The Art in my Home
As you can imagine, I own a lot of art. Even before I started painting, I collected all types of art. These days an increasing share of the art on my walls is my own, but I still have a lot of old favorites with good stories behind them.
For this post, I wanted to write about a few of the things hanging on my walls that do have stories behind them. So here is a bit about the ones that mean a lot to me and what makes them so special.
The Couple and the Fiddler
In 2016 after graduating college, I took a trip to Europe which included ten days in Portugal. I found out one of the coolest things about Lisbon is an enormous flea market called the Feira da Ladra. Peddlers and artists populate multiple city blocks and spill into alleys and side streets, and you can find anything from antique clocks to hand-made Nepalese pants and blankets.
I remember wandering through the droves of people and stumbling upon a Portuguese man with a mustache, his wares laid out on an old camping tarp. There were used silverware, pens, gadgets, wooden frames, and such an assortment of junk that it almost looked like a pile of trash. Then I spotted this painting - a sketch with Chinese ink on parchment in a slightly chipped frame. Something about the fiddler with his crazy beard and wild eyes made me stop, and I immediately knew I needed to have it. I don’t remember how much I paid for it, but I do remember racing back to the ATM and the determination that I wouldn’t leave this country without it. I carried that bad boy wrapped in cardboard for three more weeks, backpacking through Europe, all the way back to the USA.
Lion by Eric Sweet
I met the artist Eric Sweet at a local art festival in Arlington, VA. He is a wildlife watercolorist from North Carolina, and you can see more of his art here on his website.
When I saw this at his table, I couldn’t believe the control that he had over the colors. The combination of hard and soft edges outline all the facets of the lion, and every brush stroke is perfectly placed. He bounces the light off the left side of the lion, and he frames it with a swoosh of blue sky such that when you pause to take it all it, you really feel the majesty of this beast.
What makes this art so special to me is that it inspires me to be a better painter. It’s an example of really elite technique, something I continue to strive for.
In 2017 I went with my family to visit my grandmother in Greenville, SC. Her health was deteriorating, and she was going to move out of the house that she’d raised her family in. In the basement was my grandmother’s art studio and my late grandfather’s workshop. They were both very artistic and creative, and lots of what they made still sits down there. As I was going through some of the old memories, I came across this set of handmade calendars by my grandmother. The one here pictured little mice for every month - whether eating strawberries or napping in a shoe, it was always something whimsical and heartwarming.
That love for the whimsical and the innocent is something we both share, and it’s something I try to convey in my art today. The mice struck a note in my heart, and now every time I see this calendar, I’ll think of Marywhite and the love that we share.
I first started painting in 2016 on a set of Crayola classroom watercolors. This is maybe the fourth or fifth painting I ever made, and I named it “Mr. Blue” after my grandmother’s parakeet.
I really liked how it turned out, so I painted a postcard sized version of this and sent it to Grandmother down in Greenville. About a week later I got a note back from my sister-in-law who was taking care of Grandmother at the time. She said how much it brightened their week to get my letter! At first, she thought it had been one of Grandmother’s own paintings from when she was younger. For me, it was a wonderful reminder of how much sharing art can bring joy into other people’s lives.
Nowadays the color in the cheap pigments is starting to fade, but I still have a lot of love for this piece. I keep it over my sink so that I can look at it it every day, and every day I think of that letter and how important it is to share the gifts we have.
Beija-Flor - by Lou Lopes (Florianopolis, Brazil)
If you recognize this hummingbird, it’s because it’s tattooed on my arm. In 2015 I studied abroad in Florianopolis, Brazil, and every day on my way to the university, I walked by a certain mural in downtown (pictured in the bottom right). I knew almost immediately that I wanted it as a tattoo, so I took some photos, printed them out, and took them to a local tattoo artist.
Knowing all the stereotypes of getting a tattoo in a foreign country, I did as much research as I could. I looked at my artists’ past work, her reviews, met her in person and got a tour of the tattoo parlor. Even with all that, I was still incredibly nervous because now I had to explain the tattoo I wanted in a foreign language to someone who spoke no English. I had to trust her with something permanent and hope that she understood me. And in the end, she blew me away with her own interpretation of the mural (pictured on the left).
When people ask me about my tattoo, I usually give them a short answer about how it’s a memento of my time in Brazil. But there is a deeper story, and that is how it reminds me to let go and to trust that things will be okay in the end. We have so much anxiety related to control, about forcing things to turn out right. We rarely trust implicitly that things actually can go okay without our help, so my tattoo is my reminder to plan less and to be more open to the ways the world can be unexpectedly delightful.
One thing that I believe is that art can be beautiful and just as moving without a story. So many pieces in my home are they just because I like them. I like the way they look, I like the color, I like the texture, I like the subject, and so on. Whatever it is, it’s on my walls because it tickles my fancy. And I believe if art makes you feel something and excites you, then it’s worth keeping around.
Here are some of the pieces in my home without a story. I hope they tickle your fancy too.