Hank Solomon discovers a love of watercolor

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One ordinary day, Hank Solomon received an “elevator pitch” he couldn’t refuse.

On his way to the Vi at Aventura mailroom, he spotted a poster advertising a starter watercolor set for anyone interested in learning to paint.

“It was paper, brushes and some little containers of paint like you get in school as a child,” he said. It was free, after all. Why not take advantage?

But back in his residence, he stashed the kit in a drawer, where it sat for months.

When he finally did try his hand at painting, in a class in The Vi’s art studio — he wasn’t exactly Picasso.

“I didn’t know what I was doing,” Solomon said. “I left kind of disappointed.”

In spite of his disappointment, he did something many wouldn’t: He returned the following week to try again.

And the next week. And the next.

“I got better,” he said. “And suddenly residents were coming up to me and asking questions as I worked.”

As his skills improved, he began to upgrade his supplies, take some online courses and seek out other ways to hone his newfound craft.

Vi at Aventura resident Hank Solomon sits among his art.
Instruction and inspiration

Solomon hops on the treadmill at 7:30 a.m. and does double duty: He watches Painting With Wilson Bickford to learn new painting techniques while he keeps his body moving.

Watching professionals work is one of the best ways to learn, he says.

“Every time I watch it I learn something new,” he said.

He finds inspiration in photos he sees in books and images in online puzzles — including colorful, intricate Mardi Gras masks.

He’s also done paintings based on photos he and his wife took during their many world travels: a mother giraffe and her baby from an African safari; a candid image of a smiling Japanese girl posing in an ornate yellow and red silk kimono.

“They bring back great memories,” he said.

Solomon has started experimenting with different techniques, like adding a bit of sparkle to his ornate masks.

“There’s glitter everywhere,” he said.

“There’s even glitter on the toilet seat,” his wife of 58 years, Janet, interjected. (These days, he embellishes his work back in Vi at Aventura’s art studio.)

Conversation starters on canvas

Her annoyance is good-natured, and Janet always gets a first peek at each of Solomon’s paintings. “I can tell from her facial expression whether she likes it. She’ll always tell me her opinion,” he said.

While Janet’s opinion matters the most to him, Solomon loves any opportunity to talk about his paintings with fellow residents.

Several of his pieces hang on a gallery wall in a common area, and he’s gotten plenty of feedback.

“I love when people tell me they’ve noticed my work,” he said.

But even the paintings unworthy of a gallery display are fulfilling for Solomon: A perfect finished product isn’t the point. “It’s calming and relaxing and absorbing — painting is something you can do instead of just being bored,” he said. “It didn’t cost me anything to try this, and it turned out to be something I loved doing.”