This painting shows two paths of footprints in the sand, meandering next to each other along a long expanse of sand on a deserted tropical beach!
The scene in this painting is from Playa Panamá, on the Pacific coast of northwest Costa Rica.
Many of my paintings carry a history with them, a story embedded in the image. Oftentimes I’m not sure how much to share of each, as they are personal, and I can tend to get stuck on words. Additionally, I’d like for them to be universal, in that anyone can enjoy and connect with the art.
I thought I’d share a bit of this one, in the form of a poem.
Many years ago, I was first introduced to Cuban music by my wife, who was a Dance major at the time, and I remember loving the Buena Vista Social Club album. On the album there’s a song called “El Carretero”, and the refrain from that song goes “A caballo vamos pa’l monte”, which roughly translates to “On horseback we’re going to the mountain / hill / forest”.
A couple years later, I became very familiar with the term “monte”, when I practically lived in the “monte”, as a Peace Corps Volunteer in La Cruz de Abangares, Costa Rica, close to the famous cloud forest area called Monteverde. The “monte” is what I imagine Africans refer to as the “bush”. It’s the brush, the vegetation, the forest, the jungle, the mountain, etc.
I remember the first time that I went into the monte, “a caballo”. My neighbor friend Franklin, who we called “Franquilino”, loved horses and owned a few of them. So, “a caballo fuimos p’al monte”. The fresh mountain air, the panoramic views, the loud roar of the howler monkeys, and the incredible array of plant species, makes riding on horseback through the rural mountains and forest an awesome experience.
When I heard the song El Carretero recently, I was transported back to the times that I lived in the monte for 2 1/2 years!
This dreamy beach scene is of an open expanse of sand, serene turquoise water, palm trees swaying in the breeze amidst lush foliage, and a view of mountains in the background!
What do you miss most about going to the beach, if you haven’t yet this year?
Our family made it out to the beach a few weeks ago at the tail end of summer, to Assateague Island, Maryland, where wild horses roam the island. Laying down in the sand while the ocean waves came up to shore was so rejuvenating for the body and spirit. My skin felt so smooth for the next few days after.
Last night, I had a particularly poor night of sleep. I went to bed at 10pm and fell asleep around 3am. The little ones woke me up around 6:30am.
When I stumbled down into the kitchen all “zampaguado” (a very rural slang term that I learned in Costa Rica, which essentially means groggy), I said this:
Then I said this to my wife: “Oh, I should put that on a shirt”.
So there it is.
After 2 cups of coffee, I feel a little better.
Going back to that word “zampaguado”…
When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer up in the mountains of Costa Rica, in a little small town called La Cruz de Abangares, I lived in a cinder block house, and across the street lived a family with a dog that lived outside its house. This dog was keen on barking non-stop, starting around 2am every morning. One night, around 4am, while it was barking, I went outside and threw some rocks towards it to get it to shut up. This sounds very mean, but: 1) I didn’t hit the dog, nor intend to, and 2) this is very customary in rural Central America, where the concept of having a dog is totally different than in the USA.
The dog shut up. As I was turning to go back in my house to go to sleep, I noticed someone walking up the dirt street my way. It was Deibys, a boy who was around 14 at the time. He was up early to go milk cows. I said hi, and he said “ay mae me siento todo zampaguado”, which I learned translates to “aw man I feel so groggy”.
So 13 years or so later, I still use that word when I’m feeling groggy. Back then I didn’t drink coffee (though I lived in a coffee-growing region!). If I did, I may have said “Give me coffee, or give me death”!
This Formentera, Spain painting was inspired by a bike ride through this gem of an island, the smallest of the Balearic Islands. The particular location of this scene is on the northeast tip of the island.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve been there, but I have to say, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to!
A few weeks back I was going through some boxes of childhood stuff.
My parents, who had hung onto these boxes for years, decided to dump them onto me as they were clearing out their space. So I then hung onto them and am still trying to sort through to decide what to do with it all, but am intent on not letting too much time pass before I clear what needs clearing and organize what I decide to keep. If you cannot relate to this…I don’t know what to tell you.
Well, I pulled out several paintings from my youth, including this one, which I believe I painted when I was around 13 years old!
I must have been dreaming of laying on a beach somewhere on a South Pacific island! Come to think of it…I still dream of that.
Because this painting was on a cheap piece of paper and showing its age, I scanned it and gave it a fresh renovation in Adobe Photoshop.
Those born between April 21st and May 21st have their Sun sign in Taurus! This includes my 2nd son, so I am fairly familiar with the characteristics and personality traits of Taurus.
The Taurus zodiac sign is represented by the bull:
Taurus is very practical and grounded, as it is an “Earth” sign (as opposed to fire, water, or air). Being very earthy, they also love physical pleasures and material things, whether it be good food, sensual touch, nice furnishings, etc. They love the finer things of life, so to speak! This makes sense, as Taurus is ruled by the planet Venus, which is all about pleasure, harmony, and enjoyment.
Like the bull, Taurus is slow moving and can be very stubborn and inflexible, as if their earthiness gets them stuck in the mud. However, they can also exhibit exemplary dedication and steadfastness, with a patient energy, able to stick with projects and relationships.
I can attest to this, as my little Taurean son is super duper stubborn (amplified by the fact that he’s only 4)! However, my father has his Ascendant sign in Taurus (the Ascendant is equally as important and influential as the Sun sign), and he is also very stubborn! On the other hand, they’re both practical, grounded, caring, and enjoy the comforts of life!
