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Ana Guzman paints seaports, colonial Spanish architecture, musicians and dancers that reflect the colors and energy of her native Havana. Nicknamed the “The M’ARTIST” for her pen-and-ink portraits of MARTA commuters, Guzman had a 35-year career with the IRS and cofounded the Cuban restaurant Coco Loco with her husband, Julio, before becoming a full-time painter in 2018. 

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Looking back on 2020, the singular moment that stands out for me is a very personal one. It is when I said goodbye to my father for the last time. He was 89 years old and passed away peacefully in July. He was quite a man, and I’ll miss him forever.

My dad and I were very close. We used to talk almost every day and shared a special bond. He loved to give me advice about the business side of art and was especially thrilled whenever I sold a painting. A few months before his death, a gallery in Atlanta sold a dozen of my large paintings to a local retirement community. Many of them will be hung in places for long-term-care patients who are losing color acuity because of dementia. The bold colors I use will help those patients. When I called my dad with the news, he got emotional and said he’d never been prouder of me. 

My father was always supportive of anything I did all my life, but when it came to art, he thought of it as a hobby, not a “real” job and certainly not anything that could be taken seriously. It took me a lifetime to convince him otherwise and his approval meant everything.

Saying goodbye to him was the hardest thing I ever did, truly a moment I will always cherish. But being there with my father also strengthened and reaffirmed my desire to continue making art and to follow my passion. So as I grow as an artist, I think of my dad. It helps me paint with more confidence, knowing he is watching, encouraging me and gleaming with pride. My father was the hardest-working man I ever knew. He had a passion for getting things done and the stamina to do them. I live with hope for a better future and vow to honor his legacy forever.

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