Father's Day just another Sunday for '365 Days with Dad' artist Cbabi Bayoc
Millions of American fathers are looking forward to their special day of bad ties, burned toast and extra helpings of love. But the local family man who’s known for depicting black fatherhood in his “365 Days with Dad” series? Not so much.
This Sunday will find Cbabi Bayoc in front of his easel, where he works nearly seven days a week. For one thing, Bayoc’s running behind. For another, he feels like every day is Father’s Day.
He already knows his wife and children, 11, 9 and 7, love him. And he’s sure they made his last Father’s Day noteworthy; he just can’t remember how.
“I have no idea what they did. They might have asked me what I wanted for dinner. The kids might have drawn something,” Bayoc said.
Fuzzy memories of his own father
On his south St. Louis front porch strewn with pair of rollerblades, pieces of a broken easel and a bashed-up laptop in a milk crate, Bayoc reflected on his own father.
In the early 1980s, Clifford Miskell Sr. was stationed in Korea with the Air Force. His wife, son and daughter also lived on the base. One day when Bayoc was 11, he told his father goodbye before heading off to school, not knowing it would be the last time.
He remembers his mother telling him his dad had food poisoning; later there was something about pneumonia. The whole family was flown back to the states, but Bayoc didn’t see his father on the plane. Now, he’s not sure whether his dad died en route, after the landing or even months later. He does recall his mom giving him the news.
“I can remember sucking on a lollipop, feeling weird, and my sister breaking down,” Bayoc said.
Years later, during a car ride, he got a different story.
“I can’t remember how old I was when my mother just slipped it out about how he actually died, and that he was depressed,” Bayoc said.
Bayoc’s still not exactly sure what happened, and he and his mother and sister don’t talk about it. He thinks his father tried to commit suicide by drinking poison that didn’t instantly kill him but caused a fatal pneumonia. An uncle told him that depression had plagued his dad for years and that he may have sought help the day he died.
Bayoc’s memories of his father include motorcycle rides and fishing trips.
“I can feel myself holding onto him on the motorcycle; I felt safe,” Bayoc said. “And I remember getting up early, making sandwiches and going fishing, driving away in the car to Carlyle Lake and coming home when it was dark.”
Now that his oldest child is the same age he was when his father died, Bayoc’s memories of his dad are almost like a dream.
“It’s been 30-odd years. Maybe if I tell someone what I changed my name from — I’m a junior — that brings back memories, but I don’t think of him a lot,” Bayoc said.
Bayoc’s wife Reine noted that her husband’s lack of recollection serves to make him a better dad.
“I think he’s constantly trying to figure out what a father is. I think it’s really important to him that he really does a good job at it,” Reine Bayoc said.
Numbers tell the story
Since Bayoc launched his year of 365 father-child pictures, he’s spent every day painting at home, in the SweetArt bake shop he and his wife own and in Chicago hotel rooms during family trips.
Today is Day 166, a little over two weeks before the year’s halfway mark: Day 183.
Bayoc’s working on Day 128. Do the math.
"I didn’t think this would happen; I thought I was in a good groove and the next thing you know, you blink and it’s like, ‘Oh wow'," Bayoc said.
Taking care of kids with chicken pox, driving forgotten lunches to field trip sites and shopping and managing SweetArt all take him away from the easel. Still, he’s happy to be working from home and, well, to be working.
"I can’t knock it; it’s not like I have to go somewhere to work every day," Bayoc said.
Lightening his load somewhat is the recent addition of quick-study Kansas City Art Institute intern Muriel Fogarty. Back in St. Louis for the summer, Fogarty spends a couple of days a week doing an assortment of tasks: painting the blank canvasses black, filling in some color areas, wiring the backs and helping with shipping.
"I said to her, ‘Put all these boxes together so we can ship stuff out,’ and then I’m sitting there tinkering with something on my computer and I turn around and there’s this stack of boxes, and she says, ‘What’s next?’" Bayoc said.
For Fogarty, the experience has been "really cool."
"His sketching is really energetic and then you see that energy in the finished product. It’s amazing how fast he paints," Fogarty said.
Day 366: crash on the couch
Currently accepting commissions for September, Bayoc thrives on "random people in Schnucks" recognizing his work.
"It’s cool; they’ll say, ‘I just love what you’re doing'," Bayoc said.
If he had to do it all over again, would Bayoc would still promise "365 Days with Dad?"
"Definitely," he said.
But he would do some things differently. He wouldn’t agree to make commissioned paintings coincide with special days — an added stressor when he’s already behind schedule. Something he doesn’t regret are the family distractions interfering with his timetable.
"I’d much rather work on this some days in 2013 than to not go to Chicago when everybody wants to go," Bayoc said.
And after he’s finished? Day 366 — whenever it comes -— will find Bayoc on the couch. "I think I’ll rent some movies and know I can watch them guilt-free," he said.
Check back tomorrow for an interview with the family who got the first painting.