In the spirit of finishing old projects that’ve been gathering dust, I decided to unearth this portrait late last night when I found myself unable to sleep. I stalled on this painting years ago, completely frustrated with how it was turning out; I kept re-working areas of the canvas without any satisfaction. Working on it last night, though, I lost myself. Before I knew it, it was time to set the art aside, brush my teeth, and get ready for work.
Sometimes, I have discovered, it’s easy to stare at a composition for too long, to scrutinize it too much. There’s a kind of hypnosis that occurs. And when a piece isn’t quite turning out the way you want, all you can see are the imperfections. The problem areas overwhelm the rest of the composition and a discouraging futility settles in. It’s for this reason that I have so many incomplete projects laying about.
Something else I’ve discovered is that returning to an old ‘problem’ piece can be satisfying. Distance helps clear the cobwebs, and those problem areas don’t stand out as much. Solutions seem possible. The ‘writer’s block’ of the situation has faded away.
I slammed my head against the table so much over this painting and eventually gave up.
Last night, after a few hours, it all came together and became something I’m okay with.
I hope you enjoy it.
I remember overhearing a conversation in a coffee shop some years ago where a gentleman said something like this:
“I always have people ask me why I’m so serious. I often overhear people telling their friends not to take ‘this’ or ‘that’ too seriously. And I got to thinking about it. If we need to learn how to not take life so damn seriously, we ought also to learn to not take death so seriously.”
I’m not sure, but it stuck with me. A simple exchange, maybe a completely spontaneous thought from a total stranger I was eavesdropping on – but it stuck with me. I think about it often, especially after losing several friends, relatives, and acquaintances over the past several years. It’s unusual to me – at least intellectually – to be so incredibly afraid of something that literally every single living thing in the cosmos will eventually have to do, which is to die.
Different cultures treat death differently, but there are always common themes of loss, sadness, tragedy and redemption, rebirth, or some form of ‘life after death.’ I’ve enjoyed photographing various rituals and discovering some of the nuances of life and death celebrations in the American Southwest and Mexico.
“Wild woman are an unexplainable spark of life. They ooze freedom and seek awareness, they belong to nobody but themselves yet give a piece of who they are to everyone they meet.
If you have met one, hold on to her, she’ll allow you into her chaos but she’ll also show you her magic.”
That is the lie of the gypsy woman.
The spark, the freedom, and the awareness? The gift and the magic? They aren’t real.
This is a portrait of a wandering spirit.
“Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
‘Portrait Month’ plunging forward with an old photograph from several years ago. It’s still a ‘natural light’ image – I really never got used to working in a studio environment – but it’s still a pretty heavily-produced series we shot that day. I love working with unpredictable light and problem-solving on the fly.
I’m pretty sure she didn’t like most of the images – but then, she’s even more critical of herself than I am of my own work, which is already unfathomably extreme.