A nerve injury suffered in 2015 impacted the use of Alissa Muscarello’s dominant hand and forced her to leave a career in veterinary medicine. Acrylic painting provided her with an outlet to self-discovery and eventually led to a new vocation.

by Terri Webster

Alissa Muscarello always enjoyed sketching and doodling as a child. Little did she know that those early years of dabbling in art would turn around her life as an adult.

Muscarello was born in Connecticut, but her family moved to Georgia when she was a toddler. Growing up, her passion had always been in the veterinary field. She even recalls dressing up as a veterinarian in preschool. The passion followed her through the years, and after she graduated from Salem High School in Conyers, she went on to study animal science at Berry College in Rome and the University of Georgia in Athens. Muscarello focused on disease prevention. 

After she earned her degree, she went on to work with pharmaceuticals and at various animal hospitals, clinics and emergency rooms. Muscarello was fulfilling her dreams as planned. Then life took a sharp left turn. Muscarello in 2015 suffered a nerve injury that affected the use and functionality of her dominant right hand, and the pain progressed to a point where she could no longer perform her duties at work. 

Following extensive therapy, she faced the cold reality that the damage was permanent and gave up her career. Despite such a dramatic life change, Muscarello remained positive. “I feel fortunate to have had such a wonderful team of doctors and physical therapists,” she said.

“I am thankful for and truly inspired by the incredible amount of support I have received from a large network of people.”

Alissa Muscarello

Muscarello received acrylic paints as a gift in 2017 and hoped to try painting as a positive outlet, even though she had never painted before. Because of the pain in her right hand, the paints stayed boxed for months. “I thought I may have to give up the idea of painting,” Muscarello said, “but I had a realization that I was fortunate to still have my left hand at full functionality and attempted to change hands.” The first time she dipped a paintbrush with her left hand and attempted to paint was difficult. “To say this was challenging is an understatement,” Muscarello said, “but I became very determined.” Her efforts were eventually rewarded, as it was not long before she discovered that she possessed a talent she never knew she had. It ignited a new passion that she had to explore.

“This was the turning point that gave me a new sense of purpose and fulfillment,” Muscarello said, “and it led me to pursue painting as a new career.”

 She had been painting primarily with her left hand for less than a year when she made her official debut. Muscarello’s work can be found on display at WildArt in Covington. While her career path changed, her passion for animals never went away. In fact, it has surfaced in her paintings. 

“I feel great gratitude painting portraits of beloved pets for families,” Muscarello said.

She draws inspiration mostly from places she travels and wildlife encounters that hold significant meaning to her, especially those that have left her in awe and compelled her to express them on canvas. Muscarello creates each piece with heavy body acrylics, using small brushes and individual strokes to achieve fine detailed realism. She finds great joy knowing her artwork has wound up on walls in homes across the United States and overseas.

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 Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Muscarello planned to show her work at numerous festivals in the Atlanta area, along with others in North Carolina and Florida. Those plans were ultimately nixed, but she hopes to branch out in the future once the health crisis subsides. Muscarello credits her success to the encouragement she received from others. 

“I am thankful for and truly inspired by the incredible amount of support I have received from a large network of people,” she said. 

The most amazing part of the story? Muscarello was self-taught. She professes her gift as a God-given talent and believes it all happened for a reason. She has not given up working with animals again one day and plans to go back as a volunteer or in some other capacity. Muscarello experiences pain and flare-ups in her hand from time to time but views them as manageable. She has practiced writing with her left hand and spends a great deal of time painting her signature on each piece she completes. 

Muscarello calls upon wisdom imparted on her by her mother whenever she faces difficult times. “When in the moment things seem devastating, God might have a vision or plan for you that you can’t see,” she said, “but it will all work out.” 

For more information on Alissa Muscarello’s work, visit www.PaintingsByAlissa.com.

Click here to read more stories by Terri Webster.

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