When Rob and I boarded the Riviera to cruise the Caribbean, never in a million years could I have guessed that my inner mermaid would come to life. Of all things I chose to take drawing lessons while we sailed amongst the West Indies. The artist-in-residence, Noel Suarez, had studied ballet for years before an injury forced him to shift. While his instruction about drawing faces, still-lifes and landscapes was clear and encouraging, I found his understanding of human bodies most fascinating. Still it was all I could do to follow his directions during class when we drew a figure from the waist up. When I decided to veer off course and add the tail and scales of a mermaid (instead of copying the usual hips and legs), this drawing became easier for me to execute as well as my own creation.
During the second half of our voyage, Noel offered classes about adding color to our drawings—pastels, watercolors and acrylics. While at sea, I couldn’t bring myself to potentially ruin my masterpiece with globs of paint. The graphite was enough; I could continue erasing and improving her as long as I wanted.
I was amazed to study art while traveling. Heretofore this was not an experience on my bucket list. But I wasn’t surprised at all to learn that Noel grew up in Cuba, thus is bilingual—Spanish/English. Of course, I would be drawn. Plus a gallery of fine paintings by Latin masters, even Picasso and many from Cuba, surrounded me on the walls of the ship. I carved time while on board to study the artwork with the help of audiophone descriptions. I was delighted to recognize how once again I had invited Spanish culture into my life.
Finally last night here at home, I unearthed an unopened watercolor kit that my Dad left amongst his things when he died. First I stretched out on the sofa to read the instructions, knowing someday I might doll up this sea-babe with watercolor hues, even use unorthodox markers and add glitter if I was so inclined. When I planned these trips months ago, I had no earthly idea they would include something as “civilized” as art lessons…that my instructor would be Latino…and especially that I would create this beauty and then make her public.
There are stranger things (making me quite curious to travel to Ecuador in less than a week.) Honestly I doubt I will ever settle myself enough to create in this way again. But as Noel predicted, I will always see more and differently. I will also go forward with infinitely more appreciation for the fine art and fine artists all around me.
2 thoughts on “My Inner Mermaid”
Penny, this story and your art are incredible. I love how life and art unfold – you showed up and glorious, remarkable, unimaginable things happened!
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