In an Instagram—An Artist’s Journey

Still life with artist's handI sit here with a watercolor brush in my hand, running my fingers through the bristles. How long has it been? Ten years? Fifteen? Twenty?

In the 1980s, I was a prolific painter. I worked in oils, and painted mostly portraits. The smell of turpentine and linseed oil was all I needed for inspiration to search out an interesting face to capture on canvas. But, in recent times, I produced my work in the digital world.

Santa Cruz, California was my home then, and many artists from the Monterey Bay were my friends. Our little painter posse traveled together attending workshops or simply gathered to paint when our collective radar picked up the telepathic message that we needed to meet.

Photo and Painting of PhotoThat all changed in 1988—June 30, 1988 at 7 a.m., exactly. That is when my husband and I sold all our possessions and moved across the country. We thought we would be getting a better education for our son and a cheaper place to live. We were wrong.

The nightmare began after we exhausted our life savings to buy a home in Florida. When we arrived, we found that the previous owner had taken the well pump, all the fixtures and hardware, and never divulged that the plumbing and electricity did not work properly. We had no choice but to go into debt to get the place livable.

That is when I started losing sleep, my appetite and interest in everything I once loved. I had no friends, and felt marooned in a wasteland that was full of poisonous snakes, alligators and oppressive heat. To make matters worse, our new gun-toting neighbors shot everything in sight—including each other.

Eventually, we left and moved to Texas, which was a bit better than Florida, but not much. In spite of our best efforts, our financial problems grew worse and as if that were not bad enough, we lost our business, our relatives abandoned us and we lost a close friend to cancer.

A few years later, we managed to move from Texas back to California. Although we arrived broken and battered, we were ready to start fresh and focus mainly on our finances, which did not leave much time for any artistic pursuits.

The desire to paint again did not emerge until my life’s puzzle began to reassemble itself, and the creative pieces reclaimed their rightful place.  One day, as I browsed the Internet looking for inspiration, I came across a blog that included an art journal. The paintings were in watercolor over an ink drawing, and something about the lines spoke to me. It was as if a finger came out of the page and beckoned me to come in and take a peek.

As I read the blog, I found that the artist offered online workshops. My heart began to soar at the thought of actually signing up for one. But, insecurity and doubt clouded my mind. To register meant that I had to commit. I would have to see it through to the end, and there would be no more excuses for not picking up a brush.

The first lesson arrived in my e-mail. I opened the link with both reservation and anticipation.

First assignment—still life—set up some fruit—draw what you see. I set up two pears and an apple. I stared at them. They stared back at me. I wondered if my eye-hand coördination would still work.  Follow the outside edge of the object, the instructions said as if whispering into my ear. I whispered back to myself, come on you could do it!

The pencil fit comfortably into my fingers as I picked it up and began to draw. With the first line, I felt a familiar rush that only came when I attempted to record what I saw. At that moment, the stark white paper lifted the darkness where I had lost all my hope, faith, money and reasons for existing.

I sit here now holding a watercolor brush and running my fingers through the bristles. It is time to add paint to the drawing. I take a deep breath. I dip the brush—first into the water, then into the sunny yellow pigment and stir it slowly. The brush moves as if by its own power from the paint to the paper.

The first color is down.


About bohemianopus

I live a gypsy’s life. I dance to the music in my head when no one else is looking. I can hear the stars sing, taste the sky, and see music in living color. I talk to animals. And the homeless. I believe that open fields are for flowers, critters, running, and making love – not war. I love to feel the sand between my toes, the wind in my hair, and the rain on my face. I often contradict myself. No I don’t. I hate to drive and sometimes hit the curb when I park. When I am bored, I fantasize about being a famous Broadway star. I do not know how to merge, speak Lithuanian or cook. I am West Coast in a Jersey sort of way. I can not tell a lie with a straight face. I think there should be an “off” switch for obnoxious, loud or boring people. I keep a sleeping bag in my truck in case I simply don’t want to leave. I once owned a heavyweight belt signed by Mohammad Ali. I am loved. Most importantly, I cherish each day as if it were my last.
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17 Responses to In an Instagram—An Artist’s Journey

  1. Emily-Jane says:

    Yay! So happy you are dabbling in art again. It does feed the soul, I don’t have to tell you that. Online classes are wonderful-they go at your own speed and you can stretch the lessons out till you are ready to move to the next one.

    Enjoy unfolding to your paints once again…I wish you much joy and a reemergence of artistic spirit. Yay!

  2. bohemianopus says:

    Thank you Emily-Jane! I am thrilled to have so many “cheerleaders” in my life giving me encouragement.

  3. A horror story with a happy ending — great! The grass is greener — somewhere but not Florida. Yet so many people want Florida. Home is where your heart and dog are – where they have to take you in — etc, etc. “In every puddle are many Buddha lands” even in our own backyard. Look and you will see them.

    BTW — your portrait above is wonderful and is a vast improvement on the photo. I’m a photographer and find that many paintings by many painters are not as good as the photo they worked from. When that happens I think — why bother. In your case it is well worth the effort.

  4. Lovely story. I understand why you feel you can paint again. You are starting to feel some peace in yourself again. Your mind is more settled, your soul is centered, and your spirit is rising. You needed to feel grounded to paint again. Enjoy your pursuit of happiness! 🙂

    • bohemianopus says:

      Thanks for the encouraging words, which are very true. Some people can do their best work when everything is coming undone. I am not like them.

      On Fri, Nov 16, 2012 at 8:29 AM, Bohemian Opus

  5. eof737 says:

    You sure have talent. 😉

  6. Rupert says:

    I loved this post. Also that’s a really nice portrait. I am constantly trying to self-educate on art and art history and I always value the chance to learn more about how artists think, their style, where they’ve come from and such. So thanks for posting this.

  7. maggiebird says:

    Hi there,
    I’m not sure how I found your blog, but I’ve been enjoying reading it so much that I linked it on my blog. Thanks for blogging!

  8. nadia says:

    Wonderful post. It’s the same old story. When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade, etc. Or, if it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger–I’ve got a lot of experience with both, having jumped off the deep end onto a small farm in a corner of Tunisia with almost nothing. Glad you made it to the other side to enjoy SBS.

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