I remember sitting at my desk at work, years ago, talking about needing to move, and a co-worker suggested that I move to Somerville. Good God, I thought. Somerville? Growing up south of Boston, it was inherent that we not venture north of the city. (I did, once or twice, but only briefly.) She said that she thought I would like it there. Really?
But I did start thinking about Somerville. There was a voice tucked neatly in the back of my head that was, apparently, waiting for this opportunity to remind me of the time I came to Somerville Open Studios. At that time, I had stopped painting for many years. Like, twenty. Sure, I would occasionally pick up a graphite pencil and a pad of drawing paper, or I’d break out the dust-covered wooden case of oil paints and run each one under hot water until, slowly, the cap would surrender and turn, revealing vibrant color in its oily gooeyness sliding along the grooves. (I loved the smell of oil paints, and yes – even the solvents. Turpentine, linseed oil… to me, they composed the aroma of creativity.) Then, I would neatly pack my things away again. As a kid, I always wanted to be an artist, but now, as an adult, life got in the way as bills needed to be paid.
Anyway, when I found out about this concept of a community full of artists opening up their studios and homes to the public, I was intrigued. So, you can talk with the artist, and ask him or her about the work? The inspiration? The process? Anything you want? My friends and I hopped on the train and eventually spilled out onto the streets of Somerville, roaming up and down streets, ducking into homes and touring old, lofty buildings full of studios that just reeked of that beautiful aroma of creativity. More than that, I was overtaken with inspiration. Much of this work was amazing. I never knew that I could walk through the door of a random house in any neighborhood and find this level of work. In all media. It’s just raw, unadulterated, and unmediated blasts of creative output all over the city, like neurons firing all over the brain. But then, after dinner, we piled ourselves back onto the train and rode back down to our own homes and our own lives and our own boring jobs.
But now I was looking at apartments and I could live anywhere that I wanted. And so I moved to Somerville. There seemed to be some kind of creative current running through this city which I found myself plugged into. After a while, I started taking classes at the Museum School, again. Stretcher bars were purchased. Canvas was stretched. Boundaries were being pushed and comfort levels were being left in the dust. And I had that sweet aroma of oils, turpentine, and linseed oil in my own home, again.
I found myself in my local café, booking the next available May to hang my paintings as a participant in Somerville Open Studios. Wait – what did I just do? I didn’t even have anything to hang. I started painting, fighting off the recurring fear of making a complete ass of myself by exposing such unrefined talent. But I painted every night, just trying to finish enough work to hang.
May came, I hung my paintings, and my inbox started to ping with the notification of new emails from people asking if I could paint his or her dog. I received stories on my website from people moved by a particular image. My phone would ring and, on the other end, someone would be asking how much this painting was, or that. I’d be at a meeting or party and someone would say “Those dog paintings are yours?”
Wait. What? They’re not terrible? More than that, people want to commission one? And so, I have been painting. And painting. And, a year later, people are still contacting me to ask if I could paint something for them, or if they can buy a specific painting.
So, thank you, Somerville Open Studios.