Where I Find Inspiration for my Paintings
To escape my town’s construction and traffic congestion, I go to the beach and study birds anew, seeking inspiration as for this egg tempera painting, Kinship. I paint birds differently now.
In my imagination, I feel the weightlessness of their warm bodies, their hard beaks, made of keratin, the same protein in our own fingernails. Bland or colorful, their fine feathers are fascinating constructs of design and engineering, allowing them freedom from earthly bonds.
Watching birds interact with each other brings me into an awareness of my surroundings. Today, I watched two male cardinals talking between trees across a street. One would call and the other answered. Was it a neighborly chat or territorial dispute?
We know so little about the creatures that inhabit our communities. There is a small black racer that warms itself on my back patio. It is non-venomous and is quick to wriggle towards the bushes when it sees me. Who am I to take its life? There is a natural balance in all this, I’m certain. As I become older, I want to pass light upon this planet.
The opposite is true for the developers ravaging the land in my native Florida town.
Mega-apartment complexes mushroom where tall pines brushed the sky with their feathery boughs. Subdivisions named after the animals they displaced race westward. Strip malls creep along the highways. Birds flee and homeless turtles and raccoons wander on the roads. There is no profit in housing them. Birds and turtles don’t pay taxes.
I have a small collection of old Florida postcards. On the back are hand scrawled missives. Tourists praising the natural beauty of Florida. No mention at all of sprawling apartments, twenty-four pump gas stations, or fast-food joints. Instead, they described with marvel the splendor of nature. They came to relax in fresh tropical air amidst the beauty and beaches.
My grandfather moved here for similar reasons and salt water cure after he survived a horrific train wreck in New Jersey in 1951. Years later, I’d drive him around on the westward stretching tentacles of tarmac. Baffled, he’d look around at all the new construction, shake his head, and in his thick Italian accent, say. Who knew!
Twenty-five years he’s been dead, and a battalion of bulldozers are leveling land like Sherman’s march through Georgia. Short-sighted local governments concede to the minority of well-funded developers. It’s on the books, they say, all approved and conforming. Nothing to see here. We’ll be moving on to the next town when the water’s gone and there is no more land to develop.
I understand the desire to live here in paradise. I am fortunate my grandparents settled here many years ago. My love for the landscapes of my birthplace made me an artist forty years ago. It would not be so today. I do miss the wild places.
Now I drive congested roads with the spirit of my grandfather beside me and gaze around in bewilderment where familiar landmarks once stood. The places I love to visit and paint diminish each day. Most of them erased.
Except in my memory.
To summon my muse, I return to the beach where I am in kinship with the birds, healing waters and salty sunrise. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, and I remember the wildness of it all.
Then I slip into my studio, evoke my memories, remember the freedom, remember the light, remember the love for it all.
And I begin to paint.