In the darkness of Feb. 18, artist Joy Layson looked at her left hand hanging at a 45-degree angle to her wrist.
She had tripped on a concrete tire barrier and fell.
"I thought, if I can just move my fingers I will have hope," she said.
Now her hand and arm are held together with metal rods and pins.
That surgery triggered arterial fibrillation, which in turn triggered a stroke in the 80-year-old woman.
Friends brought her pencils and sketchpads to her hospital room.
Tired, yet determined, she drew.
Holding her left wrist with her right hand, she drew the physical therapist's small silky-haired dog.
She spent painful days with a physical therapist, to be able to hold a pencil with accuracy.
Layson finally came home after three months in hospitals and care centers.
The woman who has traveled across the country, owned her own art galleries and taught art, feared picking up a paintbrush.
One day, when she was trying to get a point across to an argumentative private student, she picked up a brush for the first time in nearly five months and showed the student on canvas what she meant.
"The Lord knew what it would take to get me to pick up a brush again," Layson said.
She still has very little feeling in two of the fingers in her left hand, and it does not close all the way, but when she talks, she gestures.
More importantly, she can still create works of beauty on canvas.
"The nicest painting I ever did is hanging at Kohl's Ranch Lodge over the fireplace," she said.
It depicts a wealthy man with fancy boots and his Native American companion with his toes sticking out of old shoes.
"Why?" is the question the painting seems to ask.
"In order for me to be excited about the subject, it has to tell a story," Layson said.
In one painting, two colts meet in a field.
The little brown one has turned to see the black colt that has just asked her to race him to the barn.
Mountain lions tangled in sleep were Layson's inspiration for "Where's My Paw?"
Layson plans to be at Myra's Gallery, to help the gallery celebrate 15 years in business, from 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 4.
Name: Joy Layson
Advice to beginning artists: The most important tools to start with are a stick of charcoal and a pad of newsprint, because you can draw with charcoal, then use a tissue or your finger to erase or spray with fixative and paint over. You can do magic with charcoal. You can't draw a perfectly straight line freehand with a pencil, but with charcoal you can lay it on its side, drag and you have a straight line.
Degree: Chicago Academy of Fine Arts
Award most proud: The letter I received from President Dwight D. Eisenhower for a battle painting I did. It was a portrait of a soldier holding his buddy who was crying. Nearby on the grass is a piece of folded paper -- a "Dear John" letter. The painting hangs in the Eisenhower College in Seneca, New York.
Hometown: Waukegan, Ill.
Why Payson? The high desert of the Tonto National Forest.
Favorite food: A Burger King Whopper Jr. with half a shake.
Points of contact: Studio at home (602) 474-2824, Myra's Gallery, 3824 N. Highway 87, Pine (928) 476-2256 and The Karin Newby Gallery, 19 Tubac Road • Tubac, (520) 398.9662.