Working at Stew Leonard's launched not just one career but two for Haitian immigrant and Norwalk resident Pierre Ulysse.
Six days of the week he is a coffee-roasting expert at Stew Leonard's in Norwalk. Every night after work and on his one day off, he is an artist, squeezing in 20 hours of painting every week.
"If you like to do something, you have to sacrifice," Ulysse said. "You make time for it." His sacrifice has paid off, and Ulysse's work will be shown for the second year in a row in the Art to the Avenue show in Greenwich, which opens Thursday.
It started 13 years ago when Ulysse accidentally left a sketch at work, and his colleagues saw how skillfully he had drawn the details of a coffee-roasting machine. "They said, 'You have to go to art school!' " Ulysse said.
As a child, he liked to draw but hadn't pursued it. Encouraged by his colleagues, Ulysse enrolled in painting classes, first in Wilton, then at Norwalk Community College and then at the Silvermine Art Center.
Word of his ability spread, and he was featured in the Stew Leonard's internal newsletter. The company framed a copy of it and posted it at the coffee department counter, where Ulysse is the manager. Customers commented, and he started displaying a small painting or two at work, with the support of his employer.
Customers started asking to buy his paintings, and Ulysse began to make sales. One of his customers last year brought him an application for the annual Art to the Avenue show in Greenwich, which brings artists' work to dozens of stores and offices on and around Greenwich Avenue, turning the downtown area into one big public gallery. Ulysse entered and was accepted.
This year Ulysse has again been accepted, and six or so of his paintings will appear at Dr. Clothes, the tailor, at 77 Church St.
His paintings are intensely colorful, and often have a tropical feel no matter the subject. He does a lot of landscapes, as well as portraits and still lifes and says that he finds inspiration and beauty where ever he is. "I carry a camera and sketchbook with me everywhere, and any time I see beauty, I stop," he said. "Even if I'm driving on (interstate) 95, if the sky is beautiful, I take a picture, I make a sketch, I paint it later."
For more information and a map of the Art to the Avenue installations, visit greenwicharts.org.
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