Nine years ago, Ron Czerniec was enjoying his life as a high-level financial officer at USA Today, a job he held for 23 years. He lived in Virginia in a 3600 square foot home with his wife and two children in one of the most expensive counties in the country. He traveled the world, coached basketball, was an amateur painter and stayed active in the community and on a number of non-profit boards. Then, in 2006, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and began what he calls his “dance with Parkinson’s,” which changed everything.
Czerniec wound up in a two-bedroom, 800-square-foot condo in St. Petersburg that he shares with his son, Nick – and he says he couldn’t be happier.
“The diagnosis was a life-changing moment,” says Czerniec. “Now, I try to challenge myself and expand my abilities. I stay as active as possible. I have become more interactive with people and have a lot of friends. With the downside [of the diagnosis] comes a lot of upsides, such as having the time to devote to my writing and painting.”
A friend who also has Parkinson’s saw Czerniec’s watercolors and encouraged him to try to sell his work.
“For years, people told me I should sell my paintings. Once I started, I sold six paintings in six months,” Czerniec says.
His subject matter reflects his new Florida surroundings with paintings of Pass-A-Grille, John’s Pass, Central Avenue and Gulfport, plus the many people he meets on a daily basis.
“The St. Petersburg area has an eclectic mix of things,” he says.
Czerniec began doing commission work and his business took off from there. His paintings are currently on display at Domain Home Accessories & Gallery in Gulfport, where he had a successful artists’ reception during the Third Saturday Artwalk on September 19. Czerniec, who has become involved with outreach, education and advocacy for Parkinson’s since his diagnosis, donated a percentage of his sales to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
“I work at my own pace and get enjoyment from my work,” he says. “Painting helps me stay positive and has allowed me to reprioritize my life.”
Czerniec is also writing a book that details his journey with Parkinson’s titled “A Life Interrupted: Invaluable Lessons Learned in My Dance with Parkinson’s,” which he hopes will help others living with Parkinson’s disease or other chronic conditions. One of his most important lessons, he says, is to keep a sense of perspective.
“I call Parkinson’s a perfect marriage; it never quits, is always there for you and increases its devotedness to you over time. Like a perfect marriage, there are good times, bad times, hope, sadness, happiness, emotional times and real learnings,” says Czerniec.
Czerniec’s only artistic concessions to Parkinson’s so far has been the need to work in a smaller medium, instead of the larger canvasses he began with, and adapt his style when the need arises.
“When Parkinson’s interferes, I resort to a more fluid, less-detailed style which I also enjoy,” he says. “Often we lose something, but gain something too.”
For more information about Ron Czerniec and to see photos of his work, go to domainhomeaccessories.com/watercolorist-ron-czerniec/ or find him on Facebook.