painting with roberto
In the spring of 1970, when I was in tenth grade and my older brother was a senior, our family hosted an exchange student from Trento, Italy named Roberto. He wrote a teasing note in my yearbook before he left that ended with "When you are a famous, great artist, remember me!"
I doubt I'll make that
status in this lifetime--but joking aside, I appreciate now that he thought I might follow my dream to be an artist--an idealistic and unformed idea at the time.
This past week, Roberto and his significant other, Paola, arrived for their first visit to the US in 39 years. It turns out that Roberto (now a medical doctor) is very interested in painting, and in art in general. He wanted to learn about the techniques I use with cold wax medium, and so on Sunday we spent several hours in my studio, during which he watched me paint, asked questions, and got a good start on a small panel. After so many years of painting alone, I've gradually come to appreciate the communal aspects of painting through my workshops, and I enjoyed the quiet stretches of time when each of us was focused on our work. Sharing my studio with someone important to me from my past was a special pleasure.
Although there were many enjoyable moments during Roberto and Paola's visit--including wonderful food, conversation, and good-natured laughing at my attempts to speak Italian--Sunday in the studio was really a highlight for me. Painting with Rob made me feel connected not only with a person I have not seen for almost four decades, but also with my own teenaged self and my vague dreams and aspirations of becoming an artist. There was a kind of surreal, fast-forward sense of time, a feeling of "How did I get here?" and wonder at how this particular path has opened up over the years.