CRESTVIEW — Velia Lala, a Shalimar artist, just returned from a residency stay in Romania.

Lee Vasu of Dacia Gallery in New York specifically requested that Lala submit her work for consideration in the gallery's Artist Residency Program. A jury selected her and 14 others to travel to Sibiu, Romania for the whole month of June.

"Lee, the curator, said he was drawn to my life castings and my description of enjoying to work with people's issues of their bodies. This made me know I was getting my vision across to others," Lala said.

The experience taught her the value of perseverance, she said.

"This was my first juried artist's residency to be accepted to. I've entered several, and been denied by some. But I kept entering. This experience showed me to keep pushing forward and never giving up.

"Learning is such an opportunity and I am hoping to find a new residency every year. Whether it is a one-day class, a weekend class or a month-long class, I enrich my life's journey. This particular experience had a few bumps along the way that was totally overshadowed by learning new artistic techniques and making new life long friendships. I am very blessed and will continue the pursuit of creating art for my supporters and collectors," Lala said.

While she loves to travel and it informs her work, Lala said it was only the second time she'd been to Romania.

"I had only been to Bucharest for one day as a part of a river cruise in 2010. This trip opened my eyes to so much more of the Romanian culture," she said.

The mostly rural settings lent a full immersion-type of experience to her, from day one. She said there were sights such as horses and buggies, laundry, sheep herders, "even little old ladies selling fresh bread out of their homes, a total different culture than I was accustomed to."

The residency's structure had the artists sketch two days a week in the studio and paint live models. The other three days they would be out in nature, sketching and painting using a plein air technique, meaning they painted what they saw outside versus a predetermined drawing in a studio.

"I've only sketched from live models twice and never out in nature," Lala said. "I received a lot of instruction and guidance on perspectives, proportions and color tones. I was definitely thrown out of my comfort zone in the beginning, but it didn't take long to settle right in and start really enjoying the new art expressions."

On weekends they had free time. Some rented cars, according to Lala, and visited other areas of note. They stayed in Airbnbs, visited castles, monasteries, and villages, as well as attended festivals.

"There was never a dull moment as there was another new site to see around every turn," she said.

Lala credited the trip with increasing her gratitude for the simplest essentials here in the U.S. that other countries do not have. It also impacted her work.

"I learned to look at people and nature in a more detailed fashion through my own vision as well as the vision of my art instructor," she said. "This was such a humbling and exciting adventure ... Besides learning a lot of new artistic techniques, I met an awesome group of new lifelong, artistic friends."

She also had the honor of showcasing her work at an exhibition at the end of the residency there in Romania. Two of the pieces she created are part of the items now in the Romanian museum. She will also create some new lifecastings for a Dacia Gallery show in November, and a February exhibition.

For more of about Velia Lala's artistry, visit her Facebook and Instragram pages or go to www.velialala.com.