominent enough that she eventually can open a store akin to Hallmark and a gallery where people can display their work for free.