I have been recovering from minor eye surgery, something that, for a time, left me with such blurry vision I was not able to do much but look toward the big blobby shapes on the television and ask repeatedly: “Who is that? What is she doing? What did he say?” I am certain this was maddening for my husband and daughter and son-in-law, each of whom kept me company and helped with the ten thousand daily tasks a person discovers they cannot do when their vision is suddenly restricted.
It was maddening for me, as well. I am not one to simply SIT as life swirls and sparkles and spins around me. Yet there I was SITTING SITTING SITTING when rolling into Gilmore Girls Episode 3,294 I decided I would do something/anything to relieve my boredom. From the kitchen I secured a giant jellyroll pan to serve as a lap-desk, then I gathered some big sheets of watercolor paper, my pan of cheap paints and a big fat brush and I set to painting. I didn’t hold much hope for artistic success, but I thought it might be fun to see what would happen when I was forced to create big and loose and without benefit of reasonable eyesight. (Insert cracking up emoji here.) I also knew this situation would delight my friend and art mentor Kevin Smith, who years ago had me paint sans glasses and with a big fat brush in my unruly left hand where I could not micro-manage its every impulse. (!) At that time, this exercise proved to be wildly entertaining and equal parts frustrating and liberating.
MY FIRST POST SURGERY EFFORT was an atrocious abstract. My second effort was another abstract, equally awful. And so I put the paints away and took a long, luscious nap. But a day or two later, the urge to create returned. My vision was slightly better, and while I still could not wear glasses. I decided this time to try my hand at some funky portraits based on Sandi Hester‘s YouTube video: HOW TO DRAW THE HEAD AND FACE- SIMPLIFED. (I love her.) Big paper, big brush, bold colors, I thought—let’s give this thing a whirl.
Now this was the perfect activity for me. The stakes were very low—I had only recently ever attempted to paint anything much in a human form, and so there was no self-imposed oppressive artistic bar to reach. Plus the stated intent was “fun!” and “funky!” and if you are a person with creative endeavors? (which we all should be, you know my sermon)—let me tell you enthusiastically THESE ARE VERY FORGIVING OBJECTIVES. And so I painted, and painted, three or four of these silly things a day, doing my best to keep the studies loose and free even as my eyes improved and I could (and did) add a little more detail.
And I have continued. My process has evolved such that now I often use a photo as a starter, for I find the outcome is better when I begin with a real face for reference. Even so, I can’t seem to make the finished product look much like the original model. Just as it happens when writing a novel or a short story, these characters seem to take on a life of their own, insisting they know who they are from the start and that all they need of me is to put a paintbrush to paper.
I love that. I love the feeling of being open to a life-force that is all around, then giving it form and shape. I love the thought of tapping into the most mysterious, most beautiful energy in the universe.