Art Show Today

Back in 2009 Cynthia and I had just bought this property. It was going to be a few months while she and I created the house plan and the architect did his work and got all the approval stamps. I was sitting in the house that we were renting and I was bored. I needed a hobby.

My father was an architect and I went to a voc-tec high school and learned carpentry. Part of my curriculum was drafting. I wanted to go to the Rhode Island School of Design to learn art but Vietnam got in the way. So with all this background of structured lines drawn with drafting tools, I never thought I could freehand draw and paint, but I wanted to. Painting would be a hobby that I could do with a finite set of tools and colors, didn’t take up a lot of space, and I could do it fairly inexpensively.

After thinking about oil, acrylic, and watercolor paints, I settled on watercolors. Watercolors are fairly non-toxic compared to oils and acrylic so I went with that. I found a website author who wrote about everything watercolor — brushes, paints, papers, qualities, tones, color theory, science of paint composition, color permanence and on and on. It was a massive website (I have lost track of it and can’t find it now) that covered absolutely everything except how to paint.

After binge reading the site, I made a list of supplies and ordered them on the Dick Blick website. Everything arrived and I chose a picture to paint. Semana Del Campesinos is a local week-long event where school children learn about the heritage of the Panamanian country people (campesinos). At the end of the week they dress in traditional clothing and have a parade with ox-drawn carts and such. After the parade I took a picture of an older, distinguished looking Panamanian man, Ernesto.

Sitting in front of the blank watercolor paper, I painted Ernesto’s hand first. As I painted more and more detail, his hand seemed to come out of the watercolor paper and come alive. I was excited, intrigued, surprised, and hooked. I kept painting.

I didn’t go to art school. No one taught me to paint or gave me permission to paint or judged or critiqued my painting. I had no mentor or guide beyond Cynthia — her mother was an artist and Cynthia absorbed a lot about how to mix colors. She helps me with colors when I am baffled. Thanks Cynthia! Beyond her help, I was on my own in uncharted territory. Cool. I have no idea if my work is good or bad as seen by art critics. But I like it and it is mine. I enjoy looking at it hanging on the wall, and it is art. In one first brushstroke of paint I declared myself to be an artist. I decided to simply paint what I saw in the photo — the shapes and the colors and the lights and the darks — to the best of my ability. That would be my style. I did what I do best — I made it up. Art is easy. You can just make it up, unlike brain surgery or rocket science, although I guess that the first in those fields were just making it up also. Insert LOL here.

That reminds me of when my older brother and I were quite young. One day he called me a “damn bastard fool.” Our mother said, “Robert! Where did you hear that?!” And he said, “I made it up.” So there is genetic preponderance for my family making stuff up I guess. But I digress.

I stopped painting to build the house and picked it up again after the reserve water tank and the new art studio was done. I’ll do a post on all of that in a bit.

Here is my Art Show of the paintings I have made so far. I’m sorry about the watermark. But unfortunately art theft on the Internet is very common and I don’t feel like giving my work away after spending 100 hours or more on a painting.

I photographed my paintings with my cell phone. And of course everyone’s screen is calibrated differently. But I hope that you will get a good idea of how I spend some of my time.

My first painting is Ernesto. I like how his t-shirt and pants show through his shirt. One of my favorite things to paint is clothing. So many folds and wrinkles give the picture movement and fullness.

Painted from a photo by me
16 by 20 inches / 40.6 by 50.8 cm

My next picture was also from Semana Del Campesinos, a young girl on an ox cart. Behind her on the ox cart are plastic bags full of fruit, a woven basket, and a bamboo wall. She was wearing full makeup but something gives her age away:

Girl In The Parade
Painted from a photo by Cynthia
16 by 18 inches / 40.6 by 45.7 cm
Watercolor, colored pencils, metallic gold pencil

Next up is two boys taking a break after the parade:

Sugar Fix
Painted from a photo by me
16 by 21 inches / 40.6 by 53.3 cm

Jabo liked to do the dishes when I was having fruit smoothies. He is still going strong at eleven-plus years old. Sometime I’ll have to tell you about how he almost perished a couple years ago.

Jabo — The Dish Washer
Painted from a photo by Cynthia
21 by 16 inches / 53.3 by 41 cm
Watercolor, dog spit

This next picture was the swing picture. I was in the middle of it when it came time to start building the house. I completed it when I got back to painting in the new studio. Long time readers will remember our gardener, Armando. He is still with us a couple days a week and keeps the gardens tidy. Here is my painting of him and his son, Armandito. Armandito liked to visit because we always had coconut cookies:

Armandito And The Coconut Cookie
Painted from a photo by me
23 by 27 inches / 58.4 by 68.6 cm
Watercolor, markers

It was pouring rain the day this next picture was taken and our car was one of the only vehicles in the neighborhood at the time. We volunteered to drive some of the girls to the school auditorium for traditional dancing and ceremony. We donated some money for fireworks and were given a front row seat. Unfortunately the power went off just before the show was to begin. The whole community sat there patiently for three hours while a generator was located so the music and microphones would work. Not one person made a fuss. This picture took place in our back seat — I love the pondering look on the younger sister’s face.

La Princesa
Painted from a photo by Cynthia
27 by 24 inches / 68.8 by 61 cm
Watercolor, acrylic paint, metallic acrylic paint, markers

I shifted gears a bit here and painted with permission from a photo by a friend of Cynthia’s — Carlos Smith. He took the photo in Argentina.

