WILLIAMSBURG — Starting a new career at any age can be scary, just ask Carolee Vitaletti.
Vitaletti had no formal training in the art of painting, she taught herself everything she knows. With a background in graphic design, she had always thought that she couldn’t make a career out of painting.
“I never thought I could paint for a living. I went to college for graphic design. I loved that field a lot. I had never taken a painting class, always typography, colors, and anything to do with graphic design. Painting, at the time, was a side hobby,” Vitaletti said.
As she worked in graphic design, her family grew. Vitaletti took time off work as a result and her family moved to Pinehurst, North Carolina. After moving, Vitaletti didn’t return to work right away and felt the itch for art begin again.
“I needed a creative outlet. I volunteered in my son’s class a lot, and I painted a lot of murals in the school, I picked up some jobs painting murals in homes, I taught myself to paint faux finishes and fake brick and stone,” Vitaletti said.
Returning to Williamsburg, Vitaletti’s husband encouraged her to look into teaching art. So she began teaching part-time at Berkeley Middle School, and did so for two and a half years. During her time teaching, Vitaletti and her family went on their very first cruise to the Caribbean.
“We went on our first cruise to the Caribbean as a family. I’ve always loved palm trees and Florida. Something in me after that cruise…I was fifty years old, and after being in that Caribbean blue water and being in that environment, I came home and I just wanted to change my art style. Something sparked inside of me after going away and experiencing that world,” Vitaletti said.
While Vitaletti was teaching, she painted for long hours into the night, working on changing her style from realistic images to a more fun and colorful style. It was also during that time that Vitaletti decided not to return to teaching.
“I totally switched gears and I loved it. Someone said to me, ‘your style of painting would look great in an amusement park,’ because it’s happy and colorful. I spent a year trying to contact someone at Busch Gardens to see if I could meet with them,” Vitaletti said.
She began her Busch Gardens career live painting in the Festhaus.
Her gallery at Busch Gardens, located in the New France section of the park, houses many of her paintings in her unique style. While it’s not a huge gallery, many have told Vitaletti that they come to the park to see her art.
“The everyday adventure of knowing that my art is out in the world making people happy is what keeps me going. My art sparks an adventure that I go on with someone because they see my art,” Vitaletti said.
This season marks her 10th anniversary of being involved at Busch Gardens.
Vitaletti’s journey to creating her paintings may have come later in life, but she still feels the excitement every day that she sits in front of a canvas.
“I needed color in my life at the time. I needed a change and it was intuition on my part. It all happened very fast. It wasn’t a struggle for me to change my style. I feel like I have this joy and purpose now to continue spreading that joy and happiness in the world we live in today,” Vitaletti said.
To learn more about Vitaletti, visit caroleevitalettiart.com.