Thursday, January 21, 2010

On Being an Artist

It's an interesting thing, this being an artist...

Yesterday I tutored - a lovely job which I enjoy completely. It's wonderful working with teenagers and trying to help them understand academic material. I also love the one-on-one connection with each of them and feel enriched by each student I teach.

But that's a different world from the one I inhabit when I am at home. I change out of my "nice" clothes and into my paint-splattered jeans and ratty sweatshirt I got in 1987 from Freiburg, Germany. I go into the studio where I am alone either in blessed silence or with whatever noise I choose - music, NPR, my own voice. I stand in front of my current canvas and breathe in the essence of what I am trying to do - honor and evoke the spirit of a multi-dimensional human being with paint, on cloth, supported by wood.

I set to the tasks...

Mix paint, match colors, squeeze tubes. Globs and squirts that morph into smooth skin and flowing hair.

Choose the right brushes - filberts of different sizes and materials - hogs hair for large, crude details; synthetic for smaller areas; sable for the smallest finest smoothing over of surface of skin.

Absorb the photograph, look at a particular section of it, find it on the painting, compare the two to see if I am beginning to capture what I see with the efforts of my self.

I feel satisfied, complete. I feel frustrated, scorn my efforts, re-assure myself this too will pass. I dip into more paint, apply it madly, dash it on, touch the canvas gently, scrub with the heel of my hand, whisper delicately with the tip of my little finger, stand back, gaze, rush forward, splash, apply, wipe out, delineate carefully. All in the course of a moment.

And so it goes. Moment after moment. Entranced by the process - master over it, slave to it, one and the same. Captivated by the woman I'm painting, loving her story, loving her self, loving her beauty, whining about the toes so difficult to paint, the fingers gnarled by time or flowing delicatedly from slender hands or scarred by life or thick with flesh. Joy in the moment, the rush of pure essence, at one with the creation of beauty.

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