Prairieville — An auto accident in 1993 forced Baton Rouge native Wendy Hazey to reinvent herself.

That reinvention has resulted in a move to Prairieville, a career as an artist and art educator, a reinvigorated passion for wildlife and a college degree at the age of 50.

Born in Baton Rouge and raised in Texas, Hazey spent 13 years traveling for a large retail outlet before a car wreck left her unable to work.

At 38, Hazey decided to take a drawing class and “reinvent myself.”

That first class led her to more lessons and a chance to share her newfound talent with others.

“I always wanted to teach,” she said, “so I began working at a crisis center at a small college in Wisconsin.”

In 1999, Hazey decided to move back to her hometown and started looking for a space to paint.

She and a friend started a community gallery so local artists would have a place to show their work.

Hazey later joined the River Region Art Association, serving as its president for a term and starting its first Awesome Art Show at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens.

She also volunteered to teach children’s art classes.

“Her work is just fabulous and she really worked well with the children,” friend and fellow artist Donna Braud said. “She really gives back to the community through her lessons and volunteer work.”

Proceeds from the sale of a poster she created are being donated to the Nature Conservancy.

A trip to Cypress Island Preserve ignited her passion in wildlife painting.

During that first trip to the preserve, she “found egrets were on the trees like snow,” she said.

“Then I knew what I wanted to paint,” she said.

“There is a peace in the stillness when you’re in a nature environment that gives you an inner peace,” she said.

That visit led to a series of painting on the Great White Egrets, which she recently showed at LSU.

“In my paintings, I am communicating to the viewer the essence of the natural world, which I believe is the counterbalance of humanity itself,” she writes on her artist statement card. “It is my belief that nature is a universal truth because every living being or thing experiences it.”

Hazey said she hopes those viewing her work will complete “the scene with his or her own memories or emotional experiences of the particular time or place.”

“It is my hope that through the introspective process the viewer catches a glimpse of the universality of all living things,” she said.

Through her painting of the egrets, Hazey is hoping to draw more attention to the need to protect the large birds and their habitats.

She described the egrets as “elegant and beauty ... that are symbol of the spirt of survival.”

She drew on that survival skill during her time studying art at LSU.

While Hazey enjoyed learning, she said the pressures of being an older college student took some getting used to.

But, in December, Hazey graduated with honors and started another part of her artistic journey.

Her plans include graduate school, although she’s not sure where she will study.

For now, Hazey is still teaching art lessons to children and adults. Like many artists, she’s not completely happy with her work and strives to always improve.

She signs each of her painting with “BHumble” as a personal message to herself.

“I always want to remember that it’s about the painting and not about you — the artist,” she said. “Every time I sign BHumble, it’s a message to myself to remember why I do this.”

Her art can be viewed at N the Art Space, 7809 Jefferson Highway, Building G, Baton Rouge.