I see him painting every afternoon.
Every day I take a walk and, when I am in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, my walk usually takes me through an old fabric mill that has been converted into gallery space. Most of the galleries sell the work of artists from Mexico City and beyond. But some of the galleries are spaces where artists are both working, and selling their work and the floor is spattered with paint, and easels hold paintings in various stages of completion.
Usually, I don’t see the artists. They seem to be somewhat elusive. Perhaps they don’t like being pestered by looky-loos coming by to see what they are doing and how they create their magic on canvas.
But one artist is always working. For a long time, I would wave as I walked by.
Then one day, I stopped to tell him how inspiring it was to see him working every day. I told him I was a writer and that sometimes it felt as if there was no one else writing.
“But I see you painting here, every day, and I feel less alone,” I told him.
He said he was honored. He spoke English with an accent, but it was not a Spanish accent. He is Italian, as it turns out. His girlfriend is Mexican, from San Miguel.
His work is imposing. He does portrait art, and within the realistic paintings of his subjects, he has abstract art bursting out from inside them, as if their thoughts and emotions had turned into vivid colors and shapes.
“Do you have days when it is easier?” I asked. “Are there days when the painting flows more freely than others?”
I felt a little bad because, in order to answer the question, he paused his painting. He was working on the background of a male figure. The background was flesh-toned, so the person almost melted into it. He was mixing colors of brown and white, painting, covering, mixing again. It was mesmerizing.
“No,” he said. “I think the work flows on every day I am painting. If it is not flowing at all, I go home.”
But I know he is always there—because I see him.
And then he told me he had not always been a painter. He was trained as an actor and worked in films in Italy. He hated it. He said he was only valued for how he looked.
Then he met his wonderful girlfriend, and he moved to Mexico to be with her. But he had no job. So he and a business partner set up a small export company. He spent eight months working on it and then—without warning—his partner quit. His business dream was over.
That was when he started to paint.
Now he has more commissions and offers to show in galleries than he can accept. People love his work, and so does he.
“It freed me, my partner leaving,” he said. “If he hadn’t done that, I would never have gotten to paint!”
“But how did you learn?” I asked.
“On YouTube!” he said. “I just practiced and practiced.”
And I know this is true because he is the one painter who is there every day, working on a new canvas, carefully mixing the colors on his brush, contemplating what he sees growing before him.
I saw him there yesterday. He was concentrating intently, and I didn’t want to take up his time. But it is a great comfort to know—even without seeing him—he is there right now, painting.
Till next time,