William Parker fought off cancer with a paint brush.
"There's no question it helped," said the artist, who is a part-time South Walton resident. “I fully believe that creative work has tremendous health and psychological benefits."
The story of how Parker began to paint and how it led him onto the walls of the Donna Burgess Gallery is a fascinating one.
More than 15 years ago, Parker was diagnosed with lung cancer. He did not expect to survive, as the survival rate for this form of cancer was rather low.
However, Parker began the arduous steps of taking radiation and chemotherapy treatments. He took the treatments every day for 30 days and remembers being so sick that he didn't care whether he lived or died. So, he basically quit taking the treatments and picked up a paint brush.
"They said I was going to die and needed something to take my mind off it," said the man who had only doodled in the past.
In the haunting shadow of death, he turned to watercolors. He said he chose watercolors because the medium fascinates him, mainly because there is an element of risk at every turn.
"The risk in watercolor lies mainly in the juxtaposition of color and the use of white space," he explains.
He spent that first day experimenting on the canvas, and by nightfall he found he spent most of the day happily creating something joyful.
"The act of creating always leads to something new and wonderful," he said. "It was a marvelous therapy."
Thu turning point came one day when out of the blue, Parker woke up hungry for crabmeat, fish, and peanut butter. The man who had stopped eating after the chemo began to eat again. And now his checkups show him clean and clear of cancer.
He credits his taking up painting for his clean bill of health.
Now the cancer survivor spends his days painting mostly landscapes or cityscapes.
"I like motion, color, expression and for it to tell a story," he said. "What I strive for is bright colors, movement, atmosphere, and feeling. For the most part, people bring forth the feeling. Atmosphere is often created by weather and light. I am happiest when I work, and I want my work to show my feelings. I like canvases to express color and movement and I want my work to say something."
Parker's paintings are in a book he compiled, " Painting Along the Way: A Southern Scrapbook," aptly named because he paints when he travels. He wrote and illustrated the book, which was inspired by moments in his life, such as being raised in the South and his family's farm, as well as from his travels abroad.
Parker spent more than a year putting the book together, and it’s available for checkout at Coastal Branch Library.
He spends much of his time in his Lookout Mountain home's third-floor loft where he writes and paints. He also spends about half the year at his second home at Sandestin.
Parker is working on a second book entitled “An Empire Divided,” which encompasses the history of Coca-Cola. Much of his information is gathered from families associated with the business and from history centers in the South. He is also working on a commission to produce several watercolors of Wall Street for an executive with Kohlberg, Krevis and Roberts in New York. Parker also is owner and curator of the Mountain City Art Gallery on Lookout Mountain.
The artist has shown his work around his Lookout Mountain home, but never along the Gulf Coast. During the month of May, Parker will debut 38 pieces of his work at Donna Burgess Gallery at Grand Boulevard. The opening reception will be May 3.