I’m frequently asked if the women in my paintings are me. They’re not – well, not really. Although…..if what Oscar Wilde said in The Picture of Dorian Gray that, “Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter” then maybe they really are all of me. The truth is, I usually begin with a basic sketch of someone I’ve seen and then sort of create my own women from it. Men have always been more difficult for me to draw or paint. I find the lines blunt and even my brush or pencil strokes are shorter. I much prefer the circles and spirals of women. My next subject I’d like to be a man and woman together. I’d be interesting to see if the lines collide and flow, or if they disconnect and I dismiss the subjects.
The photo below is me, taken recently by my friend and fellow artist Elizabeth. Mr Wilde’s comment of portraits really being the artist and not the sitter had me considering — maybe we should look further into photographs too. Does the same hold true for them? Is the photograph below me? Or is it Elizabeth?
“GEOLOGY, n. The science of the earth’s crust –to which, doubtless, will be added that of its interior whenever a man shall come up garrulous out of a well. The geological formations of the globe already noted are catalogued thus: The Primary, or lower one, consists of rocks, bones or mired mules, gas-pipes, miners’ tools, antique statues minus the nose, Spanish doubloons and ancestors. The Secondary is largely made up of red worms and moles. The Tertiary comprises railway tracks, patent pavements, grass, snakes, mouldy boots, beer bottles, tomato cans, intoxicated citizens, garbage, anarchists, snap-dogs and fools.” – Ambrose Bierce
“Sensual and spiritual are not easy words to use; that there are, perhaps, not two Aphrodites, but one Aphrodite with a Janus face.” - E.M. Forster, The Longest Journey
I am preparing for my first one-woman art exhibit in June at a local gallery. This particular watercolor painting is rather large in size for me, but was always one of my favorite little sketches. I tend to paint and draw sensuality as exhibited here in “Janus.” With this show preparation comes an opening of insecurities, moods of every shade and a sweet time of self-reflection.
“The light of love, the purity of grace, The mind, the Music breathing from her face, The heart whose softness harmonised the whole — And, oh! That eye was in itself a Soul!” - George Gordon Byron
I have very few regrets in life, although I have had many blunders. The one I do have is related to a purchase of all things. A purchase I put off, thinking I would return and find it still….
For a few years I would visit Rome every three or four months or so. I didn’t stay in the touristy places, but outside of them, in a neighborhood in which I often found myself lost – the only English speaker. Near this neighborhood (I wish I could remember the exact area name) there was a flea market. The gypsy’s and bric-a-brac vendors would sell their wears. Three times I visited the same antique booth and three times I coveted a large alabaster statue of The Three Graces. It was beautiful. The woman selling the piece wanted 120 Euros for it and I never had the funds to spare. All of my money was spent either on travel or on entertainment while I was there and even then, entertainment often consisted of low-budget stuff.
Each time I saw it I’d tell myself that it was overpriced and the next time I’d return to Rome, have the money, and maybe, just maybe, the woman would lower the price. The very last time I visited Rome over a year and a half ago my intuition told me to just buy the damn thing…although it would have taken all of my money for the week…so again I told myself, “Next time.”
There was never a next time as it turns out. I’ve come across many statues since then of the three graces, but none as lovely as the one in Rome. I’d like to think I’ll find it again someday, if not in Rome, then another flea market somewhere far away…
“Sometimes by a woodland stream he watched the water rush over the pebbled bed, its tiny modulations of bounce and flow. A woman’s body was like that. If you watched it carefully enough you could see how it moved to the rhythm of the world, the deep rhythm, the music below the music, the truth below the truth. He believed in this hidden truth the way other men believed in God or love, believed that truth was in fact always hidden, that the apparent, the overt, was invariably a kind of lie.”
- Salman Rushdie, The Enchantress of Florence