My cousin Anthony is probably the most lovable person I know. Every time I see him I get a bone-crushing hug, but it is so sweet I never ask him to lighten his grip. He sometimes calls me by my sister’s name, but the sentiment is so genuine it feels wrong to correct him. He is one of three cousins that I have with autism- but this hardly defines him. He takes college classes, has a passion for painting, and is the first one to look out for his sister, who has a more severe form of autism than he does. For his 21st birthday last week, nearly 40 of his family members and friends attended a Paint Nite party, and we simply couldn’t have found a better way to celebrate.
Many of you are probably familiar with Paint Nite. Drinks and hors d’oeuvres are served as an artist guides guests step by step through a simple yet lovely painting. The scene Anthony chose was a beach sunset. The ocean, sky and sand were all fairly easy but the clouds and the rowboat flustered a lot of folks.
Aunts, uncles, and cousins joked back and forth about our artistic talent or lack thereof. Rowboats were compared to tribal war masks, waves to caterpillars, clouds to cotton candy. I have never seen more shades of purple in my entire life. The teacher kept telling us to “go back to that light purple”, “go back to the dark purple you mixed ten minutes ago”, or “dip your brush back into that darkish lightish second from last shade of purple”. How do real artists keep so many different shades of purple mixed and ready on their plate at the same time!?
Horrible handwriting and complete lack of artistic talent have both led to more than one embarrassing moment in my life, and as such most of the time I find making art somewhat stressful. I did manage to have fun mixing my purples and puffing my clouds, though I wish I hadn’t tried to add the boat. In the end, the picture I painted is a place I wouldn’t mind going. A dim beach, a solitary boat, gentle water, a setting sun, the sky streaked with different shades of orange, yellow, blue, and purple… it’s true, wanderlust can strike even at Paint Nite. And if you look into the sky at sunset, you could probably find five hundred million (or more) shades of any given color.
Take for example, the sunset above, photographed at the park near my home on the longest day of the year. How many colors can you find in the sky?