Artist/Dad on a Mission: Defining Moments: Part 2
Defining Factors to Pursuing a Career in Art
So, Mother Teresa.
In 2013, I was at a bit of a crossroads. I knew my kiddo was going to high school in a few years and at that time I wasn’t making enough to cover everything. Single income, wanting to live close to the kid in a safe-ish neighborhood, student loans, lawyer fees from custody stuff, credit card debt, a beat-up car, and other stuff were issues that I was dealing with for a while. So one day, while going through old art work in an old portfolio, I found a photograph of Mother Teresa I had clipped from the day after she passed away. I remember that day, after I laminated it, I told myself, “One day, when I feel that I have the skills to do this image justice, I’m going to paint this image of her.”
And at that moment, while remembering what I had said to myself some 15-plus years ago, I didn’t so much feel that my skills were top-notch, but for some reason, I felt I had to give it a shot. Partially because I felt I could, partially because art school saying I was not good enough still rang in my ear (yeah, I know, it was over twenty years ago), and partially because I knew if I didn’t start it at that time, that I would never do it – nor would I ever know if my skills were good enough, and the final reason, and probably the most important – what kind of Dad would I be if I kept telling my kiddo to give things a shot even though you might fail, if I didn’t do so?
So the sinner started painting the saint (to be).
The Mother Teresa piece is a 4ft x 2ft, acrylic on wood that made me work my tail off. This piece was both a labor of love and a test of endurance. For a few months, almost every day after work, after the gym and after doing homework and dinner (on my days) with my kiddo and on weekends, I would stare at the image, mix paint and apply the most realistic color for her face usually staying up until 1am. I had not worked that much with realistic skin tones or textures, and the pressure was on because this was something I could not mess up. That painting was beginning to change something in me.
So about three-fourths through, I started seeing the face begin to look like the image. It started looking real. Like real, real. At that moment I felt I was on to something. Something I had never felt with my paintings in the past. I felt I could figure it out.
The Mother Teresa piece proved I could recreate with paint my subject matter onto another surface and make it look real. It also proved that the saying “putting in the time” is true and applied to my work.
And the response after I posted the images online were overwhelmingly positive. Friends and family would bring up the topic of that painting more than any other piece I had posted in the past. Even my brother-in-law, who rarely ever mentioned anything about my work in the past, said the piece looked real and that it was the best piece I had ever done. And he wasn’t the only one. People I did not see very often, but followed me on social media, would comment about the Mother Teresa in a very very positive way. They would all mention that it looked so real. Something never mentioned to me in the past by friends and family. And all because “I put in the work”.
Now these defining moments with the Mother Teresa piece were just the start of of something different with my work. Yes, I did figure out and realized that if I put in the work I could recreate a realistic image. Yes, I did realize that if I took the work seriously, others would too. And more importantly, I noticed that my work started to have a deeper and even kind of an emotional effect on others.
And even my close friends that I have known for years would look at the piece, and since I can’t get myself to sign the front of it, they would ask me, “You did this?”, confirming that in the past my work was never up to that level, and even more so, confirming that my skills were much better than in the past and that I had witnessed for the first time that look of amazement from others toward a piece of work I painted – where I could smile a bit, and wholeheartedly, somewhat proudly say, “Yep, I painted that.”
Next week – Part 3 “The Lorenzo Cain” piece.