TENAFLY, N.J. — Max Horbund of Tenafly woke up hooked to a ventilator machine.
The "minor surgery" he had gone in for thirty years ago had almost killed him. Unable to talk or breath on his own, he scribbled a note to his wife.
"When I get out of this, I'm going to quit my job and paint."
After leaving the hospital a few days later, Horbund left his corporate job of almost two decades and began painting full-time. He hasn't worked any other job since.
By selling paintings and teaching classes he can support his modest needs and his need to paint.
"I believe everybody has an inner artist that can be reached," he said. "It's a question of if they want to."
It took a while for him to want to embrace his inner artist.
When he was young, Horbund took a Navy placement test that showed he'd be a qualified scientist or engineer. The Navy agreed to pay for his schooling but required he work for the organization after graduation.
He attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for Engineering and Science but frequently found himself wandering to the Students Art League in Manhattan.
After graduation, Horbund fulfilled his promise and went to work for the Navy. His creative outlet became crafting sandals, belts and bags. His work became well-known after publicity coverage in Men's Wear, Time and Newsweek.
He continued working in the corporate world, while painting at night, until the fateful surgery dawned a new perspective.
"I realized if I had died, I would’ve died wanting to do what I wanted to do my whole life."
His success came quickly. Within three months of full-time painting, his work was displayed in the Grand Central Gallery.
Horbund described his style as "semi-abstracted." It depicts something tangible but not exactly. He said art is something that invokes an emotion.
"It’s the mastery of the metaphor that makes it incredibly beautiful. It invokes something so much more than the reality. It’s a super reality. It might be mine but that’s what I’m expressing," Horbund said.
Despite his success, Horbund described a melancholy mood after his achievement.
"At that point my mother and father had died. I had no one to tell except [my wife]," Horbund said. "Apparently I had waited a little too long. You know, you never know if what you’re doing is ok."
But he never looked back.
These days Horbund teaches for the Art Center of Northern Jersey in New Milford or occasionally demonstrates his method for the Fort Lee Artists Guild. His work has been displayed in galleries in Englewood, New York City and Japan.
Looking to the future, Horbund is thinking of opening his own gallery in the New Jersey area.
"New York feels like such a commercial area. New Jersey actually supports their artists. People in New Jersey buy original oil paintings," Horbund said.