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For Olivia Sanchez, life is a palette waiting to be painted.

The 18-year-old, who was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school graduation, began her interest in art at a young age.

“I first started drawing. I liked it, so people started giving me sketchbooks for Christmas and birthdays,” she said. “Painting kind of happened; I went to a birthday party at a paint shop and we painted something. I liked it, so I started asking for canvases and paints.

Sanchez said she started getting requests for her artwork when she was about eleven years old.

“My mother’s friend, Shelley, was the first to ask for a painting,” she said. “I painted him a picture of a rooster and a barn.”

Soon she was receiving more and more requests and commissions, so she decided to start publishing her works online and receiving commissions on commission. She began exhibiting her art at Baugh’s Market near Rusk, during their monthly event, and participated in the Palestine Art Walk.

As his skills became known through word of mouth, his audience grew. Sanchez has been hired to paint storefronts at businesses in Rusk and remains busy with her commissioned projects.

Currently, she works full-time at First Baptist Church’s Kids Academy, but also plans to return to Jacksonville College in the spring semester to earn an associate’s degree. When that goal is achieved, she said she hopes to continue her education. She plans to get her bachelor’s degree at East Texas Baptist University or Colorado Christian College. An uncle lives in Colorado, which would make attending this school beneficial. She doesn’t know what she will choose for her major, but is considering business or studies.

Sanchez never took formal art classes, but studied art history. She enjoys working with mixed media, especially watercolor and acrylic.

“Landscapes are my favorite, but I also draw inspiration from artists I studied, like Van Gogh and Wayne Thebaud,” she said.

When asked what her favorite painting has been so far, she replied that they all are.

“Every time I make a new one, it’s my favorite,” she said.

She said she also likes to paint things she has never painted before; things like painting animals, for example.

“I don’t do that much,” she said, adding that she loves the challenge of painting something new.

Her ultimate goal is to get involved in missionary work, and she hopes art will have a place in her ministry, but isn’t quite sure how.

“I had no intention of studying art, but someone told me that I should go to art school. I don’t know exactly how to incorporate that into the ministry,” she said, but indicated that she hopes her talent can be part of any business or educational ventures she may be brought to.

Sanchez said she felt called to missions from a young age.

“It is something that excites me and for which I feel that God is calling me.”

To prepare, she researched the organization of missions that send out short-term and long-term missionaries.

One such company is a group called Circuit Riders. The group provides a missionary training school and works with Youth With A Mission which is based in Lindale. She is also considering Pais, another mission organization that sends volunteers to overseas mission fields. Her friend, Shelby Bland Stewart, had previously served with Pais London and Pais Southport, so she was a source of information to help her find out more about the opportunities.

In each situation, those entering the mission field work primarily through churches to raise funds to serve in the area to which they have been assigned. Some longer-term missionaries operate small businesses or work in schools, for example, so they can earn a living once in the field.

The third of nine children, Sanchez has already taken part in a few mission trips. She served with Beall Chapel Baptist Church on a mission trip to help an Arizona-based ministry that trains bush pilots to go to remote areas. She also volunteered to work in disaster relief with an organization known as Eight Days of Hope, assisting that group in the aftermath of hurricanes twice, serving with her extended family and close friends. .

Whether in art or ministry, she hopes to portray and showcase the beauty of life.

“I’m ready to go wherever God sends me and do whatever he asks me to do,” she said.

Those wishing to contact Sanchez to commission a painting can find her information on her Facebook page, Olivia Sanchez, and send her a private message with a request.

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