I walk into Payne’s through the door across from Goody 2 Shoes, I look right. Up next to the front door, at a window booth, she’s sitting with her back to me. I walk up and begin to introduce myself but am cut off as she greets me like an old friend with a warm handshake and a “Hi Daniel!” I’m meeting Sonya today; we know each other mutually but it feels like we’ve been friends forever.
She grabs her coffee and takes a sip, she looks up and thanks me for this. I’m confused. “For what?” I ask. She excitedly says “to share my process with you,” and then takes another sip of coffee. I asked if she’s tired. She puts the mug down and says “I was up late.” I’m a father of two teenagers, I know late. “How late; 10, 11, 12?” I inquire? Radiantly she says “3:45, I’m a night worker.” I guess you are, I think to myself. She tells me she was up late on a new project; something she saw on Instagram, a picture of the Huntsville City Orchestra. So begins an insatiable desire to draw.
I liken it to massive rolling waves in a storm-tossed sea moving closer and closer to shore. At last, the waves thunderously crash on the pebbled beach in a great climax. As the foam subsides, a lone pearl sits, caressed in the moist sand. The muse has spoken. The artist goes and picks it up.
Sonya takes her phone and shows me a picture; “I’m half done” she exclaims. She works fast, really fast and it’s good, really good. She plans to give it to the Orchestra and if the timing is right the conductor in the picture will be available for the presentation. This wasn’t a commission, she painted it to give away. Giving is something she likes to do, in fact, it’s one of three rules she lives by; the other two are being thankful and working hard.
She’s done a lot for free and never expects anything in return; it’s who she is. Though she’s not looking for anything, she gets plenty of work in return. She’s a hard worker and able to multi-multi-task; “I have to be versatile, and find ways of doing things. She laughs and tells me “I have to eat.” Not anywhere near the starving artist; she’s slammed with work, even with her muralist job in Huntsville on hold from COVID.
I wondered if she’s ever been stumped by a piece she’s working on or messed up too bad. She thought about it a while; serious cogitation happening behind the veil, then she quips “there are no mess-ups, it’s just not finished yet.” Is she a perfectionist? No, but she’ll keep working on something until she gets it right. Art can be used to help teach problem-solving. “Everything is easy when you know how to break something down.” She goes on to tell me the exterior of the building on the square are just rectangles and circles.
Suddenly she begins waving at someone behind me; she looks back to me and asks if I mind an interruption. I don’t mind. She waves in Mrs. Benson and daughter, Henley who is selling candy bars for a fundraiser. The three chat and then, as fast as they came in, they’re gone. Our conversation turns to the drug court program, Pictures of Hope. She’s proud of the program and all the good it does. She grabs a large pad and flips through a number of pages to show me an art lesson she made for children whose parents are in the program. It’s a picture of a mug of hot chocolate with directions on how to draw it. The lesson aims to connect children and parents on a problem-solving activity. She expressed how important art and education are to her. This means she spends a great deal of time in research. “Did you know Paint Rock had a pencil mill?” she asks me. I didn’t; then she rattles off more details about the surrounding area. The research helps layer her murals with teachable material, especially in the schools. She likes to find things people don’t know and bring it to light but also teach through what she creates.
I had to ask about her favorites; it’s interesting to see who inspires the inspirer. You really begin to know a person when you understand who motivates them. She rattles off a who’s-who of inspiration: Dali, Warhol, Monet, van Gogh, Seurat, and MC Escher. She’s fascinated by Escher’s use of pen work and his use of color wash.
For Sonya, it’s simple; she just wants to make people happy. Art helps her do that; whether through a mural, ornament, or 3 AM self-imposed piece to give away. She’s happy.
Daniel Stahl - IllumintedWinds.com
Daniel Stahl is a writer and owner of
Illuminated Winds, which he launched
in 2019 while earning a Masters in
Screenwriting. He resides in Scottsboro,
Alabama with his wife and three children.
He specializes in Screenwriting, freelance,
and data analysis. He enjoys playing Fortnite
with his children, family hiking trips, and
swimming the Nickajack. He loves learning
and reading, especially Church History
which has turned fodder for various scripts.
Find him on Facebook at Illuminated Winds
or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click the button below to read the full digital version of the 2021/22 Mountian Lakes Chamber of Commerce Magazine.
In the annual Chamber Magazine, we tell stories of local business owners who are shaping the local business community. This year we are featuring Art Lady Sony Clemons, D. Williams Dance Studio, Joy Delivering SoCo Food Truck, Innovative Education Progress, and how local businesses pivoted in the face of a pandemic.
We are so proud of how hard our community worked to help keep business doors open in 2020/21 and are eagerly awaiting to see what the future has in store for Jackson County, Alabama!