A trip into the world of ‘Almajohn’
by Anne Michael
DENVER – Occasionally, you meet someone you cannot forget. I enjoy studying detail of places and people. When I recall a particular moment in time, I can savor the moment again as I write or paint.
Closing my eyes, I can see her again. Her name was Sybil Disbrow. Excuse me, her name was “Almajohn.”
It was during the Denver Art Trail that I met her. I was on a photo shoot deadline that day, and regrettably, I had no time to chat with the mysterious woman.
She’d grabbed my attention the moment I saw her walking with that gnarly stick, clad in black leggings, slip-on suede boots, and her shoulder length loose hair pulled back with a headband. I sensed she belonged in another time – the Old Europe – living in Harry Potter’s world, or stepping out of a chic, potpourri shop in the Hamptons on Long Island.
You just knew she could capture the hearts of children thrilling them with a different voice for each character as she read a storybook selection such as, “The Wizard of Oz,” “Hansel and Gretel” or “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
During the Denver Art Trail in October, I visited an artist stop in Salem Springs and scurried to take my place in a line behind several other visitors that had also caught sight of a woman descending a set of steps from a main house. The woman quietly moseyed with her walking stick through a little English garden silently beckoning all to follow as she opened the door to her art world in her backyard-studio bungalow.
As she nudged the door gently open, she unveiled a room exploding with huge flowers painted on canvases – and some painted on furniture.
It was a painted art garden within a cottage. Painted flowers trailed up the sides of canvases, large vases loomed off hanging canvases.
Sybil said she “loves bold, vivid color schemes” and her flower forms take on a “molded look.” Her favorite artists are Paul Gauguin and Chagall.
She loves to paint in the early morning light. Early morning light plays with the dew on the petals and leaves and the morning sun dances with ever changing shadows and colors as high noon approaches.
Sybil wears black when she paints because she does not want to be “distracted by other prints and colors.” She finds it “difficult to paint anything having to do with current events before they become obsolete quickly. Nature will always be relevant.”
“Almajohn,” as her business card reads, hails from Irish and American Indian ancestry. She was born in North Carolina, attended the University of Georgia at Athens, and studied at the San Francisco Art Institute. She and her mother have lived in the area for 20 years.
After decades of painting, in 2003, she decided to start a series of still-life and floral arrangements when she decided to just start her life over complete with new name.
Starting with a blank canvas, so to speak, she felt “liberated,” she said, “…absolutely free to go in whatever direction… letting everything from the past fall away. There is so much to explore through flowers, through nature, especially my love of color and texture.”
She said her paintings usually “dictates where I will go next. … Each painting is a journey, an adventure I hope to entice you to take along with me.”
And so we did take that journey with her that Saturday on the Art Trail as her guests. We ventured through that cottage door, into her world, her mind’s eye, her art garden. She shared petals of her soul and described her new direction with her still-life paintings, a fresh start with a new name, Almajohn.
Want to know more?
Visit Sybil Disbrow’s website www.artilinki.com/en/space/profile/almajohn, or contact her by emailing email@example.com.