raw & polished

today i had the distinctly unsettling feeling of my stomach knotting up, as i waited for my paycheck to make its way through the financial ether from Wossamatta U to my credit union. that was... fun. not.

last night, i caught myself avoiding my easel the way some women avoid mirrors on a bad hair day.

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even putting the mail down on the drafting table the easel sits on, was an effort, because that required getting close to the easel, which was reprimanding me for not painting. i didn't want to work on any of the paintings i'd already done, because i was tired of looking at them, as one might get tired of looking at the scene of a car accident. i want to paint something new, but don't have it quite right in my head yet.

"The Motorsport Art of Dexter Brown" (Robert Edwards) is a book i saw on saturday, and i was really struck by the portraits dexter brown does -- none of which are posted online anywhere, annoyingly -- they've got this sense of motion and dynamic life to them that i haven't seen before in portraits. also, there's bits in the portraits that aren't very rendered out, but rough. i described it to a friend yesterday as like a brick wall that's got some bits plastered over with venetian plaster, very smooth; and some with just plaster, and some where the unfinished bricks show, and some other places where the exposed metal going through the bricks is apparent. and none of that makes any sense unless you've seen his portraits. sigh.

at any rate, one of the reasons i like the portraits is because they put me in mind of how we only have bits of our personalities that are fully rendered out, polished, ready to show to the world. so many parts of ourselves are rough, and raw, not meant to be seen by others... and yet, they're usually more visible than we think. i generally prefer to only show others the parts that are polished; my paintings, my poems, my writing, my designs, my photos -- i don't like showing the unfinished parts. i like to have more control over the image i present to the world, and trust very few people with who i am in my entirety. even around someone i trust a lot, i still get paralyzed with fear when i'm revealing a side of myself i don't like; say, my incompetent side.

let's take a typical day in art class, for example, where i'm floundering through learning a horde of new skills and feeling very conscious of not being good at what i'm doing, and that my incompetent side is showing.

  1. ron walks over, and gives me good advice.
  2. i look at my painting, and my throat closes up. my communication skills decide they've urgently got to go alphabetize my hot sauce collection.
  3. 'mmm,' is usually about all i am able to force out. sometimes i can manage a grunt that i hope comes out as appreciative, but sounds like 'nrrgh.'
  4. ron looks over at me to see if his good advice is sinking in.
  5. i grunt and nod. if i'm really doing well, i can choke out a 'cool.' on a blindingly good day, i can add 'thanks.'
  6. if i am forced to talk about my work when it's going badly, i'll tear up. unfailingly. go, me.
  7. i inwardly sigh and wonder how i ever managed to convince anyone i'm articulate.

we repeat this process about four times during the course of a day. whenever in the class chatter a topic comes up that i do actually know something about, i leap on it like it's the last lifeboat on the titanic, and try to demonstrate that i am not a total moron by having an opinion or useless fact on the subject. which, now that i think about it, probably has the unintended consequence of the class thinking i'm a git.

this certainly isn't a new experience for me -- i did go get myself a creative writing degree -- so it's not like i'm not used to exposing my feelings through an art. but in writing workshops, this didn't happen as much, mainly because of the rule that the person whose work was being discussed by the class was forbidden to speak. if you spoke, you got asked to leave the room. so no one noticed that i was dying a thousand deaths after i'd read my poetry, as all i had to do was sit mute in my chair and sometimes nod. i quite liked that rule -- it kept people from saying, 'oh, yeah, i meant to do that,' or 'i was going to do that, but...' or 'well, i did this because...' or any of the dozen other excuses people give when they're defensive. sometimes i forget that the studio does not have this rule, and catch myself muttering, 'shut the fuck UP and listen!' under my breath.

at least, i hope it's been under my breath.