In previous blog posts I have written about the amazing experience that I had at the Aerial Arts Retreat in Costa Rica with Maia Adams and Nadine Johnson. While at the retreat, we were lucky enough to have a surprise trapeze workshop run by Costa Rica local Maximus Barnaby. In this blog post I will talk about the workshop, interview Maximus and describe the creative process used to create his portrait.
‘Look to the Sky’ Oil on canvas portrait of Maximus Barnaby on trapeze
The wonderful experience of attending the Aerial Arts Retreat in Costa Rica last May was made even more special by the surprise trapeze workshop that Nadine organised featuring Maximus. Maximus trained at the Circus Centre in San Francisco but had moved to Costa Rica. He currently teaches students circus skills there.
Maximus made the observation during the workshop that it is now unusual for him to be teaching in English. So he had to think more about how to describe the movements in English since, let alone describing them to adults for a change 😉
Photos from our workshop with Maximus
There were students of several different levels in the workshop, from absolute beginner (me) to students who had several years of trapeze experience. Maximus did an excellent job of catering to all of those levels. He taught several levels of tricks that were accessible to beginners and still stretched the experienced students.
Side by side comparison of ‘Look to the Sky’ and the reference photograph of Maximus Barnaby
Q&A with Maximus
what made you decide to try trapeze?
I first came to the trapeze when I was 26 years old. I had never been into fitness; I considered myself a theatre nerd. At 26, I noticed my metabolism was starting to slow down. I examined my life, and realised I was dissatisfied with my exercise (or, more correctly, complete lack of) routine. I realised I needed to make a change, to feel good about myself, and to age in a manner in which I had some control.
I was in San Francisco at the time. I heard about the Circus Center, and it captivated me. I had tried regular gyms, in vane. At the Circus Center, exercise made sense. One can not simply get bored and quit when you’re climbing a rope 8 meters in the air. It is, quite literally, a matter of life or death. Aerial work appealed to me as an exercise routine for its theatrics.
what made you decide to go through training at the circus centre?
I was immediately drawn to working on the vertical rope. It was so simple, so sexy, and hyper-masculine. I started working on the trapeze to build strength needed to train on rope.
has what you like about trapeze changed from when you started to now?
When I started on trapeze, and aerial work in general, I was an adrenaline junkey. I just wanted to do drops. The bigger, the faster, the better. Now, I’m much more into moving in the opposite direction, moving upwards through space, in an obsessively- control, slow-motion (appearing to gracefully defy gravity).
how did you get into teaching trapeze?
I started teaching trapeze when I moved to Costa Rica, 4 years ago. I began teaching as a way to learn Spanish. I soon discovered how amazing it felt to help others overcome their fears, to (not only watch, but to) help grow their self-esteem.
what do you hope your students take away from your classes?
From my classes, I hope the students take away the belief that they can do anything, with discipline and dedication, they can overcome the impossible.
what are the differences between teaching kids compared with teaching adults?
The biggest difference, I find, with teaching children is that they require much more imaginative play in class. I disguise conditioning exercises as games. With adults, I feel a need to present myself in a much more serious manner.
what is your favourite type of venue to perform at?
Currently, my favourite venue to present in is any rural community space, as part of a non-circus, variety show, as the audience has no expectations, and often no previous exposure to trapeze. Here my presence feels much more profoundly impactful.
what do you hope to convey when you perform?
When I perform, I hope that an audience will forget their worries, if only for a moment, and imagine how marvellously different life is for each individual.
what are the different aspects of performing and teaching in San Francisco compared with Costa Rica?
I’ve only taught in Central America (from Guatemala to Panama). I have no reference of teaching in other parts of the world. In Central America, Aerial arts is a very young art form, circus skills are traditionally shared at conferences, yearly campouts where we gather with the vigour of revolutionaries sharing the little information that each one has gained.
Maximus sent me several amazing shots to choose from for his portrait, but I think that this one really captures him. I love the unusual composition. The low angle gives a really cool depth effect on Maximus while he is hanging upside down. His jacket and hat also provide lots of cool shapes for me to work with.
Reference photograph taken by Michael Preston
This was my first ever oil painting and I began painting it at the Introduction to Portraiture in Oil Paint workshop at WOTSO Workspace taught by Julia Townsend. I will describe the workshop in greater detail in an upcoming blog post.
I wanted to keep the colour palette more neutral than I often use as a nod to the black and white photograph. The focus is on the shapes of the jacket, body, hat and trapeze rather than on bright colours.
Progress photos of ‘Look to the Sky’
Initially I had a bit of trouble with the facial features. Specifically the eyes, because the brushes I was using at the workshop were quite large. However, once I got home and could use some of my smaller brushes I was able to get more detail.
Prints of ‘Look to the Sky’ are available in my online store
It was such a pleasure to attend Maximus’ workshop in Costa Rica. I love combining my travel with taking new classes. You can find his classes in Costa Rica at Vol’Air. Maximus is also involved with a social circus program that provides free classes and training for the local children called Circo Caribe.