The Daily Rambling Artist - Painting My Path: My So-Called Art Life

The Daily Rambling Artist - Painting My Path: My So-Called Art Life

In my younger years, my artwork bore a really dark edge. The truth is that my youth, along with its happiness, had its share of turbulence, and my art became the canvas for navigating the tumultuous emotions I grappled with.

I had a recent conversation with a fellow artist about working with troubled youth. Almost instinctively, I blurted out that without art, I would certainly have gone down bad paths. This revelation prompted me to revisit the memories of how older adults reacted to my art when I was younger.

Understanding art that is born from the depths of someone's soul can be challenging, but when it involves young people, especially artists, it’s important to make an earnest effort. It brings to mind a memorable scene from the movie "Magnolia," where John C. Reilly's character, a cop, questions a child about a murder. In response, the child starts rapping, leaving Reilly's character perplexed. The child insists that he just revealed the murderer, highlighting the communication gap between adults and youth, as the revelation is lost on the cop.

When faced with something unfamiliar, it's natural for disconnects to emerge. Bridging these disconnects, however, is a potent endeavor. I can't help but remember how adults often encouraged me to smile more when I was young. Looking back, I realize that their well-intentioned advice aimed to normalize me in their world view, but it often lacked empathy and genuine engagement.

What would have truly made me smile was not a command but rather the simple act of someone taking the time to understand me, to connect on a deeper level. It was empathy and authentic engagement that had the power to brighten my world and make me feel truly understood. Unfortunately, that was sparse for me to experience from others back then.

Over time, as I matured and pursued happiness through creative expression, the dark clouds that hovered over my art slowly dissipated. Present day, when I encounter a young person who doesn't smile, the last thing I would suggest is forcing a smile upon them, for fear of making them feel inadequate. Instead, wherever possible, I strive to lend an empathetic ear, to understand their perspective, and to offer, if not support, at least lend importance to their point of view.

-Sergio Santos