* Quickly she grabs the faded leather bag containing her supplies and peers in: a small assortment of natural brushes, tubes of paint, a color palette, a lightweight painting smock, a purse-sized package of paper towelettes and two small clear jars to fill with water when on-site. She speaks in low tones to two identical cocker spaniels, Suds and Spuds, lets them outside and then back in, and feeds them their much-anticipated evening meal.
Angeline glances at the round stainless steel clock above her kitchen table. She’s late! She reaches for her loosely fitting linen jacket to later throw on over her calf-length, bold floral sundress when night falls. Inwardly cross, she gets in her car and makes her way across town, blaming the unscheduled end-of-the-day office meeting for running late. But her frustration soon dissipates and her face brightens as she explodes into the expansive studio.
“Angeline!” The cries come from every corner of the room, all eyes focusing on the tall, willowy woman who has just breezed in. Angeline removes her sunglasses, revealing dark eyes that flash intense passion, pushes unruly black curls away from her round face, and holds her arms out wide. She stops short for one brief moment. “Hey, you!” she returns enthusiastically, striding forward to embrace every member of her tight-knit painting clique. “You know I love y’all more than life itself!” she says, bestowing her words effusively on anyone and everyone within earshot.
An outsider might recoil at Angeline’s noisily vivacious personality, but every person here adores her. While the group has no designated leader—meeting every week simply for the joy of painting and to share new projects, techniques and insights—Angeline is the one who brings elevated motivation, activity and decibel levels. She is central. Key.
Tonight the music reflects the Latin American group members’ preference. Salsa, samba and merengue underscore their passion as the eleven unpack painting equipment, working with the same invisible drive embodied in the music. Each artist is positioned at one of two butcher-block tables, bending over paper, paints and palettes. Effortlessly they create, moving to inspect one another’s evolving work and commenting on color, texture and motif. Dance, music and style are interwoven like various mediums in a mesmerizing masterpiece.
There is nothing that brings Angeline more joy than art. Nothing. Anywhere.
She loves her demanding career as a securities lawyer. She is unselfishly devoted to her three much younger half-sisters, all of them essentially deserted when her stepfather suddenly moved her mother and himself to a remote commune in Ecuador. She dotes endlessly on the spaniel duo, who bring laughter at all hours, day or night. But art—all types of art, really, but specifically the never-ending possibilities of watercolor—delight her heart. Here she can express her passion for beauty, movement and brilliance. Simply sharing the same space with other equally ignited creatives brings peace to her soul.
“You’re quite the little artist,” the oldest among them breathes at Angeline’s neck. Carlos could be her grandfather, has painted since he was eight, and is undeniably her favorite of all. She tilts her head to one side, straightens and surveys her unfolding splashes of color. She reciprocates Carlos’ warmth with a genuine, “Thank you, love!”
“…quite the little artist.” The words swirl in Angeline’s mind as she turns back to her work. Deep within, her stomach knots.
Continued in Behind Each Face*
*Because this story appears in the recently published book, it is subject to restrictions as to where it can be posted in its entirety.
* revised and edited, 2015
© Julia Penner-Zook, Behind Each Face