Sunday, June 2, 2013


“Will you teach me how to paint?”
“Just paint.”
“I’m not any good.”
“Do it for therapy. You can go to art school later.” 

--Benjamin Alire Saenz,  
Last Night I Sang to the Monster

Hypnos (or Sleep) 6-2-13

"Every portrait that is painted with feeling
is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter."

-- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

“It is not your paintings I like, it is your painting.”

-- Albert Camus

When I was a kid and I was having a difficult day, I'd put Neil Diamond's "12 Greatest Hits" album on my sky-blue flip-top portable record player, sit on the floor in my bedroom and draw.

Mostly I drew faces. I copied the album cover portrait of Neil Diamond -- the fluffy long hair one of him in the suede jacket and the chest hair-revealing unbuttoned white shirt with the gi-normous lapels.

This one.

I knew all of the words to all 12 of the songs: Sweet Caroline, Brother Loves Traveling Salvation Show, Shiloh, Holly Holy, Brooklyn Roads, Cracklin' Rosie, Play Me, Done Too Soon, Stones, Song Sung Blue, Soolaimon, I Am ... I Said.

Aw geez.

I forgot all about "I Am ... I Said."

I am, I said
To no one there
And no one heard at all
Not even the chair
I am, I cried
I am, said I
And I am lost, and I can't even say why
Leavin' me lonely still

It was a kind of sacred space there on the floor of my room with my back against my bed and my feet against the wall, drawing pad balanced across my knees, door closed, music on ... I could just check out for a while until I felt better.

Making art still serves that function for me. Although my current musical obsession is the movie soundtrack from The Great Gatsby, I still have a sacred space I can escape to, a room that is filled with materials and media to busy my hands and my heart while diverting my mind. It's like escaping without having to go anywhere.

Like Twyla Tharp famously said, "Art is the only way to run away without leaving home."   

So, today's face.

With sincerest apologies and respect to all of the real painters out there ...
Please  pardon me for trespassing and leaving my sloppy fingerprints all over your territory.

True confession: I am not a painter. I am a hack and I know it.
Even though I have painted pictures my whole life long, I never learned to paint. 
Never learned how to do it right, anyway.
Nevertheless, I do like to play with the medium sometimes.
I do it in secret and don't show my paintings to anybody. 
Drawings? Sometimes.
Paintings? Never.

Usually everything I paint ends up in the trash can rather than on the wall. 

But since this is the only face I made today -- and since this project is about the process and not the final product -- I am putting on my big-girl panties and sharing it.
And in the spirit of full disclosure and true confessions ... I finger-painted it.
No actual paintbrushes were harmed in the rendering of this portrait. Just a couple of pencils, my bare hands and a few squirts of acrylic paint.

I don't really consider this portrait of Hypnos/Somnus (the Greek/Roman god of sleep) a painting ... it is more of a sketch, really. A sketch rendered in paint. Can that be a thing? It began as a frustrated pencil drawing, and just as I was about to crumple it up I decided to paint over it instead and this is what I got.

I can't say I love this piece, but I made it, and making it helped me to make it through a difficult day.

I have to admit, it was pretty darned therapeutic.
Messy, but therapeutic.
But then again, the best therapy usually is the messiest therapy, isn't it?