STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - Yolanda Mozdzen has no formal art training and yet her paintings hang all over the city, all over the country and even across the world.
"I don’t honestly know how I’ve done all these paintings. I’m even shocked at myself," Mozdzen said.
Mozdzen began painting when she was five with the help of a grandfather who also was self-taught.
It remained a hobby, nothing more. But as she got older and began working as an assistant in medical offices she did think about turning her talent into a career, even visiting galleries to try selling her works.
No one showed interest and that was that, until her life took a sad turn.
About 20 years ago Mozdzen's younger cousin passed away suddenly — a loss she took hard. She turned to painting for solace and donated the work she created to a local church. That set off a lifetime of painting for charity.
"It’s always been inside of me and I’ve always wanted to give back in a way and I just didn’t know how," Mozdzen said.
After she donated a painting to a Brooklyn police stationhouse word spread, and she began receiving requests for her work.
Her art now appears in local firehouses and police stationhouses.
It also hangs in veterans hospitals and at military bases in the U.S. and even in Afghanistan.
The pieces, painted in acrylic and covered with a gloss, are mostly landscapes, influenced by the group or person she's painting for.
Mozdzen, who is 40, donates all of her work.
"I felt as if it had a bigger purpose it had a bigger meaning," Mozdzen said.
It all comes easily and quickly for Mozdzen.
It takes her just 15 minutes to two hours to complete a painting.
She recently pulled an all-nighter hand-painting 100 Christmas cards for veterans in Texas.
The cards all contain personalized messages of thanks — themes Mozdzen hopes to convey in her artwork.
She says she hopes her art provides the same peace and serenity she gets from creating them.