To create art, I inhabit my subject.
I’m not sure about other artists, but for me, the act of painting is pure empathy. When I paint landscapes, I become the ocean, feeling the wind in my hair, the water receding from my tides. When I paint succulents, I feel the pain of the spines erupting from my skin. And when I paint people, I try my best to inhabit them, to be Clarence Thomas or RBG, Joe Biden or my Mother-in-Law, my mom and my brother.
So I did this experiment.
I decided to go back in time and paint myself as a young boy, to feel what it was like to be young again. I looked through old photos and got a sense of my subject. I thought and thought about those times. And then I found this photo of me and my brother when I was 3 and he was 4, sitting criss-cross on a balcony in my Grandmother’s insane upper west side apartment.
And it worked.
For the two weeks I painted this, I traveled through time. I remembered what it felt like to be shorter than a countertop, to be flexible like a willow tree, to have no elbows to speak of. I remembered the relationship I had with my brother, the excitement of visiting my Grandmother and being on a porch 100 feet in the air, the sun still shining bright up there.
Memory is such a slippery thing. We feel that everything is consecutive, that time moves in one direction. But art transcends time.
If you’re an artist, I highly recommend this exercise. Paint yourself as a child. Look back, for that’s the best way to move forward.
The original is 16" x 20" gouache on watercolor paper.