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Monday, September 29, 2008

Portrait of the Artist as a Middle Aged Woman


"Okay," said the famous painter and color theorist during one of her famous artist's workshops. "Now, based on what you've just learned with your color wheel, create a self portrait."

Easy, I thought. I've been doodling the same big-lipped, big-eyed face for 36 years.

I took a deep breath and tried to put my color wheel failure behind me. Color wheels are harder than they look. It doesn't work to just copy the good artists, sitting beside you. You can't really cheat on a color wheel. If you don't pay attention, you put the violet in the wrong place, then you have to cut and paste, and then of course the gradients are all wrong, and you bite you lip and try not to cry when the stress of failing at an art project starts seeping into the corners of your eyes.

Exhale. Art is harder than it looks.

Self portraits, on the other hand, are easy. I did one for my Painting 101 final in college, but I got a B instead of an A because I skipped the last day to play the end-of-the-year Faculty/Student intramural softball game. So I quickly pasted silver-foil ribbon in the middle of the canvas where my face should have been, thinking I could get away with something symbolic.

Dumb idea, of course, since faces are easy (right?) and the professor could see I wasn't really trying. Plus he threw me out at first base in the softball game, so he knew I wasn't at the Art House finishing my self portrait.

"You have 20 minutes," she said. "Don't worry too much, just have fun."

Ah, I sighed happily. Now this is more like it. I felt a bit of my creative joy starting to flow again, as I snipped and ripped through piles of magazines to find the shapes and colors that would make up me. This was the easy part of art. This was why I was here.

"Oh," she said, as she walked by to check on me. "You're making a face. I didn't mean a literal self-portrait," I glanced at my friend's work next to me, which was quickly turning into a sophisticated page of exceptional color theory miraculously cut from the pages of Bend Living Magazine.

But then the famous painter, who is also a fantastic teacher, saw my smile and my easy laugh for what it was, a cover-up for the disappointment of failing again. "Of course, it's fine! No problem, it will be great!" she gushed diplomatically. She has a 10-year old child at home, she knows when to pass out gratuitous praise at the right time.

Curses, I thought. Foiled again.

3 comments:

deb said...

Love it! It's a great play with the color wheel (so hard.. it frustrates me all the time!)

twokitties said...

I'd love to collect a bunch of those kind of comments on art...like when someone told me my work was ..."so......unusual...." Remember, your impressions of your work are most important.

Mrs. G. said...

Very cool work. Accept compliments and move on. No second guessing.