Friday, December 16, 2011

The Eyes I Hide Behind

We never see ourselves as others see us. I recall when I was 12 years old picking beans with a group of kids for a local farmer. During our lunch break, a teenage boy looked over at me and said: “You have beautiful eyes.”

I ducked in embarrassment. I was wearing eye glasses for the first time. I felt self conscious and ugly. How could he see my eyes behind these glasses, I wondered? The adage “boys seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses” rang in my ears.

Work in Progress -- "Maestro" (pastel)

I’ve long since outgrown any qualms over wearing glasses, and I’ve reached the stage where I’m not too concerned with what other people think. I like being myself. I enjoy my own company. I’ve learned you can’t please everybody. In spite of that, I still feel insecure when I’m working on a painting and another artist looks over my shoulder and questions not only my motives, but my vision.

Working on a concept painting -- May change.
Painters blue tape area to keep canvas clean in that spot.

After having to explain myself and getting negative feedback in return, I stress out for days. My creativity flies right out the door! All of a sudden the idea that excited me seems to fragment and disappear in the fringes of my brain. I feel inadequate and inept. Later these feelings are replaced by anger; not necessarily at my peers, but at myself for being so insecure that I allow their opinions to effect me in a negative way.

We all go through this. An artist friend expounded that she wanted to become another Georgia O’Keefe. Unthinkingly, I blurted out: “You’re not that great!” A thoughtless, tactless statement meant as a joke that ended up hurting her. This negative remark had sunk into her psych and continued to dig at her insecurities for weeks until she talked to me about it.

(I'm dieing to paint these red pears!)

I was stunned. The remark, or at least its intent, was not meant to hurt. “What a rotten thing to say,” I said to her. “That’s what I thought,” she admitted. We cleared the air. Artists are such vulnerable people, me included. We flinch at a glance or a twitch of a nose. We boil and bubble in our own sensitive juices. Perhaps that’s what makes us artists in the first place. We are sensitive creatures who not only observe the details in nature, we empathize and scrutinize the depths and the complexities of meaning. We feel, we watch, we execute form, shape, and line to capture what our intuition tell us.

(Another photo waiting to be painted! Permission granted!)

Many people in our world walk around wearing a mask. They hide themselves from the rest of the world while we (artists) wear our hearts on our sleeves. We hang our emotions, our pride, our anger on canvas and hope other people will like us and our view of the world. When they don’t, we retreat, we sulk, we nurse our wounds until the muse pulls us from our reverie.

These are the eyes I see the world through. I’d love to hear your views and share your dreams.