Kids are wells that absorb all the groundwater. They see everything, but they’re still close to creation, and have an innate sense of right and wrong. A friend’s infant son gave me a look once when my friend and I parted ways for a while. His look was sorrowful, with a little bit of the “you could fix this if you tried hard enough” thrown in for extra guilt. He was right too, but it took us grownups a while to figure that out for ourselves.
Exploring isn’t just covering ground; it’s noticing what’s on the ground we’re covering. Being an artist, and just being human, is a growth process. First we learn how to repeat what we see, then we realize that just duplicating something isn’t enough. We have to share our observations, and those observations aren’t just the surface of a perfectly painted canvas. This is the same as saying that what someone looks like isn’t the same as knowing who that person is.
This was a very fast painting, or at least very fast for me. I was in a phase when I didn’t want to paint at all, and I had mixed feelings about the person I was painting. His dad asked why I made his forehead red. I laughed. “Why do you think his forehead is red?” Poor dad of the subject got a disturbed look on his face and didn’t answer. I think he had conflicted feelings too.
The painting is what it is. Most of the time it hibernates in my box of stuff I don’t look at very often, and when I do see it, I get a little annoyed that it exists, or maybe that he exists. But at the same time, the painting and the subject were lessons for me, something I explored – and every painting I’ve made is a part of the journal I keep of my life.
I look at this painting now and wonder how much of what I painted was subliminal or intentional. When I’m in the zen of painting, they are often the same thing, and the act of it can lead me to greater understandings of things I don’t know how to understand without going through the process. I need the deep meditations of making things with my hands and letting my mind get “into the flow” when I lose track of time and the present.
Non-artists often ask what’s going in artists’ heads, or what makes them different. Maybe it’s as simple as artists have to observe and explore?