While there is much more to the Taurus sign than I’ve written here, I hope this can serve as a short, informative introduction to the qualities of this sign!
This is my first in a series of posts about zodiac astrology sign paintings, of which I intend to create art for all 12 signs.
As a preface:
Most people are familiar with what is called their “Sun” sign. For example, my Sun sign is Pisces, so I could say “I am a Pisces”. However, although one’s Sun sign is a major part of their natal chart, it is only one piece of a complex whole. So, along with having a Pisces Sun sign, I also have elements of many other zodiac signs and planets as part of my whole being (including Sagittarius, Aquarius, etc.). To illustrate this further, my brother and sister are also both Pisces, as is my wife and brother-in-law. But we are all very different people!
The Pisces zodiac sign is represented by a fish. Why a fish?
Fish swim in water, and water can be open and deep, like the ocean. Pisces are drawn to a palette of blues, especially sea blue tones.
Pisces is the twelth, or last, sign of the Zodiac, which means that Pisces have a bit of every other Zodiac sign in them, making it easier for to relate to just about anybody. Pisces is a mutable water sign, meaning they can easily go with the flow and adapt to many different environments, like a chameleon. The ruling planet of Pisces is Neptune, which is symbolized by spirituality, mysticism, dreams, illusions, deceptions, and all things subtle.
Pisces have a rich imagination, dreamy inner life, lots of creativity, and compassion for others. As with most things, there are positives and negatives to this. While a Pisces may excel in creative professions and in helping others, this can sometimes cause them to get lost in day to day, practical realities, to help others at the expense of themselves, or even to be taken advantage of. But, even though Pisces can be more sensitive, they are actually as solid as rocks.
Pisces can also be very spiritual and are not as concerned with the physical, material realm of life, or what they see as trivialities, such as having an expensive house and car, climbing the “corporate ladder”, doing something just for the appearance of it, etc.
Often, the Pisces sign is shown as two fish swimming in opposite directions, to represent how Pisces often feel pulled in different directions. This can also represent one fish swimming downstream and the other swimming upstream. In other words, a Pisces may get drowned in their own negative emotions and their life may take a negative downward spiral (downstream), or, they may tap into their deep well of personal strength and resilience, and swim upstream.
For this Pisces painting, I painted the fish swimming in one forward direction, as a positive interpretation of swimming upstream.
In the past couple of years, I’ve delved into a deep study of astrology.
This was a realm of knowledge that I had previously dismissed, as I thought it to be mere superstition or “conspiracy”. How easy it is to dismiss whatever doesn’t fit into our own personal belief system. Especially nowadays, with so many things politically charged, and attention spans so short.
It seems to be that through a lived experience that runs counter to, or does not actually fit within one’s beliefs, it sparks the thought of “wait a second, that isn’t what I thought to be true, or at least isn’t what others were saying to be true”.
For example, racism is a very energized subject currently. As a kid, I heard my paternal grandfather and uncles make jokes and complaints about black people (my Dad thankfully never participated in this). I never found their jokes funny, and knew that they were egregiously wrong with their beliefs about black people. I enjoyed playing basketball in my driveway with a black friend next door, and my lived experience ran totally counter to what they expressed. As an adult now, I still often play basketball with a diverse group of friends and many times am the only white person.
Another example – when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica from 2006 – 2008, I began to have digestive issues and lost a lot of weight. I intuited that I had a parasite infection. So I saw the nurse, and she said I do not have parasites, and to eat more fruits and vegetables (I was already eating plenty). But, I trusted what she said. She was the official Peace Corps nurse on staff, after all, and who was I to question her? However, when I got back to the U.S. after my service, I still had digestive issues and could not gain any weight. I began to look more pale. So I saw many doctors about this, including Gastroenterologists. I had blood and stool tests done to check for parasites. I even had a colonoscopy done. They all came back negative. So I was given pharmaceutical medications for irritable bowel syndrome. I distinctly remember questioning one of the doctor’s who prescribed me a medication, and his indignant resentment that I, who am not a doctor, had the nerve to question him. I was starting to feel desperate, and looked sickly. No one could help me, it seemed. The medical system that I trusted in and never thought to question, was not working for me. My lived experience at that time was running counter to my beliefs about health and medicine. Thankfully, my mother-in-law recommended that I see a Naturopath who she learned about. As a sort of last resort, I made an appointment. This Naturopath did a simple non-invasive muscle testing and said, yes, I do have parasites, and even pinpointed the specific species of parasite. To most people, her testing would have looked like “hokey pokey”. She gave me a nutritional herbal supplement to take to kill the parasites. So I did. And over the course of the next few weeks, about 30 long tapeworms passed out of me. It was then that I began to question everything that I thought to be true about conventional western medicine (and the inextricably connected system of money we operate in).
Anyways, when I began to read more about astrology a couple of years ago, I found the teachings and interpretations about one’s natal chart to be very accurate with my own life and personality. Then when I looked at other’s natal charts (my wife, kids, etc.), I also found the concepts to be very accurate. While by no means am I an expert, I’ve enjoyed learning more and more about astrology since then.
As an Artist, I am naturally drawn to paint my interests! So I’ve started a series of zodiac sign paintings. With my other art projects going on, it will probably take me at least a year to paint all 12 zodiac signs, but over the course of this time, I’ll post brief articles about each zodiac sign and its corresponding artwork, starting with Pisces tomorrow.