The new ‘portrait’ series has begun.
Painting someone is a fascinating experience. It’s similar to experiencing a spectacular landscape.
A panoramic vista can move us deeply. In awe of what we’re seeing through our eyes, we’re often unable to express the conjured emotions because there are so many physical elements involved; the colours, the light or cast shadows. It could be something in the vast, unadulterated rawness, the dappled light of a canopied forest or the beauty of irregular, organic shapes. In the end, we feel this landscape as much as we see it.
As a therapist, I see with my finger tips as much as I sense what’s under them – the subsequent treatment voicing what I find.
As an artist I feel with with my eyes as much as I use them to filter and perceive – the final canvas giving voice to my observations.
In both cases what I feel exceeds that which I see.
In my limited estimation, painting a person is similar to experiencing a breathtaking landscape. There is an initial overwhelm of the combined physical and emotional elements, followed by long moments of observing – sifting through all of the components trying to determine, and then articulate, what it is that moves me so much.
Factoring in person’s personal choices such as clothes, car or homes… are always interesting to me – like clues or pieces of a puzzle – akin to looking at a particular group of trees that are but a portion of the aforementioned landscape.
Before I paint someone, time-permitting, I’ll sit with them, sharing openly and honestly – inhibitions tend to flake away and an authentic self emerges. On occasion these discussions afford a deeper access to an ‘other’ self, perhaps a darker or lighter self; either way, it’s a different self than may otherwise be projected.
Both the artist and therapist in me especially enjoys picking up on the specific language of a gesture or a ‘look’ (looking away in thought or looking back with an answer or a question), or the nuance of a body finally eases in to a more natural, comfortable stance – when the eyes go soft or fingers relax or hips tilt in to their natural posture.
It’s these moments, these nano-seconds, that speak to me more than any exchanged words. These are the moments that excite and fascinate and subsequently inspire me.
Recently it has inspired me to paint people larger than they truly are. Seeing them as big like the exquisite and beguiling landscapes that they are.
My challenge is in mastering the overwhelm and capturing all those elements!
One thing I’m still trying to understand enough to reasonably articulate… This experience of painting a person at life-size or just-larger-than-life-size feels like there’s some kind of risk involved – there’s an adrenaline rush that compels me. I’m still not sure exactly what that risk might be – perhaps that there’s more to scrutinize? Or perhaps a greater vulnerability on the part of both the artist and the subject?
It’s still just a feeling… And not yet a coherent thought.
Once again, I find myself painting myself as the initial experiment – getting a sense of whether or not this will work.
I have jumped in in to this one without finishing the initial experiment (self-portrait), eliminating the opportunity for me to hummm and haaah over whether this project has a validity, to over-intellectualize… basically ‘chickening out’ and staying safe.
And so, waffling between the inertia of ‘staying safe’ and the mobility of inspiration, I continue to paint; to feel with my eyes and to see with my heart… and to speak in paint, brush and canvas.