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Updated: Mar 24, 2022

Bobby Eppleman


I can count the number of artworks I created between 2011 and 2016 on one hand. Those years were certainly my darkest years as I was battling depression, alcoholism, and trying to maintain the will to keep living. All the while, I continued to simultaneously work full time, obtain a master’s degree, coach three sports, and play semi-professional football. Did I mention I had 6-8 drinks every night and still operated like everything was la-di-dah?

"The All American," 2010. A painting symbolizing my loss of identity during college.

Don’t let the stereotypical definition of “alcoholic” fool you. That’s what keeps people making excuses for their own habitual drinking. On the outside, I looked as though I was kicking life’s ass, but it felt more like I was being kicked from the inside-out.

I was still drinking in 2016 when I woke up one January morning only to see it had snowed and all businesses were closed, including my own. When I say I was still drinking, I mean I literally woke up and started drinking. At the time, I’d have rather not sat with my own thoughts all day despite being accompanied by my soon-to-be wife.

As I scrolled through Instagram that morning, I noticed a picture posted by a friend. It was a scene from Hoboken covered in snow from the same snow storm we had experienced. I was suddenly jolted awake by a craving. To CREATE!!!

"Snowboken," 2016: The painting that jump-started my re-entry into making art.

If you’re an artist, you probably know the feeling I’m talking about. It can be hard to ignore, but if you ignore it for long enough like I did for so many years, it can go dormant.

Something changed me for the better that January and I can only attribute it to a much higher power than myself. My inner artist was reawakened and I was about to embark on a journey that would cause me to change my career path, my habits, and most importantly, my desire to keep on living.

I was fully in touch with my need to create for the rest of 2016. Over the course of the next year and a half, I discovered the peacefulness of pleinair painting. I began taking on commissions for family members while developing a sense that my work might actually be worth more to me than just a hobby. I dropped coaching sports and decided not to go back for another season of semi-pro football. That summer, I got married and later in the fall (October 23 to be exact), I had my last alcoholic beverage at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York.

Eventually, all of my choices, driven by my inner voice, began to snowball. I rediscovered my passion for drawing in sketchbooks—something I did religiously for over a decade in my youth. And perhaps the thing I am most grateful for; I started imagining what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I call that hope.

Art was beginning to take over my every thought from the time woke up to the time I laid my head on the pillow. In the fall of 2017, I entered my first semester of an Art Teacher Certificate program at Kutztown University. My mindset began to shift into a statement of, “If I couldn’t make art with every waking hour, I sure as hell was going to surround myself with it as much as possible.”

My first plein air painting session done in my front yard.

I truly believe there is a divine power at work. It’s a channel of faith I have committed to from the time I was in a car accident when I was sixteen and briefly felt God’s presence. Seeing it in the faces of the people I cared about most woke me up from a spiritual slumber I experienced in my teenage years. During my years of depression and even during those transitional years, I had every reason to stop believing, but faith kept me going.

For all the critics out there, let me say I also wholeheartedly believe in individual free will. As adults, we are responsible for the circumstances we put ourselves in, and if someone else puts us in an adverse situation, our reaction to it still becomes our responsibility. I am 100% responsible for the actions I took to change the course of my life during my mid-twenties, but when individual free will is congruent with faith in a higher power, the fortitude of that free will seems endure for the long haul.

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