I traveled to Florida three weeks ago, to a place I had never been- Marco Island, near very wealthy Naples, another place I had not visited. I enjoyed the beautiful botanical gardens in Naples but the upscale, and frankly very white enclave of Naples was a little too colorless for me. I like diversity in culture, people, and class, and tend to feel suffocated in ritzy settings like that. The bland evenness of culture and people felt and feels oppressive to my rebel heart.
So I felt more at home in the swamps of south west Florida, visiting the Corkscrew Swamp Wildlife Sanctuary, and was rewarded with a wild alligator sighting. The alligator was swimming in a pond along the boardwalk, and once sighted, I said despite the presence of my daughter, "holy shit", at which point my husband and child ran toward, as I ran away. The area is also home to the nocturnal Florida Panther, but the last sighting was a year before, in an incredible encounter where a panther ran right next to a visitor along the boardwalk, captured on video. Fortunately I saw the video after walking through the swamps, and not before, which might have deterred me. You can look it up on youtube.
Visiting the Southwest area of Florida one month after Hurricane Irma, we saw debris and damage everywhere though generally in neat roadside piles, since where we were was one of the hardest hit places in the state. There was an article in a local paper about the storm, climate change, and concerns about the local environments, which was very informative to me. I did some drawings in watercolors and ink but wished I had my gouache and panels, which I got really used to in Italy. Gouache paints are very expensive in part due to the heavy pigmentation, which are really beautiful if you like bold color, like I do.
I had a good time the following week participating in the Green Arts Festival at Mass College of Art, exhibiting some of my climate change and environmental painting, and connecting with students and the public on these issues. One of my strong interests is in the impact of climate change on local species and ecosystems, so it's satisfying to share the art I've done on these subjects with people, and to see people absorbing what I'm trying to draw attention to.
It's now a few weeks later and while I've continued working, finishing up a painting of Florence, starting a new environmental art painting, and yesterday doing a quick figure painting, which I haven't done for a while, I've been hit with feelings of frustration again with the lack of progress around some of my aspirations for my art career. The patience I had for several years seems to have been wearing thinner in the past year, but I'm going to have to regenerate it. The truth is my life now has greatly improved and progressed from where it was several years ago, especially as a formerly single mother, struggling to shift careers, caring for a young child, and developing myself as an artist in utter obscurity. I think sometimes the more things get better, and we get more comfortable, that we can almost get more impatient, than when we have been in an intensely stressful time of great difficulty. Perspective, as well as gratitude, is required. I have evolved tremendously as an artist from when I first really began focusing on it about nine years ago. And among artists, people joke, overnight success takes at least ten years of relentless effort.
Otherwise, life continues to be rich and interesting, despite the ever present challenges. I've had several ideas for art in my mind lately, and have felt stirred for a while to get back to figure painting. I have been eyeing a place in Boston that has figure models in different length poses, and is open to anyone who wants to do art, pay as you go, though I realized I might be able to work from stock photos in the meantime, which I started doing. Although I've done a fair amount in the past of figure drawing working on large pads of paper in charcoal, lately I've wanted to work in acrylics and somewhat roughly, which is what I did yesterday in the painting of a young woman. I'm happy with the work I did and will probably do a male figure next.
Driving home from one of my two jobs I do to support my life and art tonight, I was thinking about how brave, and lucky it is to live as a creative person. I think of all of my descendants and wonder if any had even a small portion of the time to spend in their life developing their creative passions, and were most certainly greatly burdened by mere survival. In today's world unless you were given a trust fund, it often takes a lot of extra work, of conventional work, to be able to even make creative pursuits happen, especially as a mature adult. Obligations and duty increase exponentially with family responsibilities and so to make space for creativity does not happen without a very strong ambition, to simply support the circumstances to do whatever it is, one wants to do. Add to that the idea of putting oneself out there publicly, takes on a whole other level of courage. Societies celebrate success stories, but before they get to that point, social pressures and conformity often discourage people from pursuing and then stepping up to advocate for your own craziness. I think however that people in general innately want to be creative, but so often hold themselves back due to fear or ridicule, criticism, or rejection. But to be creative is to simply be alive, and to celebrate life, the world, and the mere expression of oneself in the universe. It is a gift to oneself, and an offering of respect to all of creation.