Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Good art day as the holidays finally fade away

Well, I guess the holidays are finally over, and life is starting to resume its normal rhythm.  In the past, the holidays have consisted of the time I had off from school, recovering from the rush and serious hard work of tutoring up to 10 hours/day to prepare students for exams.  It seemed like the vacation was barely over before I was back at work tutoring again.  This year, in strong contrast, I am no longer tutoring.  For the first time in my life since I was two and a half years old, I'm not on a schedule which is tied to the academic year.  It's a very strange feeling.  Normally I get cues that it's time to put up a tree when I see one in the hall at school.  I talk to colleagues about their holiday plans.  I go to the chapel service at school to hear the choir sing carols, or my kids are in school and I hear their PTA choir performance with the carefully selected diversity of tunes including Hanukkah and Kwanza.  This year we didn't put up a tree.  The kids traveled with their Dad.  Chris and I went to the beach where it's possible to miss the holidays completely.  We bought a few presents but not many.  We focused on the sacred aspects of the season, attuning ourselves to the goodness surrounding us and the beauty in our lives.

Shifting my focus from one of ritualistic consumerism to sacred awareness made me very aware of the way the world, well, at least the US, almost stops for about a month.  There are holiday parties, there's the rush of buying the right presents, cleaning the house to prepare for company, getting ready for family, stress, stress, stress.  I would email people to set up an appointment or would have ones set up for photographing a model or whatever and people would cancel/not be able to set one up until after the holidays - too much going on.  I felt like a detached observer and was surprised to see all the hustle and bustle and what a black hole was created around these celebrations - Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and to a lesser extent Hanukkah and Kwanza.  I don't really want to take part in all that, but it isn't really possible to continue interacting with others until after the rush is over.

This week it feels like things are starting to get back to normal.  I started teaching a Beginning Drawing Class at Crossroads Art Center.  It felt great to get into the classroom and to teach again.  It's the first time I've taught Beginning Drawing, and it's great!  8 students, 5 of whom are raw beginners and a bit worried about messing up.  The way I teach there's no way to screw up - it's all about learning to see in a different way and teaching ones hand to translate that onto paper.  I look forward to the next 5 weeks of class!

After class, I returned home to tutor - yes, tutor!  One of my former students asked me to help her prepare for the SAT for a month.  Since I am crazy about her and enjoy her company so much, I said yes.  It was great to see her.  Then I prepared to teach a teenager art.  Unfortunately he got caught at the doctor's office so he wasn't able to make it - I found out when he was over an hour late.  That's part of tutoring which I don't miss at all!  Once I started getting the sense he might not show up, I decided to start on a new canvas.  I'd drawn the image on a month or more ago, but I put it aside to work on some other pieces in the meantime.  This afternoon I received the write-up the model wrote for me about her experience.  She inspired the heck out of me and made me excited to work on her piece.  Here's part of what she wrote:

I had been ashamed of my body for so many years, this just added to my disappointment. Then a friend posted something on Facebook, about a talented artist in Richmond, who paints female nudes, and shows us that we are all beautiful in our imperfection, we don't need a "perfect body" to be gorgeous! I was hooked! It was the awakening I needed-I no longer had to feel ashamed of my body...and something shot through me like a jolt!! I wanted to be a model! I never in my entire life would have believed that I would undress in front of anyone, and give her permission to paint my image, and show it in shows if she wished, but that's exactly what I did! What a freeing experience! Susan helped me to accept myself for who I am, and to love the body God gave me, and to accept both the imperfections He gave me, and the ones I created.
I am free-perhaps for the very first time-and it is an amazing feeling! Thank you, Susan, for helping me learn to love myself. It hasn't been easy to stop being self-critical, but I am getting better every day, because I now know-that I am indeed beautiful!
 After reading that, I'm sure you can understand my inspiration!  

 Here's the progress so far.  This model was bold enough to have me photograph her outside on one of the beautiful, absurdly warm days of Fall.  I haven't painted such an elaborate background before, with an abundance of nature all around.  It was fun trying to figure out how to create the illusion of leaves and branches, etc. without driving myself nuts painting each and every leaf. 

Tomorrow I hope to spend time cleaning up the background then moving on to her beautiful body.  It feels good to be back at the canvas, back in the classroom, back to the lovely rhythms of my life as an artist.

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