“Swabby” is pictured here in front of a wall in his home that has paintings by three generations of Soileau’s. The top was done by his dad Aaron, the middle by him, and the bottom by his son Marty. (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)
People at different stages of their lives discover that they have different special talents that become their passions.
Gene “Swabby” Soileau first discovered his painting ability at the urging of his sister in 2008. “My sister Connie Reed told me she wanted me to take art classes with Mrs. Gertie Mayeaux,” he said. “I never did any of that. I majored in zoology, and I didn’t know how to draw.”
“I went and took some classes just for drawing, and I learned that I could draw,” he continued. “I kind of got sidetracked because hunting season came, and I quit going to the classes. Then I met up with Gary Steckler at the health club. He said that if I can draw, then I could paint.”
Steckler, who is an accomplished artist in his own right, showed Soileau how to mix colors and how to do everything that he does. Soileau again got sidetracked, and as time passed decided to return to Mayeaux’s classes to learn more how to paint.
“I painted The Evangeline Club that was from a picture, I painted Sacred Heart School from a picture, and I painted The Kit-Kat,” he said. “Then I started painting some Western art. My wife Janice asked why I was painting Indians and all that. I said they have a lot of blemishes. I don’t have to be precise in painting them because they have a lot of wrinkles.”
Soileau went on to paint Elvis and Mother Theresa. Along the way, he identified several challenges. “A lot of what I painted was challenges to see if I could do that,” he said. “The buildings were a challenge because I had to measure and had to be very particular about how I did things like proportions.”
Another challenge for Soileau is painting portraits. “Portraits are hard,” he admitted. “I tried to paint my mom when she was young. I was doing pretty good, but she turned out to look like her sister. I said I didn’t want it to be my aunt, I wanted to it to be my mom. I started all over again, and when it came out, it didn’t look like either one of them. So, I put ‘Portrait of a Woman.’”
For Soileau, the keys to being successful in anything like painting are not out of reach of anybody. They are first discovering the talent and then practicing.
“You don’t really know what you can do until you try,” he said. “I was an Elvis impersonator. My sister again got me into that. I didn’t think I could do that. Evidently, I did a good job because people would call me and want me to do that.”
“Then I became a DJ hosting ‘Swampin with Swabby,’” he continued. “I didn’t think I could do that. I kind of figured I could because I would pretend that I would interview people with a fake mic all the time at the camp.”
Another key to being successful is to practice anything that a person does. “It’s kind of like playing a guitar,” he said. “I learned how to play a guitar, but I don’t play the guitar anymore. If I would have continued playing the guitar, I guess I would be really good. I knew a lot of the cords, and I played a lot of songs. But, if you don’t practice it, then you lose it.”
“It’s like sports,” he continued. “The more that you dribble a ball or hit, the better you’re going to get. That’s with painting, that’s with DJ’ing, and that’s with everything that you do.”