Augustine kept the painting and entered it in the Energen competition, where it won the award for best non-representational painting. Now, Augustine credits Leah for moving her to expand beyond the representational and return to abstrtact painting, an art form she had long put aside.

Since then she has earned honors in national, regional and local juried competitions. Her work was included in "Connecting Alabama: Six Artists" sponsored by the Alabama State Council on the Arts. A night scene she painted from a photograph she took in New York won "Best of Show" in a competition held at Samford University in Birmingham. And, she has had pastels juried into the prestigious Pastel Society of America's "For Pastels Only" exhibitions in New York City.

Augustine also receives invitations to exhibit her work at art museums. Most recently, she had a one-woman show at The Comer Museum in Sylacauga. The exhibit showcased Augustine's broad range of subject matter and variety of styles.Last summer, Augustine had a one-woman show at Heritage Hall Museum in Talladega. As she loves to do, Augustine demonstrated her pastel painting techniques to an attentive audience during the reception.

Augustine's work is currently hanging at Artifacts Gallery in Florence, Alabama, and at the Emily Amy Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia. She teaches painting workshops throughout the year as well, including courses in pastel painting and making pastels at Northwest Shoals Community College and the Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts in Florence. She also taught a class last year for the Chicago Pastel Painters on the occasion of their annual national exhibition. "I think it's important to educate the public about pastel," she says. "As for my students, I tell them they can learn by watching someone paint, and then if they practice what they have learned by just painting, they will definitely improve". Augustine herself learned from many sources, including Albert Handel, the nationally acclaimed pastelist from Santa Fe, New Mexico. "Just listening to him was inspiring". Augustine also credits Barbara Broach, executive director of the Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts, and Al Hausmann, retired art professor at University of North Alabama, for encouraging her to pursue her art.

For an extended period in her life, Augustine was busy rearing her four children and working in the 40-year-old family business, Towles House of Carpets. During that time she could only paint at night. Still, "I took occasional classes at UNA to keep my hand in it," she says. Looking back, she believes she wasn't ready to devote herself to art. "I didn't have the life experience that would give my work depth". Augustine now runs the family business full time while she continues to produce award-winning artwork at a prolific pace. And, she incorporates her artistic abilities into her work with customers, as she views pattern, color and style with her artist's eye. At the same time, she relies on her business sense to tend to the business aspects of being an artist.

To accommodate her two areas of focus, Augustine has two home studios: one in which she works in pastels and one in which she paints in oil. She jokes about having a short attention span, which is evident by all the work propped around the studios in different stages of completion. She also says her work with oils helps her work with pastels, and vice versa. Her inspiration comes from diverse experiences and observations. Her subject matter may be a street scene based on a photo she took in Austria or a cozy fishing village she came across somewhere in Massachusetts. In Augustine's oil studio, most of the room is taken up with an oversize pool table covered with 4' x 8' sheets of plywood where she mats and frames her artwork. This is also where she paints her 4-foot square abstract paintings. Augustine says she's found a good market for her abstracts. "Usually people in large urban areas are more interested in those works," she says.

When Augustine picked up her pastels after many years of start-and-stop attempts, her first wish was to have her work accepted in a show. Having accomplished that, she progressed to wanting to become a signature artist, then a master pastelist. Having achieved those dreams, what is Augustine aiming for next?

She wants to learn to fly. And with her personal drive and ambition, it's a fair bet that she will.

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