Meet Sophia Tjotjos, Artist Extraordinaire

My brief statement:

Artist in Bloom is a community of painters each learning their own method and expression of oil painting under the direction and expertise of Virginia Cascarilla. I started painting with Artists in Bloom 4 years ago. It has been a journey of self-discovery with my fellow artists as companions and Virginia as an advisor. Painting is an ongoing relationship where patience, time and an open heart yield learning, expertise and beauty.

Who is this magnificent Artist, Sophia Totjos?

Sophia joined our community about four years ago.  She followed each step in my 16-week program for understanding value in hues and designing a canvas.  After that, she soared on her own with her own vision.  It is best exemplified in her latest work which is one of compassion for refugees into Greece.
This image resonated with Sophia who is of Greek extraction as well as a human who understands the vagaries of life.
In this painting, one senses the sweep of immigration which is subtly and not so subtly bringing change to one’s sense of order.  We are living in a time of historic change. The integration of different cultures with our own is a difficult birthing process.  This evolution and its success depend on our own good will regardless of where we are in the political process.
Sophia embraces each painting with humility and quiet confidence.  She paints in the Grisaille method: the term grisaille stands for a monochrome painting or under-painting usually created in shades of gray or neutral grayish colors. Over this Sophia adds glazes of color.  This is a classic approach perfected by Davide and Ingres in the mid eighteen hundreds.
Sophia makes a relatively accurate sketch which considers the design of the painting.  Each work is designed to move the viewer’s eye to rest on important areas.

Meet these SISTERS: Debbie O’Leary & Karen Kirk Artists Extraodinaire


Debbie and Karen, Artists and Sisters Extraordinaire
Debbie and Karen, Artists and Sisters Extraordinaire

Debbie’s Experience with Artist in Bloom Ministry

(c) Debbie O’Leary
(c) Debbie O’Leary
(c) Debbie O’Leary

I came to Virginia’s class, ‘Artists In Bloom Ministry’, after having seen her work and loving her style. She graciously invited me to come and although it was an almost 2 hr. drive, Virginia made it worth it. Not only have I developed as an artist but was blessed with the camaraderie and kindness of these special people in this class. My sister Karen and I have flourished in this setting, enjoying it all… such a blessing.

As a member of “Artists in Bloom”, I’ve experienced an amazing community of talented artists.I receive inspiration from the lovely pieces that come to life before my eyes!! Community brings camaraderie, friendship, trust and love. Today when I look at a reference to paint I see darks, lights and different tones of color and how these colors affect the mood of the work. I see technique and balance, negative space and foreground all impacting your piece as you make these decisions along the way.
My artistic voice or style is a work in progress. While painting in Virginia’s class I’ve been exposed to many styles and as my abilities increased often did my personal taste change as well. I believe as you continue to paint your style begins to emerge.

Debbie O’Leary
(c) Debbie O’Leary
(c) Debbie O’Leary
Debbie O’Learry
Painting Flowers that Sing
Debbie O’Leary
Beautiful Garlic

Both Karen and Debbie are painters of all that brings joy. Flowers, vegetables, and landscapes where nature and God reside. They have both contributed so much to our community, love, respect and joy. They are both learning to design their paintings to lead the viewers eye as well as painting in strong shapes with delicate brush strokes within. Each of their paintings are redemptive for themselves and for the viewer. … Virginia Cascarilla

Karen’s Experience with Artists in Bloom Ministry

When my talented sister, Debbie, decided to take oil painting classes from Gini (after seeing her beautiful show at Beck Center), I thought, “Why not?  I’ll be with my sister for a good part of the day.”  Debbie lives an hour and a half away and we don’t see each other as often as we’d like.  I had no intentions of learning to paint.  My purpose was entirely selfish.  Debbie would come, paint, learn and I’d be there with her just enjoying my “sister” time.
With prayer, encouragement and tons of patience, Gini has slowly turned me into a half way decent artist!  Not only have I learned to paint, I’ve been blessed to meet some pretty extraordinary, faithful, talented, compassionate, caring men and women.  It’s a beautiful ministry Gini has going on here. Not everyone is of the same faith but there is a strong common bond of  God and love.
Thank you Gini for giving us all a safe place to express ourselves and a place to occasionally ask for prayer and give thanks together.  God bless you and this fabulous ministry.

My appreciation for art has changed since joining Artists in Bloom Ministry.

Venice, Karen Kirk
Venice, Karen Kirk

Visually, I’ve grown to appreciate color and form in a totally different manner than I did before. In an artistic sense , I now see objects in shapes rather than seeing the whole thing . Today I will look at a building differently than I did before taking Virginia’s class. A building , now , is observed as rectangle upon rectangle, joined by squares and an occasional circle or arch … each shaded in a different hue to form a whole building . That may sound strange but this class has heightened my awareness , not only viewing objects of art, but also in observing nature , cities, machinery , …even people !!

This class also integrates different personality types . We each have our
different techniques, styles and appreciation of art . We may not all share the same love of the Masters , or abstract (modern) art…but we respect each others work , just as we accept and respect each others religious beliefs , culture , background , accomplishments and shortcomings . We are all children of God… sharing the creative talents that He gave each and every one of us…Karen Kirk

Karen Kirk
Spring Flowers
Karen Kirk
Foodie Time
Karen Kirk

My sister Karen has developed into an artist whose paintings I would purchase!! Her work is loose, vibrant and truly a joy to behold. My personal favorite is “Onions” I just love everything about it!!! Her color choice and application is amazing. Karen is a quick study, Virginia an awesome teacher….. each piece here is unique and Karen should be proud.

… Debbie O’Leary

Karen Kirk
Green Onions
Karen Kirk
The Bridge and Tree
Karen Kirk Love Everlasting
Karen Kirk
Sun Flowers
Karen Kirk
Dancing Trees

If you’d like to get involved with Artists in Bloom Ministry, we are actively looking for artists and potential artists. No experience necessary – just a desire to learn. Please contact founder Virginia Cascarilla for more information.

Comments about Debbie and Karen’s work


Karen’s art is exuberant. Her work is vital, alive, and sometimes just plain fun.

Debbie’s artwork creations are beautiful studies in composition, giving the viewer a peaceful and tranquil feeling.

…Theresa Weedon

Artists in Bloom Community’s Mission

Artists in Bloom Community works toward embracing art and community as Sacrament. Each painting becomes evidence of redemption and transformation.

Life is a series of moments, good, bad and in-between, all strung together and constantly redefining who we are.  We help those who are in search of meaning. I am looking and believe we are all looking for meaning and purpose. Victor E Frankl, the renowned psychiatrist and Holocaust Survivor wrote ‘MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING.’ Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.

I propose that making art can be antidote to despair, and the process of making it is transforming.  Whenever one creates a painting, writes a poem, makes music, one participates in a ‘resurrection moment’ that is both redeeming and transforming. My objective is to fill a void that our secular world has created by giving people a new language, a new means of expression that is purposeful and autobiographical.  Making art is deeply spiritual.

When given the tools of expression,  we become engaged and connected.  A sense of belonging and trust ensues. We all want a voice. I have created a 16 week plan to give people the tools for a visual grammar to create a life time of visual statements.

The idea is to give people the tools to engage, become connected with others in a supported community and create art.  Those without a voice become discontented, angry and disconnected.  Art is the antidote.  Art transforms and redeems life.

If you’re interested in learning more about Artists in Bloom Community or would like to get involved or donate, please contact founder Virginia Cascarilla with any inquiry.  216 272 1602

You can see more of Virginia Cascarilla’s work on