When I grow up: Ethan wants to paint like a master

Posted 2/11/19

Lake Okeechobee News/Amy DupreeThirteen-year old Ethan Dupree contemplating his next painting while standing in front of some of his previous work.


“I want …

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When I grow up: Ethan wants to paint like a master

Lake Okeechobee News/Amy Dupree
Thirteen-year old Ethan Dupree contemplating his next painting while standing in front of some of his previous work.


“I want to become like Leonardo Da Vinci,” says 13-year-old Ethan Dupree. Ethan explained he has been painting for almost three years now. He started taking classes at Fawn Barr’s Art Studio after his parents suggested it to him. He said his dad told him art was in his blood.

“Both of my grandmas have done great paintings,” he said. “When I look at them, I think about what kind of picture they were making and what kind of tools they used.” Ethan enjoys painting animals, especially birds, and said Mrs. Barr has taught him to paint the background first, not to draw things too small and to draw realistically. His dream is to someday have people buy his paintings. This weekend, Ethan has some paintings on display in the Annual Top of the Lake Art Festival in the park.

Thirty-one-year-old James Presley always had a joy and passion for art too, even though he is somewhat colorblind. He said he is not colorblind to the extent that he only sees black and white, but if you were to ask him to tell you if something were blue or purple, he could not do it. He said his funniest colorblind story happened when he was in about third grade. He painted a picture of Churchill Downs horses, and his teacher admired the picture but then asked him, “did you mean to make the horses red and the sky purple?” Well no, he really didn’t, but he named the piece “Churchill Downs at Night” and it ended up winning third place in the art contest. He always remembered that, and it helped remind him to not see his colorblindness as a limitation.


Lake Okeechobee News/Cathy Womble
James Presley in front of one of the murals he painted on the wall at Serenity Coffee Shop. Some of his other artworks are also pictured.


Mr. Presley was raised by his grandparents in Louisville, Ky., and he said they always encouraged his love for art. They never minded purchasing supplies and encouraged him when he entered competitions as a child. Although his dream was to be a Disney animator, that never panned out, and he explained making a living as an artist is difficult so he pursued a career in the culinary field, despite the fact that he had some huge obstacles to overcome as he has some extreme food allergies and has to be very careful to avoid all contact with those particular ingredients. He attended Word of Life Bible Institute in New York and was able to obtain his culinary training through them, too.

The culinary field allows him many opportunities to use his artistic abilities as well, explains Mr. Presley. He makes ice sculptures and does fruit carvings, and having an artistic eye is very helpful in plate presentation.

Mr. Presley met his wife, Pamela Arnold Presley, in 2013 through a mutual friend and they were married in 2016. He works at Detox of South Florida as chef/manager.

Mr. Presley still loves art and, although he no longer has time to pursue it full- time, he continues to paint and draw every chance he gets. Most of his work is displayed at Serenity Coffee Shop, where he said they have been very kind to him, allowing him to not only display his work but also to sell it from their shop. He said he does give a portion of anything he makes to their Serenity Missions, and he is very grateful for everything they have done for him. He has several murals on their walls, and many canvas bags, cups, hats and canvas shoes, all hand-painted, for sale. You can find some of his work in other places around town, such as the Rock Solid logo, Don’s Appliance logo, Open Hands Health Center’s T-shirts and a mural at the Roc. He even has a self-published adult coloring book available at Serenity.

He also donates his artistic talents to help those who are grieving by painting a portrait when a loved one passes. He has a Facebook page for this called Portraits of Purpose. He explained, he began doing these portraits after a dear friend in college took her own life. It was heartbreaking for so many, and this was his way of trying to help the family. He painted a portrait of his friend and gave it to the family. He does this for anyone who asks who has lost a loved one to suicide or cancer, really any illness. He even does portraits of pets that have passed away. He also does Bible journaling art — draws what he is learning, studying, hearing, including sermons, etc. He has a Facebook page for this as well, called Bible Journaling for Men.

Mr. Presley’s advice to Ethan is “always continue to grow and practice your talent and make something you enjoy doing because the moment you let it become a chore, the passion will fade. Most importantly, use your gift to serve the Lord, encourage others in the faith and hopefully reach the lost.”
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