One Canvas. Many Hands. United with Color.
This year, for the first time, I participated in Verge Center for the Arts' annual Sac Open Studios
tour. When asked by a friend if I was going to be doing a demonstration during Open Studios, I immediately got the idea of creating a community art piece, thinking it would be much
more fun to invite the public to paint with me than to show them how I paint. I get to paint all the time. I wanted people to have an opportunity to experience it for themselves. But WHAT would people paint??? Rewind to just after the election in 2016, when I was moved to do a few art pieces, one of which was a 4x4 foot painting of the Statue of Liberty. I got caught up with life and commissioned work after starting the painting and had to put it aside. Fast forward to this year and the decision to do a community art piece, when my brilliant wife said, "why don't you turn that Statue of Liberty painting into your sketch for the community art piece and title it, What Color Is Your Freedom?" Brilliant! Unfortunately, I couldn't use my existing painting of the Statue of Liberty as it was started in oils, and my intention was to have people work with acrylics (which you can't use on top of oils) since they are easier to work with and dry so much faster. So I picked up another 4x4 foot canvas and started the sketch over, this time in acrylics. I spent a solid two weeks working on the sketch, mapping out shapes in the Statue of Liberty, so that people would have some sort of direction when they showed up to paint. I wasn't sure if people would want to color in the lines, or outside of the lines, or both! So I set it up for both. I poured my heart into the sketch and then I let it go.
On the first day of the two-day open studio, there were people lined up at 10 am, ready to paint! I couldn't believe it. Then, throughout the course of the two days, nearly 150 people showed up to paint. It was incredible to watch the transformation of this incredible art piece. One of the most touching moments was when 5-year-old Carter introduced himself to another 5-year-old boy. I can still hear Carter's sweet, kind voice say, "Hi, I'm Carter! Would you like to paint with me? I'm painting with the color green. What color would you like to paint with?" I was immediately moved to tears and was so inspired by just how easy it can be to be kind to one another. I will forever be touched by Carter and Cooper's instant friendship and collaboration.
The same friend that gave me the extra bit of encouragement that was needed for me to sign up for Sac Open Studios also gave me the idea to do a time-lapse video of the community art piece. Again, my brilliant wife to the rescue. She learned how to use the GoPro to set up the time-lapse. It took us a minute to figure out how we were going to get a good angle on the canvas and the hands that were going to be painting on it. But we did it. And somehow, even with all the people involved, the secured GoPro on a tripod managed to somehow stay in place. Once the weekend was over, and I was able to pick myself up off the floor (I literally melted to the floor with an overwhelm of emotion and joy from the weekend) I spent some more time with the painting, pulling it all together to make everyone's additions shine. The colors I used to complete the painting were selected by those who wanted to participate but weren't able to make it. So I added burnt orange, cobalt blue, sky blue, sea green, lemon yellow, purple, electric blue, buttercream, periwinkle blue, holland blue, cotton candy pink, Jedi black, and cardinal red. The completed painting is bursting from the seams with color, creativity, inspiration, and hope! All it needed was a signature. But, wait! It needed more than just my signature! So I painted the edges black and handwrote the first names of all who signed in for the project on the edges.
Once the painting was finished, I uploaded the time-lapse videos, along with a picture of the final painting, and added some snappy music, did some clipping in iMovie, and then strung the project together. It's likely I watched the video at least 20 times while making it and at least another 20 times once it was finished. And I will likely watch it another 20 times within the next few days. I am just so inspired by how everyone worked together and by how much magic was involved in this entire process.
I will forever be grateful to all who participated on the project and to all my friends and family who volunteered to help during the weekend to make sure this project was not only possible, but successful. I have big dreams for this painting and am still working out the details of what will happen with it next. I would love for it to be on public display for all its artists to see, as well as for the general public, to show that when we come together as a collective, we are one. I would also love to auction off the original painting and have the proceeds go to a cause that embodies the message behind this painting. Togetherness. Community. Positivity. Love. It might take me a little time to figure out what happens next so please stay tuned!
I hope you enjoy the video and are as moved as I was by the power of community.