Her weathered appearance tells her story. It tells of hours spent in the baking sun, hurricane strength winds, and summer thunderstorms. It tells of the shade she provided for ducks who napped under her boughs, and of the structure she provided for the cardinals who nested in her branches. Her brilliant colors and shriveled edges call attention to her beauty as she lies in a heap upon the ground. She is at the end of her life, and she is a stunning mosaic to be admired. When I have reached the end of my journey, what will others see when they look at me? Will they see a withered old woman, or will they be able to envision my life’s story from the lines on my face—or perhaps the lines on my canvas? I want to leave a beautiful mark on the world, so my artist’s journey continues.
“The Fall of Life”–Watercolor Pencil
While I have journeyed outside the United States on multiple occasions, my passport remains unstamped. Its blank pages reflect a total lack of travel. When I leave the United States, it’s always by cruise ship. I’ve sailed throughout the Eastern and Western Caribbean, through the Mexican Riviera, and up into Canada. In 2008, when the cruise industry was planning to require passports for travel, I rushed out to apply for mine. That change never took place, and while I do travel with my passport for identification, it doesn’t have a single stamp. There are no official records of my destinations, but I do have the memories, the stories, and volumes of photographs. The sea turtles can surely relate, as their journeys are undocumented, too. Though they travel thousands of miles in a lifetime, there are no proud stamps to boast of their destinations. While it would be nice to have a colorful passport, it’s really all about the journey, and not a little stamp.
“World Traveler”–Watercolor on Board with Swarovski crystals–Who needs a colorful passport when you’ve got a little bling?
Every grand journey has its share of mishaps, pitfalls, and bumps along the way. Lost reservations, missed connections, and bad hotels, while frustrating at the time, add to the flavor of the experience. And so it is with my artist’s journey.
Each assignment in class takes me to a new destination, and planning the most recent one sounded simple enough: Research one of the Old Masters. Choose a painting that features fabric, and recreate that fabric on canvas. I sat perched next to my painting instructor as she thumbed through an art history book like it was a hotel brochure. With her as my travel agent, I was sure to find the perfect room with an amazing view in a five-star hotel. We perused the paintings, analyzing each one, commenting on why it just wasn’t right for this particular assignment. We gasped in unison when she turned to a page featuring a photograph of Albrecht Durer’s “The Four Apostles.” One of the apostles was draped in an ivory robe. He stood with one hand outstretched and the other hidden in the folds of what seemed like a fine 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheet. It was simplistic, realistic beauty. The robe flowed down the apostle’s body, creating striking shadows and highlights as it gathered over the crook of his arm. I could practically feel the soft fabric as I ran my hand across the page. Yes, this was the perfect destination–first class all the way. I smiled as I imagined myself sliding between those sheets after they had been turned down by the skilled housekeeping staff in the Presidential Suite at my five-star resort of choice. “I’m painting that robe,” I proclaimed.
I unpacked my art bin, organized my paint, and arranged my palette as I imagined Durer would have. I prepped my canvas, and pulled up the image on my laptop. My planning was impeccable, and I couldn’t wait to start my journey. I began to mix my paint, but the colors were not coming out exactly as they appeared in the original painting. A simple bump in the road. I’ve survived turbulent flights and crazy taxi rides. I would survive this, too. I loaded up my brush with newly mixed paint and set off on my ‘first class’ assignment. As I confidently brushed paint over my canvas, I slowly began to realize something wasn’t right. My proportions were off, my colors weren’t accurate, and my brush strokes looked forced and awkward. This was no ‘first class’ destination, and this wasn’t the room I had booked. I had requested a premium ocean front view–not a parking lot/dumpster view. I felt panic begin to set in. I painted faster. More paint! More paint! The dollops on my palette were starting to dry, and the paint on my canvas was setting faster than I could blend it. I sat back on my chair. It was starting to feel hard and uncomfortable, much like the granitic mattress in my crappy hotel room. I propped my canvas up against a wall across the room. Maybe it would look better at a distance. It didn’t. More paint! More paint!
I could feel a sickness brewing in my gut–the kind brought on by the cruel realization that the stunning brochure photos were doctored up with a healthy dose of Photoshop. I tried using a different brush. No–it still wasn’t right. The brochure I looked at featured a beautiful flowing garment–My painting looked more like a ratty old bath robe. Where was my 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheet? The monstrosity I had created was a dirty prison sheet. Perhaps I could still save it. More paint! More paint!
And then I stopped. I put down my brush and took a long hard look at my work. It was bad. I had to admit to myself that my first attempt at painting fabric had been a dismal failure. I couldn’t save the painting, but I could still save my sanity. I thought I had planned out every step of my journey perfectly, but life doesn’t work that way. I wanted first class, but I got coach. I’ll still arrive at my destination, and I’ll still have amazing experiences on my journey. Along with the five-star moments, I’m going to experience bad service, and lousy hotels with over-starched sheets. Those lamentable experiences might be annoying at the time, but one day, they will make for great stories. And when my ‘fabric’ assignment is hanging on the critique wall next week, I will tell one of those stories.
Artists love to share their work with the world, and unfortunately for me, the best way to accomplish that goal is through the Internet. I, however, would prefer to continue on my ‘artist’s journey’ without being bothered by pesky little things like technology. Pencils, erasers, and paint brushes are the only tools I’m comfortable using, and they allow me to travel light. I don’t think my modest art supplies should have to share space in my carry-on with high-tech electronic gadgets.
I once read that artists should claim their ‘online presence,’ but that’s like asking me to set up shop in a foreign country when I don’t speak or understand the language. I can handle the basic stuff–email, word processing, even Facebook, but other than that, I am embarrassed to confess that I am technologically illiterate. There is no Rosetta Stone for technology, so I try in in vain to decode the mysterious language that younger generations speak so fluently. Alone in a foreign land, I struggle to communicate with the locals.
Luckily, my teenage daughter is a computer whiz who doubles as my travel guide while I stumble through the technology maze. She’s as comfortable with a keyboard as I am with a pencil. She has warned me to steer clear of the back-alley world of ‘virus-infected spam’ and helped me find my way back to files I thought were lost forever. I have only to call across the house and my travel guide appears, map in hand. Like a disgruntled traveler leaving bad reviews on Trip Advisor, my complaints are always the same: “It’s broken!” “I’m stuck!” and “The stupid computer’s not cooperating!” But how can I expect cooperation from my computer when we don’t speak the same language?
Last December, I made a vow to get current in 2012 and make peace with my foreign friend, technology. I traded in my not-so-smart phone for an iPhone, bought an iPad, downloaded photo editing software onto my laptop, and plugged in a tablet. I learned to copy and paste, manipulate images on Photoshop, and scan documents. I downloaded apps, created a “Tamberrino Art Studio” page on Facebook, and most recently, started blogging here on WordPress. I am officially on a technological roll! And the year’s not over yet!
I am no longer afraid of getting stuck or taking a wrong turn as I navigate through unfamiliar territory. I am exploring this strange new world and ‘clicking and dragging’ with unexpected bravery. Now that I am learning the language, technology isn’t so scary. In fact, I kind of like it! Besides, what’s the worst thing that can happen? If I ever get lost on my technological journey, I know a great travel guide who can get me back on track. And even when she goes off to college, she can always email me a map.