A day at the beach with Rochelle Walker
Rochelle L. Walker is a 59-year-old painter and writer. She’s worked as an artist and vendor for Street Sense Media for three years. After her apartment building was shut down, Walker received efficiency housing through a local homeless services provider and discovered Street Sense Media in the process. Weekly art workshops sparked her love of expression through painting. Walker’s art and a live musical number, was featured in an art show on Sept. 29.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
What inspires your paintings?
The beach! I go to Sandy Point Beach in Maryland. I love to imagine it and then go put it on paper. Maria [Street Sense’s manager of artistic workshops] gives us all these watercolors and we can choose our own colors. My piece of the blue sky, yellow moon puts you in the water, the heat, the summer. When I’m out on the streets selling papers, I love the colors that are out there. I saw this poster that said, “Water for DC.” I loved that poster! I was like, I’m going to try to do that water thing. I asked Maria if we could do a painting on water and she said yes. That was nice. I love my paintings. We’re called to do some things.
What have you learned while creating for Street Sense Media?
My degree is in early childhood development so I used to work with kids. It’s a big difference from working with kids to coming to be a writer. I did it for a year and I kept doing it, and now I’m getting better. It’s very rewarding to paint. It’s very rewarding to write and have someone say you’re an artist. A lot of people have come to me and said, “I enjoy your writing.” I’m like, “You’re paying attention to it?” They tell you that you’ve got the skills and you just have to put that in your mind and keep working. You just have to keep going.
How has making art affected your relationship with yourself?
Art just brings a sense of relief. It’s like a form of meditation, it just makes you feel in your own world. You paint this picture in your mind like it’s raining, and it’s cool and it’s wet. It’s cold outside. You know what else you associate rain with? Pain. When it rains, pain pools. Art takes away from life experiences by creating your own space. It gives you a sense of past and union. You’re creating something that could be realistic.
What’s your biggest hope for yourself as an artist?
To keep doing what God’s telling me to do. To stay here and write and not give up. Even when things don’t go my way.
What artwork will you have displayed at the art show?
I’m going to have my paintings displayed, and I’ll be singing “Bad” by Michael Jackson and “I Believe I Can Fly.”
What message do you want to share with those who view your artwork?
Encouragement and praise help us a lot. You see yourself through your art and your poems and your songs. Everyone wants to know how well they did at the end of the day. It’s not whether you did good or bad because all of it is a part of you. I’m a human being.