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