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Former cop forges new career as a painter

The Lake Club's Lisa Sweeney will be the featured artist during the Spring Show and Sale of the Creative Artists Association of Lakewood Ranch.

Lisa Sweeney loves painting horses, such as the Herrmann's Royal Lipizzan Stallions.
Lisa Sweeney loves painting horses, such as the Herrmann's Royal Lipizzan Stallions.
Photo by Jay Heater
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Ed Sweeney had to interject.

He was listening as his wife, Lisa, was being interviewed about her considerable artistic talent and the March 18 Spring Show and Sale of the Creative Arts Association of Lakewood Ranch.

Lisa Sweeney, who specializes in oil paintings and resin art, was talking about all the artists she has encountered in the area and how they are more talented.

"I am so tired of hearing her say that," Ed Sweeney said.

A walk through the couple's Lake Club home proves that Ed Sweeney has a point. The art hanging from walls and displayed on the tops of furniture proves that his wife is, indeed, a special talent.

"We're running out of walls," Ed Sweeney said about space for the art she produces.

Lisa Sweeney seems to be making up for lost time when it comes to her artwork. She loved art while growing up in Brooklyn, New York, but the only time she produced any was during art class in her high school.

"I stopped (being an artist) because life goes on," he said.

For her, life goes on meant she eventually became a New York City Police Department officer. She married Ed, who was a detective with the NYPD.

"But I always loved art," she said.

Between work and raising two children (Vincent lives in Tampa, Tara lives in South Carolina), she had no time.

After 22 years on patrol with the NYCPD, she retired as a lieutenant and moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina eight years ago. Suddenly, she had time once again.

"I wanted to find a way to reduce my stress and anxiety," she said. "Art always had calmed me."

Two years after moving, she went to a wine and design event and then visited an art gallery. She remembered how much she loved art in high school. So six years ago, she decided to take an art class.

One teacher turned into three as she refined her found-again talent. One teacher would preach the importance of every tiny detail, while the next would be "very loose," not worrying about lines.

She improved quickly.

"I think I could have gone into the art field," she said.

She was critical of herself, though, once she began to paint again.

"I threw out some of the earlier ones," she said. "They looked like something I would have done in high school. At the time, I thought I was good, but I've improved."

Lisa Sweeney's resin art will be on display at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.
Photo by Jay Heater

Displayed on her walls are several large paintings of horses. After moving to Lakewood Ranch two years ago, she has visited places like the Sarasota Polo Club and Terra Nova Equestrian Center to get fodder for her next project.

"I love doing horses," she said.

She takes photos and then paints the subject. While she would like to do abstract art, she has yet to venture in that direction.

"I would like to do abstract," she said. "But I don't have the brain for that. I need a subject."

Ed Sweeney would offer a differing opinion, but he knows she has to find out for herself.

"She loves painting," Ed Sweeney said. "It is like therapy for her." 

The therapy is filling up their house, so Lisa Sweeney decided she needed to sell her art, this time in Lakewood Ranch.

She had begun selling her art in South Carolina, in a store. The owner would allow only high class items to be sold in his store, and Lisa Sweeney's art was perfect for the setting. She also sold art in a gallery.

On March 18, she won't have many of her wall paintings on display.

'I don't have the space," she said.

Instead, she will be selling lazy students that are adorned with one of her paintings and covered with resin. She took out examples and they had sparkled with brilliant colors.

"This house is getting a little cluttered," she said. "That's why I have to sell them. But it's hard, I never know what to charge. That's the hardest part."

Realizing she isn't going to get rich off her lazy Susans, she prices the, reasonably at $95 for a 17-inch lazy Susan and $85 for a 15-inch.

Whatever she sells on March 18, there are more paintings and lazy Susans on the way.

"I sell to get rid of things," she said. "I paint three to four hours a day, mostly in the afternoon."

Ed does poke his head in the door once in a while to interrupt her painting, but he understands it is her peace. He does help her when it comes to the production lazy Susans. He cuts out the squares and attaches the mechanism to allow the lazy Susan to spin.

She does enjoy selling her art and remembered an instance where a lady kept coming back to her display to admire a painting she did of a turtle coming out of the water.

"She finally said, 'I've go to have it.'" Lisa Sweeney said. 

When she isn't painting and Ed isn't playing golf, they like to attend country music concerts and traveling. But it is likely the demand for her art will continue to grow.

"Art definitely something you can get better at," she said.



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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