V! From A to Z (Self-Portrait)

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This painting is like seasons 1-6 from Sex and the City for me. But more like Who Am I and the City. It’s the first installment in a season of paintings I’ve named “XYZ” – let’s start there.

Up until I met my first boyfriend, I really truly believed I was a lesbian and I was devastated by that. I grew up Catholic, went to a Catholic/private/all girl school in El Salvador, lived in a third world country, had family that was very devoted to God, nuns would yell at me daily for lesser “sins”, I was generally insecure and desperate for approval. It was just not an ideal situation. Growing up Catholic made you feel pretty embarrassed for being who I was, whether that was being irreverent, a little different or not straight. It tortured me for a long time, and even when I found a boyfriend I wondered if I was doing it for the approval. People who I get close to sometimes ask me that because of how much sad shame those memories bring me when talking about it – for denying myself to be myself. It would make sense that I wanted the easy way out.

Time came to move to the US. At first I felt relief: that I would leave behind my shame and maybe have an opportunity to start over in a whole new world (at this point I feel like I still believed you had to exit the stratosphere to reach any place outside of El Salvador). But then, it made me sad that I would leave behind this part of me that felt the truest to who I was. I had girls that would venture with me in this confusing time and it would be confidential between us. I was so afraid that I wouldn’t find someone who was just as ashamed of it as I was that they would be with me but still keep quiet. What a weird place to be at when you’re 12 years old.

Of course, I wasn’t even a teen, I shouldn’t have even had my head stuck on dating anyone, regardless of gender. But I was a curious kid who wanted nothing more. I watched a lot of Caroline in the City back then, and I had developed a thing for feminine white boys. Maybe I just wasn’t into Latino boys? I didn’t know but this white boy was cute and I was rampant on having a cute “My Girl” situation contrived into my life story.

Probably one of the most embarrassing moments of my life happened with this first boy crush (didn’t help the “maybe I’m straight” situation). I didn’t have a lot of friends but I had a lot of bullies. I made one true friend in 7th grade, I’m pretty sure her name was Esther, which is weird cause she’s the queen right after my namesake Vashti is murdered. I told her I had a crush on this kid, she told him, he said he wanted to see who I was, he came to see who I was, he saw who I was… he ran away without saying a word. He was a cold motherfucker.

It hurt… a lot.

He ended up dating this girl who was also blonde, tall, blue-eyed and amazing at sports. Girl could not have been a greater antithesis of this Salvadoran girl; although I was really good at track in ES. Insecurity ravaged me like GoT’s wildfire and like wildfire, my rage was green like envy. That didn’t really get any better ’till my Sophomore year of high school. After eating lunch in the bathroom by myself (to avoid bullies), I met a girl who changed everything.  She was really the first person to truly love me here, and serendipitously, she taught me how to love. We connected. She was drawn to me in a way I couldn’t really fathom so I was very weary of her desire to be around me.

She pretty much intimidated me. A polar opposite of me. She was so aggressive about love. Her relationships were tumultuous to say the least but there was this captivating novelty about that. She loved in a very intense, extreme way and I wanted to be more like that.

And that’s the girl that represents the X in XYZ.

She was the reason why I started dating the man that I ended up marrying. He is Y.

I wasn’t a good wife, and he wasn’t ready to be a husband. We were 18, we were in love, we were babies. His dad insisted he ditch the wedding 1 hour before it was supposed to happen in the back room of my parent’s house. My brother married us then we took my parent’s car, which I still drive, up to Big Bear Lake. My father walked me down the aisle like I always wanted to. Maybe that was life giving me something it knew I wouldn’t have had if I took too long to find a husband. Thank you, life.

I’m 22, again, I’m also confused about my identity for the first time since I was 15. Things exploded… and just like the first time, I ran away to Spain to study abroad for 3 months.

Then, my dad died. Nothing else mattered. My marriage crumbled, I stopped talking to all my friends (couldn’t be around people with dads), and I just fell apart as a person. Life was hard. I couldn’t deal with being in love anymore. I just wanted to deal with my horrible pain.

I had already planned to start school at UCSD when I came back. The show must go on, right? It did even though it wasn’t easy. I was mourning a father and a marriage. But, underneath all that, I’m still V – the girl who hopelessly wants to be in love and be with the one that’s meant to be with her.

And that’s when I got to Z. 

Listen up got my heart broken | I never knew it could be this fun

Wild Belle

This painting is best summarized by this song on the album, “The One That Got Away”.

This whole thing started after the Z and me broke up. While I was in the car, on my way to a job I hated with all my being,  among the songs I would listen to everyday on my way there and back, was “Y Control” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I was singing pretty angrily, “I wish I could buy back the woman you stole”. That line resonated with me as I was heartbroken, defeated, alone, nothing to show for nothing and getting older with no clear direction of who I was or what I wanted. The thought that I wasted all this time getting nowhere made me regretful of my actions, or maybe it was their actions? I didn’t even have any real resentment towards any of them, I just didn’t want to be at the spot where I found myself: feeling like I had made none of the choices that led me to this moment with a clear head. A lost loser.

Due to some unfortunate events that will be tackled with some Alanis Morisette songs, I felt like maybe I deserved this pain cause I was a bad person. Maybe I am the bad guy, maybe in this painting about “The Less I Know the Better” by Tame Impala, I’m Trevor. Should I just do a massive painting inspired by “Criminal” by Fiona Apple? Do I have no real reason to be upset at any of this?

I love the sub-reddit, /r/AmItheAsshole. I think if people heard this story, they would say No Assholes Here. That’s the conclusion I came to. Bunch of very young kids trying to do their best by trial and error. I think there were many casualties along the way of realizing this, many unnecessary mistakes, blackout nights, crying ’till your eyes just want to rest, wishing you were someone else…. basically…

I found better days
I had to hit the rocks
Before I started riding waves

Wild Belle

Paint! Portrait of Doubt

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Jack of all trades, master of procrastination

It’s a great description for who I am. I’m absolutely not a master of any of the things I do because I put off doing them as often as I can. I’m afraid of trying cause when you don’t try you can’t fail, you just don’t do and you’re fine. Apathetic in limbo, devoid of confidence. I end up feeling pretty terrible about myself thus making me more skeptical to try again and making it a disgusting cycle of self-hatred and creating nothing.

The root of that as with anything in my life is “doubt”. I know that I have the skills, somewhere in there, to complete any project that I want to. No, it won’t look like a Picasso, but I can do it. It’s this feeling that I expect all my work to be a life changing, groundbreaking masterpiece. But… you cannot reach that level of skill without doing it consistently every single day. I doubt my ability to grow, to really accomplish my dreams. I convince myself that they’re ridiculous, to follow something more conventional; why waste time with something that makes me feel worse about myself when I can live fine without it?

But I can’t live without it. 

Weirdly, I feel the same way about the world right now: helpless, insignificant, incapable of being a part of the change. Much like with my painting, I want it to be easy or at least easier than it is. But it is what it is, this is who I am and this is the state of the world. I want my skills to be way better than they are but if I don’t try, if I keep doubting myself, letting the positive parts of me live in the darkness, in the hole with all my self-pity getting more and more discouraged daily, letting my negativity/insecurities win all the time, then I’m going to be at this same level my entire life. Wouldn’t getting a little better in a month be worth pushing myself? Wouldn’t casting my vote and voicing my beliefs at protests help at least in a minute way?

“Portrait of Doubt” is the name of this painting. It is inspired by the song Run Away, MØ.

Trust me, baby star

These things you know in your heart

You go, you go and you’ll lose

You lose so much, but keep up

Trust me, baby star

These things you know

Don’t you ever go cheat on your heart

Ooh, if it leaves you

You’ll be lost in the dark

My workspace.

I highly recommend having an area, however small, for your art and hobbies. Something that I never thought was holding me back from being more creative is that I always had to LOCATE my tools. Giving yourself an extra step when you’re already super annoying about just getting to work is less than ideal. Make it as easy as possible for yourself to sit in a space you feel comfortable, then… just do it. Sit there for hours, even if just scribbling, writing your feelings, copying other artist’s work, doing an easy exercise to get your started, etc.

Start small, build on that. Don’t expect the moon and the stars right away. Remember you used to be this tiny little embryo and it took years for you to grow. If Mother Nature needs time, so do you.

Oh, my darlin', someday I will run away, run away / And realize that they were always wrong

When I Was Young EP