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Abingdon Man's Art Picked for Calendar

By: Carolyn R. Wilson | Washington County News
Published: August 28, 2012 Updated: August 28, 2012 - 3:32 PM


Abingdon VA -- Richard Brumleve has good days and bad days.

On bad days, Brumleve struggles with fatigue and balance associated with Parkinson’s Disease, a progressive neurological disorder that makes everyday activities sometimes a challenge.

But his good days often include creating watercolor paintings, even if it means having to rely on an electric wheelchair to cross the road to an activity building in Abingdon’s ElderSpirit Community where he and his wife, Linda, reside. There he can spend hours enjoying a hobby that lends Brumleve more than just something to pass the time.

“Even though I may feel tired or have difficulty walking, I can always go to my pallet for hours and not even have a clue about my Parkinson’s,” said Brumleve. “When I’m painting, I don’t think about what I can’t do.”

Brumleve is one of 13 artists whose artwork was selected to appear in the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation’s 2012 Creativity and Parkinson’s Calendar. His watercolor painting was chosen from more than 300 people to be featured in the annual print calendar, which is distributed nationwide to nearly 20,000 people.

His original watercolor painting titled, “Tuscan Street Scene” is featured in the month of September.

“If you’ve ever been to Tuscany, you’ll recall the many vivid shades of browns and umber. I think it was the beautiful earthy tones of the street that captured my attention,” said Brumleve, who traveled with his wife to Italy before being diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

According to studies, people with the disease report that creative endeavors can temporarily relieve their symptoms. Researchers suspect the drug dopamine used to alleviate Parkinson’s symptoms can actually cause patients to get creative. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.

Brumleve said medication helps control many of his symptoms, one of which is resting trembles, a common ailment for Parkinson’s patients. Brumleve said he is fortunate that the trembling always occurs on his left side, leaving his right hand steadier for painting.

But Brumleve was a creative person long before he was diagnosed. Brumleve spent his career teaching English, speech and theater in a high school and college in Springfield, Ill.  After his retirement, the couple moved to Abingdon, especially drawn to the neighborhood housing that the ElderSpirit Community offers its residents.

Brumleve welcomed his retirement with activities, such as playing golf, learning to fly fish and joining a Barbershop Chorus in Kingsport, all of which he eventually had to give up because of limitations caused by the disease.

“Soon after I was diagnosed, my wife and I sat down and figured out how we were going to manage. I just had to be at peace with what I was able to do,” said Brumleve. As his symptoms progressed, Brumleve was no longer able to participate in the physical activities, but using his creative spirit, he found a way to still enjoy his love for fly fishing. Brumleve got hooked on fly tying, the art of producing an artificial fly used to catch fish. One of his best customers is his neurologist. “Now, I fish through my doctor,” he humorously remarked.

The scenery outside his kitchen window and photographs from their travels continue to inspire the self-taught artist to paint. His favorites are landscapes and architecture, in particular. His wife’s favorite painting depicts an old abandoned schoolhouse they came across during their travels in West Virginia.

“There’s a cute anecdote about painting with Parkinson’s Disease,” said Brumleve, quoting another artist whose work appears in the calendar.  He wrote, “When friends ask me what I’d do if my hands get too shaky for the detailed work I do, I tell them that I’ll become an abstract expressionist.”

Source Date: Sep 05 2012
Source Publication: SWVA Today
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