CHELSEA — Carolyn Bailey has no shortage of stories to tell.

There’s the one about the beloved cat that slipped out a barely opened window while she was watching the Red Sox game and didn’t see. The cat never returned, and Bailey was so mad about it she couldn’t watch baseball for a while. She has fonder memories of the camp in Sidney she and her husband, Glenwood, enjoyed for 20 years until it became too hard to manage it after his stroke and they had to sell it. She’s had sisters’ days out on Mondays and trips to Portland and around the region.

Instead of writing them down, she has captured her stories in oil and canvas. Her paintings line the walls of her home, and they are displayed in the homes of relatives, friends and customers.

Bailey, 77, has described herself as a free-hand artist. She’s self-taught and has been painting for decades.

“She gets right into it,” Troy Bailey said. He’s been watching his mother paint and sketch for most of his life. “She got away from it for a while, but I’m glad she got back into it.”

Sometimes she paints from reference photos, as she did with her husband’s parents and the iconic Portland Head Light. She also paints from memory or imagination.

And she has painted from life. She points to the portrait of a handsome man.

“That’s my husband,” she said.

Early on, she said, he wanted to know why she spent so much time painting. But when it came to that portrait, he sat patiently for her until it was done. Now that he’s gone, his painting is a part of her gallery.

Bailey, a lifelong fan of Elvis Presley, has painted him a time or two as well, and she has stories to tell about him, too. Bailey has visited Graceland in Tennessee, and a miniature Graceland has pride of place on her mantle.

“I gave him a painting,” she said.

When Presley performed in May 1977 in Augusta, she took a painting of a sailboat at sunset to the Civic Center for the star. She didn’t get to meet him personally, because a staff member collected the painting; but she had tickets for the third row.

She also had second-row tickets for his show in Portland, but she never got to see him perform there. The show was scheduled for Aug. 18, 1977. Presley died two days before that date. Bailey still has those tickets.

For Bailey, persistence is the key. She practiced drawing and painting until she was good enough so that people liked what she did.

“Don’t say you can’t do something,” she said. “You have to keep trying. You can’t give up. Don’t give up.”

Bailey continues to paint today because she loves it, even though a decades-long battle with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis have left their marks on her. She had to give up her job at the Etonic shoe factory in Richmond years ago because of her arthritis, and she’s had a number of operations, including a knee replacement, knuckle replacements and pins put in her right thumb, which is her dominant hand. She continues to go for regular treatment to keep the autoimmune disease at bay.

“A lot of things I can’t do, but I can draw and paint,” she said, adding that she’ll continue to do it for as long as she can. “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it,” she said.

Troy Bailey always has known his mother has a gift, and he’s impressed with her attention to detail and the work that goes into her paintings, including her painstaking signature that appears on each one. He has seven of his mother’s paintings in his Augusta home, including one she did of his children.

“She may be handicapped,” Troy Bailey said, “but in another way, she’s very strong.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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