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Trip to Mexico provides artistic inspiration

As an artist, I view everything around me as a potential work of art. Instead of looking at things as they appear, I try to become a detective and carefully investigate them on a whole different level. I always wonder how they would translate to canvas. What would it take to forever capture a moment in time?

A group of my wife’s high school friends and their spouses gathered last week at a fabulous beach house on the Gulf of Mexico. This gathering has taken place for the past five years.

With each year comes a different set of scenery, each special in its own way. But more than not, we always end up surrounded by water of some sort or another.

Aqua was the color of choice this year. Every window in this spectacular house graciously offered a breathtaking view and the components for a painting. You could hardly turn your head without seeing a masterpiece!

The group we travel with encompasses a wide range of careers. From executives to teachers, doctors to lawyers, entrepreneurs to bankers, a wide variety of fields are covered. One couple travels all the way from Maine to be with us while the others are within a couple of hours of Macon. Setting a week aside to be together is a logistical feat and a wonderful way to reconnect.

I am definitely the only artist represented in the group. Like an alien who just got off of a spaceship, I understand about as much of their worlds as they do mine. A bank executive who is a spouse of one of the classmates paid me a compliment a couple of years ago that has stuck with me like glue. He said, “Mark, being around you has caused me to look at things in a whole different way. Instead of just seeing my surroundings, I now look through them!” By saying that to me, he couldn’t have pleased me more.

The fact is one doesn’t have to look very far to see a masterpiece — whether you are at the beach or not. However, the beach does have a wonderful way of enticing your eyes to take notice. These many images are still swirling around in my mind like the small fish that nibbled at my feet while I was floating in the ocean.

Every day, I rode my bicycle up and down the coast. Like an explorer, I ventured into new and exciting territory each time I rode. I came upon so many creations, both natural and man-made. I tried to photograph as many as I could. However, sometimes I found myself without my camera and had to snap a photo with my mind.

Sea gulls and sandpipers flocked and frolicked around us on the beach almost daily providing us hours of entertainment. Apparently they have learned to recognize the sound a Ziploc filled with snacks makes as it is opened. First comes one and then, before you know it, others arrive as if they have been summoned by the leader. The tiniest crumb thrilled them as much as the original snack had me and I tried to capture their afternoon feeding sessions with a camera. Frozen in mid-flight and bite, I cannot wait to paint them!

I vividly remembered their daily visits from last summer and decided to paint a portrait of one of the sea gulls. Silhouetted against the turquoise ocean and standing on the brilliantly white sand, I was able to capture the gull in all of its glory. I decided to frame the painting and present it to the beach home owners as a gift. I also had a print made for each of the couples who traveled with us to serve as a reminder of our friendship and fabulous time at the beach.

As I look back on the week, I can’t help but smile. A good time was had by all as the former classmates reminisced about days gone by. Each one of them recollected a story and before you knew it, in their own way, a picture was painted. Like your favorite blanket wrapped around you on a cold night, it is comforting to remember the good times from yesterday.

Well, another year has come and gone. It was hard to say goodbye. Debra’s group is already making plans for next year. Who knows what adventures it will bring? Besides bringing back a tan and a suitcase, I also brought back a week full of newly made memories and a mind full of paintings.

Now all I have to do is get my paints out and find some canvases.

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Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions to P.O. Box 4232, Macon GA 31208; fax them to (478) 474-4390 or call (478) 757-6877.