What is ‘Essence’?
I’m finding it a curious thing.
I may be getting in over my head and over-intellectualizing… But if I don’t write it down I won’t be able to get it out of my head!!
As a new artist I find myself at my most free and most creative while I’m (becoming) connected to my subject – unimpeded from the gravity of ‘likeness’, perspective, proportions or skin tones. Simply allowing their body, their errr, something or other, I’m calling it their essence… speak to me. My only job is to listen – deeply and a lot – and then be honest in my interpretation from my ears/eyes/heart to canvas.
I mention honesty only because when my ego takes over and wants what it wants, the painting falls apart, or at least becomes fragmented or and separated from truth/essence. The result is convoluted and difficult to read. I usually throw these out. Or I’ll keep them long enough to bug me and remind me about remaining true to my self as I work.
My latest challenge is with depicting the image of a man – of men. The experiment is that I am looking at a man while searching for and depicting their essence. At least that is what I think I find most interesting. It’s not enough to recreate their likeness.
Perhaps I have not painted enough men to determine the difference between manly-ness and masculinity. Or stopped long enough to understand if that is in fact what I’m looking for in this series.
But, I am looking for something… something to understand/fix/heal?
However, I have stopped long enough to ask myself if it was the clothes? No! I’ve seen women dress in men’s attire and cut their hair in a similar fashion and still look decidedly feminine.
Perhaps I’m looking for their apparent (or appearance of) warrior/protector/provider/virility? (Is that still the job of males the world over? my male role models left me confused about that and a great many things!)
Either way, I gain great satisfaction from capturing man’s strength and fragility – the dichotomy seems more honest. In fact I feel that a man’s ability to expose their vulnerability is a form strength or person/inner power. I find it an admirable quality.
Perhaps an example of seeking essence could be of one of the attached sketches. In this instance I found a model to have the appearance of being more authentic in his underwear than when he was nude.
A person can speak with their posture even their choice of socks or tie. Of course these are interpretations and assumptions on my part. But so far in my painting career, that seems to be the game – using these physical clues along with what I feel, or sense, to reconstruct a greater whole.
And while my drawing skills are improving, which really helps in a portrait, I still find the binding elements to be some unspoken force – a myriad of components, both obvious and hidden, that make a persons core essence.
The best compliment I ever received, at least I found it to be massively encouraging, was “Yes… That’s him! It feels exactly like him! And it does kind of look like him, too.”