If you are an artist, you probably know what I mean. Sometimes you see something that you just know you have to paint. It may be something entirely different from what you usually do. But you know you have to paint it, and if you do, it will turn out to be worth doing.
Something like that happened to me this spring. I usually paint landscapes or an occasional still life. But when I returned home about noon one day, I looked across the street and saw the men who had been doing some work on my neighbor’s foundation taking their lunch break in the open garage. I don’t know what it was about them, maybe the color of their hoodies and the cans they were sitting on or the way they were grouped together, but I knew I had to paint them.
I would need photographs, of course, but how was I to do that? I had heard them speaking Spanish to each other. A camera they could see might alarm them. I tried to put the idea out of my mind, But I knew I had to paint them. Later I figured out how to photograph them discretely. My garage was directly across from my neighbor’s. What if I took a photo through the back window of my car when I was parked in my open garage? I tried sitting in the back seat of my car and the view looked good. Now if only they would have their lunch break in the same way the next day.
And they did. The next day at noon there they were and I took my photos. The above painting was the result. I call it “Taking a Break. I was reminded of the paintings of the French Impressionist, Degas. Usually he painted ballet dancers or horse racing scenes. But he also painted women ironing. He saw something in these anonymous workers too. Maybe he had his own lightbulb moment.