Once an artist, always an artist. It’s been years since I smelled the intoxicating aroma of oil paint, felt the brush dance across a canvas because I chose to pack it away in search of my spirit. After college, I sold one commissioned painting of three children, and I entered one competition with an experimental piece that wasn’t accepted with open arms; but I never stopped drawing. I have files full of random doodles, sketches, ideas and dreams. All of them packed away at the back of cupboards. I did a lot of freebies, where I designed tattoos, did odd little sketches and outlandish designs for people with big ideas, but the brushes remained silent and covered in a light film of dust. It just didn’t feel right to use them again; they just stared back at me, silently judging me. All my paints dried out. What a horribly, undignified way for them to die.
All my past paintings were sentenced to the confines of a portfolio case under my bed. I’d left them behind to follow the calling of performance: the bright lights of the stage beckoned and with it, poverty. Being a struggling actor is far from the glamorous lies that Hollywood promises: The ever-elusive ‘Lucky Break’. Of course, I had to get a job, pay for my studies, make a living. I’ve worked at a variety of places that gave me plenty of ‘character research’ to draw from. Direct sales, transcribing court cases, events, promotions, reception, graphic design, tagging along with a video crew, industrial theatre, foreign adverts, unpaid short films, unpaid theatre shows, sad auditions, terrible interviews, waiter, manager, secretary.
My creative self dried out along with the paint, the allure of acting wore off, because it left a bitterly disappointing taste in my mouth and I was stuck in a dead-end job, making a living, but spiritually dried out. To quote Athol Fugard’s People are Living There: Purpose was dead in me.
The decision to quit my job and run into the open arms of the art world was not instantaneous, and the idea haunted me for years after the tumultuous 20’s passed me and I entered a new decade of maturity. It was one of the best decisions of my life: not one that will earn me millions, but one that feeds my broken soul, that healed me from a very long depression. The feeling left me so content that my heart could stop beating. So this is what the great Salvador Dali felt like: blissful to the brim, high on life.
I bought some acrylics, dusted off my brushes and propped the canvas upon the easel. What shall I paint? Can I still paint? Will it be good enough? Am I wasting my time? All these questions were silenced when I dabbed the brushes into the paint and touched the canvas. It is as if they had a life of their own. They sang across the surface. I forcefully tried my old smoothing technique, but they would have none of it. Each hair strand was individual, accentuated by colour instead of shading. I was painting in a dream state, day by day.
By the time I was done, weeks had passed, and El Cucuy stared at me through the canvas: a portrait of a nightmare stag with a sullen gaze.