Acrylic on Canvas
Today's confession has been a long time coming in regards to where my art is moving. For those who don't know me personally, the above painting has taken me quite a while to finish because it is a self portrait. I painted the portrait part and left it, but was not settled about it. I decided a few weeks ago to return and add the linear elements and the meanings that come with those. That was a risk and it was painful to paint over a technically decent painting with the possibility of wrecking it, but that risk paid off in my mind.
That leads to the confessional part of today's post: sharing verses hiding.
I've been growing in this area recently (a good sign that I'm in a good place mentally, spiritually and physically I think). The fact that I was comfortable exposing myself through a self portrait, is huge. That exposure is two fold - one, to myself while painting it, the other is to the viewer, many of whom can see the physical likeness or recognise some of the symbolic subtext that is going on in the image. It is easy to get things wrong in a self portrait and have the whole world see it. Self portraits are very risky in that sense.
A few months ago the idea of sharing more about myself or sharing my time would have left me feeling very vulnerable, I suspect many of us have had periods of our lives where the sheer act of putting ourselves out there would be too exhausting or terrifying to actually follow through with it.
Then at some point, things changed (that is another long share, for another day - probably over a coffee would be best)
I think I'm ready to share more of who I am. I know I talk a lot about symbols, but then don't really say much about them as to how they pertain to a particular piece. That is partly because I don't believe I control all of that - what the viewer brings to a painting is something totally out of my hands.
What I can say is generally, I am operating between two symbolic languages. The first one is from our Western canon of art, I particularly enjoy medieval interpretations, imagery and marginalia. The second language is one that I am now really starting to grasp and appreciate - it is my own symbolic language. It is formed out of moments where an object comes to represent a key moment in my history.
The more that I look at reoccurring things in my art, the more I realize this subtext has been there all along. Things I paint about may only be a nice looking picture to a viewer, but to me there is usually a reference to something that I don't want to or cannot articulate with words. My paintings are their own confessionals at times.
I also struggle with meshing different artistic practices with my painting. I love illustrative stuff, but to draw all over that canvas up there was really hard. But it wasn't. I realized halfway through the second painting of this piece that I've done this before. I used to draw on my paintings 20 years ago. Then I stopped. I got Serious with my Artwork. Professional even.
I've also noticed circles coming into my work (and photos of stuff) recently. Two symbolic languages at work there. Traditional western circular symbolism.... personal symbolism. In the personal language, it is hard for me to articulate the meaning, but I look back to the plate paintings I did a number of years ago and it comes clear, there is a history of objects and somehow circles are a return to my childhood. Reference to moving parts and pieces, cycles of time. Formless in the sense of having a concrete one size fits all meaning. Formless but very, very important.
Some symbols are easier. Gladiolus. Purple. Traditional meaning, yes. Sweet personal reference that is more important, even an inside joke/pop culture reference that only very few who have known my interests years ago would clue into.
The easiest for me are those little doodlings of shapes that flex and bend and get smaller inside each other (you can see them in the circular bits). Those are always, always a reference to my childhood. They are there to honor that time where I drew for the love of drawing. My mom taught me how to do them (I think to keep me from wasting tons of paper) and they just became a continual thing.
You can see them in this #TBT old sketchbook drawing from 1994... this is a personal symbolic language I've been speaking forever it seems.
This page I was talking about my school trip to Salzburg, Austria. That green thing is a
bus ticket that I used about 10 times (illegally) once my friends showed me how to
put glue on the part where the machines stamp it so you could wash the stamp off later.
Man, I've changed!
So, after all that rambling, my confession is that I want to share more, hide less. It isn't easy, but I'm trying to be more bold these days!