When the Pandemic Took My Job, I Played with Paint and Became a Self-taught Acrylic Painter

Miriam Diaz-Gilbert
4 min readApr 11
Photo by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash

It was July 2021 in the middle of the pandemic. I had lost my job as an adjunct professor of theology and religion studies to the pandemic. The pandemic and the loss of my job propelled me to retire early.

Twelve years prior, I gifted my husband Jon a set of canvases, brushes, acrylic paints, and an easel because he said he wanted to start painting. He never did. I am not one to sit idle and let things go to waste. When I lost my job, I gave the acrylic paints, canvases, brushes, and the easel new life.

Almost two years ago one July Saturday afternoon, I began playing with paint and brushes on canvas under the canopy in our backyard. Almost two years later, I have created forty-six acrylic paintings. Before teaching myself how to paint, I had never painted anything except walls, our picket fence, and chairs I had rescued from people’s curbside trash during my training runs (I’m also an ultrarunner; I run ultramarathons).

This is a collage of some of my paintings. They are memories of nature in the national parks my husband and I have hiked in, in places where I have run ultramarathons, and in our backyard.

My acrylic paintings — memories of national parks and nature near home and in my backyard.

The thread that connects my paintings is nature, national parks, and the seasons. While this gives me a sense of focus and clarity, I don’t always know where my art is going to go. I have discovered that painting is a form of adventure that provides a sense of excitement.

I’ve never had a painting class, except maybe in elementary school. To learn how to paint sunflowers, trees, grass, and create and mix colors, I watch YouTube videos and learn so much. But I still haven’t mastered clouds.

I paint on instinct and let the Spirit move the brush. I’ve created an artistic vision that lives on canvas. My paintings and style is an expression of my vision, feelings, ideas, and how to connect them to the world.

With every stroke of the brush, I have learned that painting is a beautiful, meditative, and calming journey that requires the willingness to create…

Miriam Diaz-Gilbert

My debut memoir Come What May, I Want to Run: A Memoir of the Saving Grace of Ultrarunning in Overwhelming Times is published. Website: miriamdiazgilbert.com