Leaving my country at the age of 19 was nothing short of a rebirth. Things in Caracas back then were not moving, and there was no future in sight. My school was on a nine-month-long strike. I used to wake up every morning, not knowing where things were going. By “things” I mean both in my personal situation and in my country. There was something really heavy in the air in those days. You could sense that a storm was coming.
In addition, Venezuelan society is very traditional and I was experiencing some friction with that as well. The “accepted” career paths for “boys” were usually to become an engineer or a doctor. But I grew up drawing, creating, playing music. I realized that if I stayed in the country, I was not going to achieve what I wanted to achieve in my life.
A couple of years later, I had an opportunity to go to New York. It hit me at the time when I was finishing a taco near Washington Square, that I wanted to live in a place that was conductive rather than restrictive. I wanted to see the world, to do what I like. I wanted to have this conversation with a receptive audience; because art is a conversation, and I felt that Caracas was not going to listen to what I had to say.
Two years after my Taco epiphany in New York, the opportunity presented itself. I was able to leave my country. The night before my departure, I packed up my guitar, a few clothes and my CD collection. I set up my very first email account ever that evening! My evil plan was that I would go study architecture, but then I was going to do arts and music as soon as it became viable. I had to get serious about my studies, or otherwise I would lose my student Visa.
I will never forget that on the day when I arrived to Madison, on my way to the supermarket, I ended up facing this open field, with railroad tracks that meandered into the horizon. It was the beginning of a great adventure.
After finishing my studies in the US, I decided to move to London. London is a place full of ups and downs – you cry, you laugh, but you never get bored. In 2008, because of the financial crisis, I was made redundant from my company. I decided to reconnect with my true passion. I found myself drawing everyday, everywhere. On the buses, on the streets. I was filling up my sketchbooks with nonsense, images, poetry, dreams, whatever came to me.
Later on I got a new job in a company where they did a competition to raise funds for WWF. I painted this expressionistic gorilla close up with bulging yellow eyes in watercolour, and it was selected and auctioned. At that point, I said to myself, “I can do this! Let’s turn this up to eleven!” I’ve been non-stop since then. I participated in all kinds of competitions, most I lost. Some I got in. I keep going.
When I was a teen, my mum used to tell me, “You are just scared of crossing the line, of giving yourself fully to your artistic pursuit. Unless you do, you will always be standing at the threshold.”
I think she is right. You can become a doctor or an engineer and have an easy comfortable life, but there is a difference between doing a good work and doing a great one, and the difference lies in the passion. What you need to ask yourself is what you really want to do with your time. It is like going on a trip, if you want to go to Edinburgh, it is useless to be in a car going to Bath.
Miguel Galue Piqueras, see Miguel’s portfolio here.