My wife and I have been fixing up our house. I've been painting, not on a canvas, but on our walls. It's heavy work. Moving furniture, hopping up and down off a ladder, stretching, reaching, you get the idea.
It's led me to think about the physicality of making art.
My wife and I traveled 3 weeks in the Mexican mountain towns of Guanajuato, Oaxaca, and San Miguel de Allende. We had not vacationed since the pandemic. My artist soul needed feeding, and we both were becoming mired in our daily routine.
You’re driving home after a wonderful weekend with friends in the country. You left a little late because you were having such a good time. It starts to drizzle and you flick on the windshield wipers and headlights.
The rain gets a little heavier. It’s harder to see the road, so you turn off the radio and focus. “Well this is a bummer,” you say, “but hey, it’s only an hour and a half til home.”
In March 2020, Panama entered one of the most severe and lengthy COVID quarantines worldwide. My wife and I had moved here 2 years earlier and lived in the sleepy town of Puerto Armuelles on the Pacific Ocean near the border of Costa Rica.
You stand in front of the Rose Window in Chartres Cathedral, France. Hundreds of people mill about. But you feel as if you are all alone. The vibrant stained glass windows of a century gone by call to you. If this is your first viewing, maybe you lose track of time.
Have you ever gotten the perfect idea for a painting, and put in countless hours of work only to scrap the whole thing in the end? Or maybe you’ve begun a project. It’s going splendidly. But then just about the time when you’re giving it the final touches, you hit a snag? Things take a dark turn and your work ultimately ends up in the garbage?
My wife and I recently watched the Korean Drama, Navillera, about a retired mailman who decides to fulfill his lifelong dream of dancing ballet on a stage, despite disapproval from his wife and family, and roadblocks both physical, societal, and psychological.
“Who’s the artist?” I asked my host a few months back, at an artists’ get-together. On the wall were 2 miniature collage pieces framed on a simple black mat. Each piece was the size of a business card and their colors, textures, and composition were beautiful.
The color turquoise - it’s ever-present here in tropical Panama where my wife and I live. It’s the dramatic shadows in a steamy green jungle or the ocean’s horizon line seen from our back deck. It’s often coupled with shocking pink and orange on houses and graffiti and billboards. I love all colors, but turquoise has a special place in my heart.
As artists, we’ve probably all experienced it: Flow. That experience of losing track of time, being so caught up in artmaking, and forgetting all else. It’s a wonderful experience where the art seems to simply emanate effortlessly and there is joy in every brush stroke.
It’s too late. You’re too old. You don’t have enough time for art. People will guffaw. You had your career, now sit back and enjoy. Four years ago I sat in an art class and a young boy looked over my shoulder as I painted, “So you taught music and now you’re an artist.” I was quick to object. “No, I’m not an artist! I just like to do art.” But I realize now he’s right. I’m an artist, and an ex-pat living in Panama, a vegan, a dog lover, and a gay. Why do I know all these things? Because I do, or am, them every . . . single . . . day.
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