To be remembered, you have to make your mark on the organization; leave something behind. When I first arrived, Langdon, a wonderful previous volunteer, had plans to paint a mural on the office wall. I was excited; she had only a couple left and was unsure if that would be enough. We decided to make it happen anyways, and I promised to take over after she was gone.
Langdon designed the scene: a long train of hikers wandering from the city of Leon (on their left) into the mountains beyond. She projected the image onto the wall of the office facing the street, behind where the front desk usually is. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in the door. Langdon had designed the mural and therefore was the woman in charge, so we collaborated and I shared my ideas but made an effort to keep the picture true to her original vision.
It’s a lot harder than I expected to work with another artist with a completely different style. I realized that I had never truly done that before. The experience taught me that I have a more distinct style than I thought; no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t completely break out of it and emulate Langdon’s techniques. I thought I was a much more flexible artist; master of many styles. Not so much. Drawing only from our brief period of artistic collaboration, I assume that Langdon prefers earthy tones- tans, subtle blues, etc., and a lot of blending, while I used more contrast, sharper lines, and brighter colors. The contrast in styles made it apparent that I do have a distinct artistic style, and I actually like it. I’m starting to feel more of an ownership over my art; no two artists are the same.
Langdon started out painting the town and hikers, so she let me tackle the mountains. YES! Since I left the beautiful wonderful amazing and MOUNTAINOUS Northwest into the vapid flatness which is the Midwest, my mind has been consumed by mountains. I think about mountains. I dream about mountains. I paint mountains, draw mountains. I read books exclusively about mountains. I research mountains in my free time. I climb small mountains almost every day, and wish they were a little bit bigger.
So the mural’s mountains are mine. Otherwise, I have added only unsubstantial details to the picture. It’s been a fun challenge. Working together was stressful at times because we constantly tried to blend our styles together somehow- I’m afraid that we ended up blunting each other’s creativity or blocking each other from expressing ourselves fully. I know that she tried to brighten her pieces and add more detail, and I tried to add in grays and blend my colors.
Langdon officially passed the torch to me after she left. She went out with a bang; we put on a wild despedida. We bought her a piñata in the form of a bright pink poodle and filled it with crazy miscellaneous items- marshmallows, feathers, puffballs, condoms, cherry tomatoes, mini peppers, whistles, tang, small balloons, mini bags of banana chips, etc. The piñata was at once dubbed “Miss Piggy.” No one seemed to understand what kid of animal it was although it was so obviously a poodle. Once it had been thoroughly bashed and mutilated, we were sorting through the random assortment of prizes and Raf goes “we should burn it.” Once someone suggests an arsonous activity it’s hard not to get that maliciously eager glow in your eyes and jump on the bandwagon. Seconds later, we were all gazing in awe at an floating flame ball, spitting sparks and rotating in fiery splendor. Goodbye Miss Piggy! We kept her head, and put it on the remainder of the broomstick that had broken sometime in the process of destroying the piñata.
The night was young and we had to go out, but how to make it a night like no other...? Some one had the brilliant idea to go to The Pile, a huge stash of miscellaneous and silly clothes past volunteers have left behind (ranging from plain underwear to darth vador helmets and stiletto heels). We wrote our names on slips of paper and took turns pulling them from a hat. To my excitement I got Janet- I dressed her in a huge, colorful striped and sequined t shirt. She looked lie a cross between a tourist and an inmate out of the 80’s; I got lucky and only had to wear a fireman’s hat. Raf on the other hand was presented a heavy red velvet dress- full length long-sleeved, and high necked. I was shocked when he actually wore it to Camaleon.
With the mural suddenly in my hands alone, I was nervous. I didn’t know how to continue- it’s one thing to touch up your own work; trying to touch up some one else’s is a whole different animal. In order to maintain some cohesiveness and flow, you have to continue with the same methods and style. I’m not capable of painting just like Langdon. I’m done with the mountains now, and have a bit more to go, but I think it will work out just fine. Like everything else in Quetzaltrekkers, our mural is a shared effort and constantly morphing- each volunteer leaving a small legacy, and no one pretending it will be permanant.