Faces of Nicaragua: Abigail

Abigail is one of my best friends in Nicaragua. Although she is in her 40’s, we connect on the most basic things: when we share a mango together, when we laugh at the silly things drunk old men say to her, like “You are doing such great work!” and when she responds “well yes, I’m not getting drunk!”.  She is an artisan who worked with the Pro Mujer microfinance organization. Every day I can, I visit her park bench, where she sells piggy banks.

Abigail's vibrant piggy banks. Dario Park, Matagalpa, Nicaragua.
Abigail’s vibrant piggy banks. Dario Park, Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

I took her picture, and immediately was inspired to paint her. I had grown up drawing animals and painted simple architecture.

I had never painted a person before, because of how discouraged I felt drawing people as a child. Dogs’ eyes and noses were a piece of cake, but people’s? Forget about it. 

That fear stayed with me for a while.

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Abigail. Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

I brought some acrylic paints back with me from Boston, and decided to get right to it. I felt vulnerable, because I didn’t know where to start. I had let the fear of failure block me from doing so many things.

Then, something told me to just paint.

I started with the most important part: the eyes. I slowly worked my way around the eyes, adding more and more shading. It was as if something inside of me had been finally dying for me to paint a portrait.

Painting outside provided great lighting.
Painting outdoors provided great lighting.

The portrait itself took about 4 days of on-and-off work, but I really liked how many colors I was able to use to turn a dark picture into a vibrant representation of Abigail. I didn’t even do a pencil sketch before this painting, which is something I’ve had to do in my other portraits. I captured her steady gaze and strong cheekbones. While she is a strong figure, this balances with the daintiness with which she handles the piggy bank. Here is the final product!

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My first acrylic portrait, Abigail. Matagalpa, Nicaragua. April 2015. Art by the author.

The next day, put the painting in a blue folder I bought at a cyber café and walked back down to the park. Sure enough, Abigail sat underneath her umbrella to protect herself from the sun. I showed up with a mischievous smile, and showed her the painting.

“I’m scared! I don’t know what to say!” She said, laughing. This is how most people have reacted when I give them my portraits. They are so taken aback that their reaction is to laugh! For the next three days, I would see the blue folder hanging in a plastic bag next to Abigail’s bench. She said that she would open the folder and show her friends her painting.

I’m grateful that she showed me I could paint portraits, and that this would be the first of many!

When have you ever discovered potential you thought you’d never have?

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