Aspiring artist puts dream on hold to care for aililng mother

Kamiya Mathews and her handcrafted paintings. Photos by Kamiya Matthews

Kamiya Mathews is a local freelance artist from Tallahassee. While growing up, she always had a passion for drawing and would often sit in her room and doodle,  as opposed to playing outside like the other kids in her neighborhood.

Mathews’ family learned that she had a unique skill when it came to drawing, after she constructed a portrait of her grandmother Lucy Donald. The drawing looked so realistic that Mathews’ mother decided to enter it into an art contest that was being held at the YMCA.

“I couldn’t believe that my daughter was capable of drawing something like that,” said Teresa Donald. “She’s the first in my family that we know of who has the capability.”

By the time Mathews was a senior in high school, she had already won over 20 awards for her artwork. While things seemed to be taking off for the young artist, it quickly went downhill when she learned that she had not met the requirements to receive her high school diploma.

“I don’t think anyone noticed how much I hated school,” she said. “I could never focus in class and would always find myself drawing.”

Mathews’ parents feared that she would get caught up in the wrong things since she wasn’t going to college and sent her to live with her aunt in New York.

It was there that she met other artists like herself who would eventually help her perfect her craft.

“Everyday on my way to the subway I’d see what we’d call street performers,” she said. “Some would be singing, others would dance, but it was an elderly woman who was painting that caught my attention.”

Mathews briefly spoke with the woman about the paintings before telling the woman about her own.

“She asked me to be her mentor,’” said Dorthy Ayers. “I thought it was funny: Me of all people?  I did it though and she’s absolutely brilliant now.”

During her time in New York Mathews made friends and attended art shows that were like nothing she could have ever imagined.

“I was finally coming into my own,” she said. “Everything about New York was so grand compared to how I grew up. The people, the talent, I was just waiting for my big break and unfortunately I still am.”

After leaving New York,  Mathews returned to Tallahassee after learning that her mother had become ill with a heart condition.

Because she wasn’t able to make much money selling her art, Mathews was forced to take a job at a call center.

“I still doodle just like I did as a child,” she said. “My co-workers are always saying to me, ‘You can really draw, have you thought about selling art?’ I just shrug and think to myself, you literally have no idea.”