The Balloon Seller
Painted from a photo by Carlos Smith
28 by 21 inches / 71 by 53 cm
Watercolor, colored pencil, markers

My latest painting is still unframed. At the end of 2018 I took a two-week trip to Guanajuato, Mexico. Guanajuato, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is absolutely captivating. I took a week of Spanish classes and spent many hours walking the entire city. Look it up on YouTube. It reminds me of an old Italian city. I love the whimsy in play in my painting. I painted this picture from a photo I took at the doorway of a small clothing store:

Best Friends — Guanajuato, Mexico
Sign on the wooden door says, “Don’t sit, don’t stand. It’s a passageway.”
Painted from a photo by me
33 by 26 inches / 84 by 66 cm
Watercolor, markers, acrylic paint, metallic acrylic paint, colored and graphite pencil

As it is with most hobbies, a person can never have enough materials and supplies. I have expanded from just watercolor paints to a cabinet full of media. I’m having a lot of fun — art is a great way to fill retirement hours. And if you don’t think you can do it — find something that interests you and just do it. Don’t wait for permission and don’t let anyone “fire hose” your ideas or dreams. When I started painting, a longtime artist said that I wasn’t a real artist because I didn’t go to school. That comment always makes me smile because I am free to do what I like without restraint from rules set down by those who have proclaimed themselves in the know. I’m just happy making stuff up.

By the way, I cut the mats and did the framing. The wood is Cedro Amargo (I think), a tropical cedar (I think). With 1/8-inch glass and the hardwood frames, these pictures are heavy! I joined the corners with biscuits and held the frames together with ratchet straps while the glue dried. I finished the wood with a satin polyurethane. Here is a close up of a frame corner:

I am currently painting a lovely Mexican teenage girl in a red dress sitting on a faded red and pink 1965 Honda motorbike. There is a story in getting the picture. Stay tuned.

That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by. Fred

17 thoughts on “Art Show Today

  1. Well, well, well… It te di good to fin you guys… And your paintings are amazing Fred, congratulations

    I’m a little lost, at you guys back in the house in Panamá?

    Ximena and I, after almost 3 years, finally sold our house. I’ve found another parcela and hope to be building on it by the first of the year… We’re going to build using SIP (structural insulated panels) ( ).

    Good to hear from you guys!

    John & Ximena

    • Hi John & Ximena,
      Good to hear from you and congratulations on selling your house. I’m sure you will build a nice home.
      Thanks for the compliments on my paintings.
      Yes, we are here in Panama. Did you read my previous post of a week or so ago? It explains what we are doing.
      I recently spent 5 weeks in the States helping one of my nieces build a tiny house. We used SIPS and it went up fast, and overall it was a very good experience. Just make sure that your bottom plate is dead flat. The trailer that we built on was not flat and it caused us some significant SIPS alignment headaches. But the issues ironed out and now she has a really sweet house that will perform well in the New England climate.
      Saludos, Fred

  2. Hellooo again Fred, and having seen your artwork when we visited your wonderful house, we are tickled to see you SHARING your art beyond the walls of your house…so from one painter to another, BRAVO! I still salivate about your newly constructed art-equipment cabinet with its organised shelves set into that beautifully crafted wood cabinet…THATS the way to keep painting … with a real studio and pleasurable access to everything you need to carry on! Oooh I am so envious from my 2-bedroom Florida condo. Wishing you both the continuing creative energy! Cheers Maricia n Ted

    • Howdy Maricia & Ted!
      Thank you very much for your kind compliments. I am having fun. But I don’t know… It took me about a month to make my art supplies cabinet. That was time taken away from painting. What a procrastinator I am! Thanks again and good to hear from you. Now go get painting!
      Saludos, Fred

  3. “That reminds me of when my older brother and I were quite young. One day he called me a “damn bastard fool.” Our mother said, “Robert! Where did you hear that?!”
    My Mother washed my mouth out with soap!
    I assume the paintings are in chronological order. If so, I am able to see you are improving with each project.
    “I am free to do what I like without restraint from rules…”
    I picked up photography about 4 years ago. I’m told I have a”a style”. It’s my style, my rules.
    Anxiously awaiting your newest creations.

    • Hi Scott! Good to hear from you. Haha, soap! My mother never resorted to that but I don’t know why she didn’t. Isn’t creating stuff fun? I’ve enjoyed photography for a very long time — I had a darkroom back in the early ’70s and had a big Besler 23C enlarger. For the life of me I can’t remember what happened to that thing. That was the days of film of course and I spent a lot of hours in the darkroom. It is so much easier to learn to create these days what with the Internet and YouTube. Keep making stuff up and breaking the rules. Saludos, Fred

      • Hi Scott, Cynthia here…I too “foamed at the mouth” frequently getting my mouth washed out with soap as a kid! Felsnaptha Soap was my parents favorite for that purpose. Ugh!

  4. Hi Fred, I love these paintings! The colors are so vibrant and you do such a wonderful job at telling a story with your paintings. These paintings make me long for the day when I too will go live in Panama. My parents were born there and I’ve always felt like there is where I belong. Your paintings take me back to my childhood visiting my relatives, with them always having a smile on their faces, never complaining when the light goes out or when the water would disappear for hours at time, oh the memories. Thanks Fred! Maybe we can meet one day, my husband and I also have a wacky idea of building a container house in Panama

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *