The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again. – Charles Dickens
Suspicion is painted on a small piece of scrap paper using watercolor pencils. It is inspired by a stain located at the base of a wall of a building in Brooklyn Heights, at the corner of Montague and Clinton.
Of the hundreds of watercolors I have made since my start in early 2020, this piece is the third. With visible pencil marks and multiple spots of paint spilling over the lines, it is far from perfect; and yet, it remains one of my absolute favorites. It’s the warm colors, for starters, but also the unique shape of the hat and the extravagant collar of the coat. Mostly though, it is the questions he inspires. Who is this man? Where is he going? Why has he turned to look over his shoulder? What has raised his suspicion?
As I continue to archive and reflect upon my work, I find myself naturally refering to the majority of the characters in the pieces as if they were me. Not so for the man in Suspicion, nor the one in Homme solitaire that I had painted just the day before. Looking at them now and observing the similarities in their attire, I believe them to be the same person. I believe them to be my long lost imaginary friend, Johnny Colorful.
In “Why Kids Invent Imaginary Friends,” (The Atlantic, July 2019), Allie Volpe explains that imaginary friends are common among first born or only children, and that they help these children learn how to be a friend. As the tenth of eleven children in my family, I had plenty of friends so to speak. But I must have needed a different kind of friend. One who corresponded to a side of me that was more introverted; one with whom I could draw and write poetry and stories. Johnny Colorful was this friend. I loved him so much. And then I forgot all about him.
Johnny Colorful, on the other hand, had not forgotten about me. Indeed, I’d only been painting for a day before he appeared again in Homme solitaire. He has his back to me, and his head and shoulders sink sadly. He is sulking, perhaps, as he has every right to do. I’d abandoned him, afterall. I’d caused him deep pain. In Suspicion, he still has his back turned to me, but only slightly. He looks at me over his shoulder, from the corner of his eye. He is reticent. He is suspicious. Should he forgive me? Should he stay? Could we ever be friends again?
He must have forgiven me; he must have stayed. It would explain the theme of friendship that crops up in many of my early pieces. It would also explain why, at a time in my life when I was feeling most alone and scared and sad, I could possibly have been painting scenes overflowing with playfulness and joy. Thank you, Johnny Colorful. Welcome back.