So, I’m still trying to figure out why I am here. That may sound like a funny or odd question to be asking myself. But, it is one that I’ve been struggling with the whole time I’ve been away. I’ve been having bad dreams and nightmares about my boys, hoping they are OK and that all is well. I feel like I want to go back, but I know that I haven’t done what I came here to do…it is just that I don’t know what I am supposed to do.

As I mentioned I met some interesting Taiwanese men yesterday who asked me some poignant, yet illuminating questions. They asked, “You travel a lot, and have been to many countries is this normal for your circle of friends?” The answer was no, I don’t know anyone who has been to as many countries as I have except Maman Nefi if she really was telling the truth…with her it was hard to tell sometimes. They then asked, “Is it your families custom to travel a lot?” Then it dawned upon me, I began traveling for several reasons:

  1. My dad extolled the virtues of traveling. Lately, I’ve realized that so many things that have become a part of me have been because I thought my father would approve. Studying engineering, physics, art, living on sailboat, getting an MFA, being an art teacher, even the way I laugh from an early age were modeled after my father. I know the Freud-ing thing is that we are all in search of our father’s love, but on a subconscious level, I’ve done so many things with that goal in mind, even possibly traveled to Europe.
  2. I had a friend in Middle School and High School named Glen. I think the best way to put it was that I envied everything about Glen. Glen had a nice house, money, beautiful sister (we all had a crush on Alison), we was talented, smart, funny, and good-looking. Glen and I met up later after high school for just an afternoon and he talked about how his travels in Europe were life changing. He mentioned that once he returned from his first trip, he sold all the he had just so he could go back for his second trip. He showed me pictures of him sailing with beautiful women in France, and I again, wanted what he had.
  3. I’ve had my own chances to see the world. I went to Japan on a company trip, and then I got a job in Germany. I had already been to Mexico and Canada, and those experiences were excellent. Living in Germany, I used to take weekend trips to different countries. I had a company car, and I would just head out for a couple days and drive to Amsterdam, Denmark, Poland, Prague, etc. Then, when my mom came, we went to nearly every country on the continent. In three weeks we drove 13,000 kilometers!!! Germany, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria were just some of our travels.
  4. Then, years later when I had come to a major junction in my life and I new that I needed to make some tough choices, I went to Rome. Rome is the birthplace of all art. I needed to recharge my batteries, and that seemed like the place to do it. It was one of the best choices of my life. I decided then and there not to mess around anymore about art but to be serious and to call myself an artist and practice my craft everyday, and not to give in to fear and give up as I had before.
  5. So now, having done nothing but art for the last 5 years since Rome, having gone back to school to get and MFA, having practiced, and having become as master of the craft of painting (perhaps not a master painter yet, but I have mastered the tools) what is next? I was a novice in Italy, I became a journeyman when I entered my MFA program, and now I desire to be a master. I think that is the best way to put it.
  6. If Rome is where art was born and grew up, then France is where art reached its maturity. The pinnacle of painting technique was the Academy of the 19th century and the person that so adroitly exemplifies that mastery is Bouguereau. Delaroche and Gerome are in the same tier, but Bouguereau is easier to measure because his oeuvre is easier to follow.

So that is why I find myself here in La Rochelle the birthplace of Bouguereau. I guess on a sub-conscious level, I want to paint as well as he did, and if by extension I visit the places that he began his climb to greatness, I too (by osmosis perhaps) will learn some of the same lessons that he learned along the way. Rome was about becoming a painter; France is about becoming a better painter.

So much of who I am and what I have done up to this point has been following in others shadows, in others footprints. Now, I realize I am seeking yet another persons foot prints to follow. I really realized today, I need to find out what Neal wants and likes. It is not about chasing my father’s approbation or approval, the envy for a former friend, nor is about “Seeing the Sights” of Paris and climbing the Eiffel Tower, not what my mentors thought was important, the Academy of Art, or even my master’s committee. It isn’t about Bouguereau, although seeing his paintings today marks some of the highlights of this trip so far. If I’m lucky I’ve got 40 years left. What do I want to do art about? I’ve spent some of the last 30 years chasing what others thought was important. Now I need to find out what is important to me.

Neal likes…??? Neal wants to do art about????

These are the questions that I need to solve on this trip.