Artist's Work Becoming Family Affair

By Eric Olson

April 2, 2013 Updated Apr 2, 2013 at 10:02 AM EST

FORT WAYNE, Indiana--Even as a kid Fort Wayne native Teresa Yarbrough was confident about her art work, thanks to her art teacher, Mrs. Porter, at Zion Lutheran grade school.

“I remember her to this day,” Yarbrough recalls. “She really took a genuine interest and told me that…she would constantly say I’m a good artist I can do something with it.”

Making art has always been part of Yarbrough’s life, even more so after 1991 when she started her own business ‘Heart and Soul: Originals and Prints’. Working mostly on commission Yarbrough creates portraits, usually from photographs people send her….her tool of choice an airbrush rather than the usual paintbrush on canvas. The result is portraiture with soft lines and piercing eyes. Yarbrough paints animal portraits as well, she loves exotic animals. But last year her art career made a sharp turn when she illustrated a children’s book on Genois Wilson, Fort Wayne’s first female firefighter. Working on a children’s book she says was a wonderful experience.

“You know it’s a lot of things changing in our world,” she says, “and we need to focus on our kids and i feel like this is a way that I can have a part in that.”

The project spoke to Yarbrough on another level as well. In 1961 her father, Richard Ridley, made history when he became Fort Wayne’ first African American firefighter. The choice for Teresa Yarbrough’s next children’s book was a natural.

“I just felt it was only befitting to kick off or continue on my children’s book illustration career that I have to do one on my father,” she says. “It’s going to be a surprise to him…I’m thinking of the title ‘My Father’s My Hero’ or ‘My Daddy is My Hero’, and he really is.”

Richard Ridley found out about his daughter’s next book just now, watching this story. And he’ll anticipate, along with the rest of us, its publication next fall when the history of his landmark service to his city hits the bookstores and classrooms, illustrated beautifully, of course, by his very loving, and gifted little girl. Eric Olson reporting, for Your Country.




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