Friday, January 24, 2014

Number 19 "Keepin'it Real!

Number 19 done, as I look at this monstrosity I call Me, I wonder all the why's of art, why we do it? why we care?  why we hope? why we try?  why we win, or lose? Why?  For obvious reasons, this was a failed effort in all ways, but I was determined to post the effort no matter what.  I was not sure what I'd paint before I made it to the studio, had no plan in place, knew my energy was drained of San Francisco streets, now onto something different.  I thought "people", sure why not.  I've not given a portrait a go yet during the challenge, try that one out.  I decided to just paint me, no giant emotional risk of posting a painted portrait that will more likely end up awful if it's me, good idea.  I got a mirror and set it up by the easel.  I had to turn off the light I use to see my easel and palette so I could see the light hitting the model.  All in all, I knew darn well this was not going to be a success story.  I looked tired and not made up, my hair slicked back, not a day where I was primped and pretty,  The lighting was poor, both for me and on me.  The mirror was cheap, Heaven forbid I look that bad in real life.  But then, where can I get a true image of how I look?  Right.  So just paint, and I did.

Well, I was hearkened back to days gone by where I claimed I would take on portraiture seriously.  I don't mean professionally,  I mean serious enough to do the work at home.  I have taken portrait workshops and classed of many over the years, enough to give me enough technique knowledge to use at home and just DO IT!  But it's hard, so I tend to stay with stuff I have success with.  Difficult things that challenge me get put on hold, I paint the subject matter that sells me, not the ones that strip my ego naked and make me face reality. The ego is a mysterious thing, today I've had a deeper understanding of all the many sides I have to my ego.  I know if I wasn't in the 30/30 Challenge, this painting would not have hit the public waves of Facebook.  This painting had no moments of beauty, not even before it got over loaded with paint, notta one moment of "nice", I knew that all along.  Around 2am I gave in and found my heavy duty paint rags and wiped it off.  Actually, thinking back, it looked pretty good after that, a fuzzy image of a human soul peering out through fog.  But the momentum of my creative workout was still in progress, so I kept going.

I will admit it, I felt too protective of my image to post this thing.  I looked around the room and wondered if I had time to start something else to post for Number 19, this was around 2:30am.  I was exhausted, but had sense of enough to realize how ridiculous that would be, better to just not post at all.  Then, feeling the senses of "giving up" the mission after spending those hours on it for nothing, I decided to give up the mission of having a "pleasing" image to show, go for bad, go for vulgar, I'm an artist afterall, turn the muddy blur into something with some strength, so I took some paint and hit it hard with some final strokes and said.. THERE!!  self portrait, Number 19 is done!

By the time I had it posted onto Facebook, my tired self was doubled over with laughing.  I was not nearly as horrified as my friends seem to be that left comments on it.  I found it funny.  It's kind of them to come to my ego's rescue to try and lift me out of some delusion of thinking this is a good version of how I look, I appreciate the thoughts.  But then again, it has me pondering how we view ourselves, we never really do see how we really look.  A mirror is a warped reflection, I recall moments of standing at a mirror with someone and noticing how different their reflection looks compared to looking at them directly.  Photos the same, a hit and miss if we like it, and we base that on something we are uncertain of, we don't ever see ourselves in real life, not ever.  So how do we decide where we look our best?  I guess by what others say.  We learn over all these years of living when others receive us well, and when they don't, and when they don't we try to solve the reason why.  When someone asks us if we are well, and tell us we look tired, that can be a direct indication we don't look so good.  When someone tells us we look great, we assume we did a good job with the make up, or we just look good, it's confirmed, right.

What does any of this matter with art?  It's all part of this fragile egg we live in, the delicate ego has a shell that shatters easily.  Age does toughen it up, sad as that is, I guess I'm glad for age now.  But wouldn't it be nice if when we are new at this, our egos were tougher.  I recall tears over being told my work "had potential or showed promise".  I remember the ache in my gut over rejections into shows and clubs.  The first time I ever entered an art club, a very stodgy local club that exhibited their paintings at Hillside Mall, I was rejected.  I will never ever forget that experience.  I dropped off paintings, filled with excitement and hope, God only knows why, I was not even 30 years old, they were all over 70.  Anyways, I dropped off my paintings, picked them up a few days later and the elderly lady told me someone would call me. I went home and waited, busting with nerves and fear, waited and waited, days went by, I still waited.  Finally, I got the nerve to call the woman at that house I left them at.  She took some time to try and remember who I was, finally she said.. "Oh...oh right, your's were the ones of canoes on water, trees and mountains, right? I said yes.  " Oh, right, I remember now, yeah...we didn't like them, you made the water way too green."  God as my witness, those were her words.  I will never forget that as long as I live. I went and egged her house that night...just kidding, I shoulda though. But I cried, I tried not to, but my artist ego was less than fragile, it hadn't even formed a thin skin yet,

Ah, well, we do survive.  And we learn.  This challenge is about learning, what I know, what I am taking time to recall, what I revisit, how far I have come, how much better I can be.  I really do admire those who paint people well, do it for a living.  Just look at the emotions that come from friends who feel offended for me. It's extremely challenging to paint people and have them pleased with it.  I have a hard time with painting specific trees for people, can't imagine their faces.  I admire the portrait painters so much.  I know I would feel intense pride if I could paint a portrait "well" on my own, without the instructor coming and fixing it for me, that is a goal I need to focus on.  I know, I know, I say it, but then...I cowardly paint what makes me look good.

So onto Number 20, and it won't be a self portrait, that's for sure.  My next self portrait will show improvement and potential, and will not be done in one day, that's a promise!


  1. I loved reading what you wrote. It is the truth for so many artists. As we age we I think our egos are just as fragile as when we were young, but we have perfected our masks.
    Although your self portrait has flaws in your opinion there is a lot right with it also. Most importantly you did it and are brave enough to show the world.