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Andrea Ramsey Finds Meaning in Art

“Texas Landscape” by Andrea Ramsey, acrylic. (Photo - Andrea Ramsey)

“Texas Landscape” by Andrea Ramsey, acrylic. (Photo – Andrea Ramsey)

Artist’s Life Has Come Full Circle Back To The Community That Supported Her

By Mara Soloway

Artist and teacher Andrea Ramsey. (Photo - Mara Soloway)

Artist and teacher Andrea Ramsey. (Photo – Mara Soloway)

Throughout Andrea Ramsey’s life, being an artist has had different significance at different times. As she learned and honed her skill as a child, she found it to be fun and exciting, and all the compliments she received underscored that she was excelling at it. Then it gave her sanctuary and release after a family tragedy during her adolescence. In high school, her success at The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo art competition led her to study art at the University of Texas at Austin.

Now that the 31-year-old Sugar Land resident has come full-circle – from being an art student in Fort Bend ISD to being an art teacher in the district – she finds it rewarding that she and her students have a mutual appreciation for each other’s talents: they are amazed that she can draw anything they ask her to, and they continue to astonish her with their focus, talent and imagination.

“I tell my art students that anyone can draw and be an artist. It’s just like playing in band or being in sports – if you practice and put time and effort into it, you’ll see beautiful things happen,” she said. One factor for her middle school students is whether can they sit still and focus. Andrea has had some seriously focused sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. “It is really more of a decision – if you feel art is for you and you enjoy it, then you’ll put your phone away while you draw.”

Andrea’s artistic journey started very young. “When I was three, I drew a tiger as one of my first pictures, and my mom was really excited about it because the stripes were orange and black,” she said. Mom Rita Cinquemani knew that this talent level in someone so young was remarkable. “She would be quiet in her room for awhile, them rush in to show me what she had created. Sometimes it was Play-Doh sculptures or drawings of animals in animated positions that were surprisingly detailed, like her striped tiger,” her mother recalled.

Rita researched her daughter’s remarkable abilities and found a clue in Andrea’s left-handedness. According to the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, a left-handed person has more access to their right brain, which helps them to better draw what they see. Rita found private teachers for Andrea starting at age 4 with Houston artist Anne Hernadez, who then referred Andrea at age 7 to adult classes with Cholla Kepner, cofounder of The Art League of Houston, who became Andrea’s loving and influential mentor.

Cholla quickly introduced Andrea to new techniques. “She immediately blew my mind with her technique on how to draw baby faces, and I knew I needed to learn from her if I wanted to be a portrait artist, which is what I love the most,” Andrea said. She took classes from Cholla until she was nine years old and then at 15 studied figure drawing from her. “It was wonderful – it helped me a lot with my art. With figure drawing, you begin to understand the structure of the human body – you understand light, shading and values. That was all really important.” When Cholla passed away in 2013, she left her sketch books to Andrea, who is holding on to them.

When she was a teenager, Andrea says, “Art became a shelter, absolutely. It was perfect for me – I was able to express myself in a therapeutic way.”

While a student at Kempner High School, Andrea took classes from art teacher Ronda Peterson, who became a mentor and lifelong friend. “Andrea’s work was so beautiful. You don’t see many kids that talented yet it never went to her head – she always helped her classmates and was very patient,” Ronda said. “She was all-around smart, talented and easy going, and never said a mean word the three years she was here.”

Andrea did very well in The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo art competitions, and so far is the only Kempner student to win for her portfolio as well as her drawing. Andrea’s artwork earned her scholarships that she used to attend UT Austin where she earned a BFA. She married her husband Chris and returned to the Sugar Land area in 2014. She began working as a professional artist in Houston and as a freelance portrait artist, which had its rewards but also its challenges, especially the business aspects. Andrea encourages art students to get some grounding in business.

Seeking more fulfillment after a few years, she began working toward earning an A+ Texas teacher certificate. Ronda and Andrea continued their professional relationship and their friendship when Andrea joined Ronda as an art teacher at Kempner in 2014. Now in her fifth year of teaching, this fall she’ll be teaching art at James Bowie Middle School.

“As a teacher, Andrea is very understanding and very encouraging. She likes her students to experiment with taking an assignment and make it theirs. It lets them mature as an artist,” Ronda said.

Andrea shared her students’ success this past school year as several of her Art I students at David Crockett Middle School earned ribbons at the Rodeo and had their work displayed at the Fort Bend Museum. Additionally, several of her students did well at the VASE art competition.

“Returning to Fort Bend County to teach art seems like she has come full circle to give back to the community that has so strongly supported her,” Rita said.

While Art 1 is a requirement, Andrea is philosophical if students choose not to take further classes. “Art 1 is their moment to decide if they’re going to continue – it’s learning really and truly what it takes to make art. But if they don’t, I hope they have a deeper understanding of what they see at a museum, that they can say ‘that’s painted with acrylic, I made something just like that’ and appreciate the mastery of technique.”

For students who want to continue their art education, Andrea encourages them to put in the time and effort, attend art club after school and enter contests. “You never know where winning a contest might take you,” she said. Perhaps it would lead them back home like Andrea, who is using her skill and confidence in her talents as an art teacher.

“Now that I’m an adult with a happy relationship, I see art differently. I see art as a fun hobby, and I see it as more joyful. I’ve met so many art teachers, like Dr. Joan Maresh here in the district, who really embody it as a joyful process. It transforms,” Andrea said.

“I think that’s what is so nice about art – it can be however you need it to be in your life. So if I’m happy it can be something happy for me, if I’m sad it can be a little more therapeutic and a release.”

Pursuing it as a business may come again at some point. For now, she’s happy with her life. “I don’t need to go through selling my work right now – I teach! I have incredible reward from that. I’ve returned back to where I came from.” As her mother says, “Andrea is able to see the big picture and make the details count at the same time, much like her exciting works of art.”


“Self Portrait” by Andrea Ramsey, acrylic. (Photo - Andrea Ramsey)

“Self Portrait” by Andrea Ramsey, acrylic. (Photo – Andrea Ramsey)


“Cholla” by Andrea Ramsey, pencil. (Photo - Andrea Ramsey)

“Cholla” by Andrea Ramsey, pencil. (Photo – Andrea Ramsey)


“Sun and Moon” by Andrea Ramsey, acrylic. (Photo - Andrea Ramsey)

“Sun and Moon” by Andrea Ramsey, acrylic. (Photo – Andrea Ramsey)


Andrea Ramsey’s “Ready to Ride”, acrylic, won The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo auction in 2014. (Photo - Andrea Ramsey)

Andrea Ramsey’s “Ready to Ride”, acrylic, won The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo auction in 2014. (Photo – Andrea Ramsey)

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