In order from favorite to least favorite: charcoal, colored pencils, watercolor, acrylic, markers, pens, pencils, other paints, alternative media (anything I can get my hands on), writing, flower arrangements, knitting, cross stitching, latchhook, cake decorating, quilting.
Subjects: portraiture, self portraits, people, photos of people, live things, colors, abstract.
Why I do it:
There’s a need in me to make art. I’ve done art for a long time now. I always thought that of I didn’t have the structure of classes, I would stop making art altogether, but here I am, still trying to find a way to make more, get better, ease myself into the artistic world.
I’ve been very afraid of sharing my work. For a long time, I was afraid to do anything creative related as a career. Though I have always been interested in creative writing, I haven’t written much of anything in the past decade. Now that I work creatively, I can’t go back.
It’s not just about opening myself to ridicule, though that is a large part of it. It’s about opening up at all. I use art as a mood regulator. Usually I am compelled to make something out of this great need to get a feeling out. I journal, but words sometimes leads you down the “why?” trap, that is a downward spiral. Most of the time, I don’t need to know why, I just need to feel it, and words are too black and white for the full spectrum of what I feel.
“Art is a great way to say what you want without saying it,” said one of my art teachers. It’s true: you can clamp down on your pen and scribble ferociously, saying I’m so mad at you. And people will read the anger in it, sometimes subconciously, but they won’t know who or why or even if you are actually angry. The moment is communicated, but not, and passes quietly.
Google search “creativity excess emotion” and you can read a bunch of articles on how therapeutic art can be. Sometimes I combine the two, journaling and drawing together, or sometimes I journal and my brain loses words, and I start making a line, diagram, or image of what I mean to say but can’t. I hate to see my extreme emotions so clearly written in words, visible for chance encounters while I flip through the pages of my journal, so I sometimes draw over them. Charcoal over penciled words engraved on the page make an interesting relief to view so slightly, almost know what the words are saying.
The scary thing about sharing my art is that it is my journal: that’s my heart out there. Though maybe you can’t read art and see the emotions behind it, I certainly can. It’s scary to know that people will see me at my most extreme, when I was most depressed or angry or self-denegrating, or sad or lonely or just trying to weed out some sense in the mass of feelings and confusion that is my brain.
I want to share it but I don’t. I want people to know when I hurt, but I don’t want it to be edified so much as to put words to it. I put on a cool exterior and I’d like people to think of me that way. Why would people need to know that happy, easy going Wendy is not as cheerful as she seems?
Some people, such as myself, need to come to terms with the fact that they feel. That’s what art is to me.
Because I use art as a journal, the feelings behind them are barely ever positive. I can look at the accumulation of my work and thjnk “what bright, violent colors I use. What moments of anguish and despair. Surely I am not like that all the time.” And I’m not. Those are just the most extreme.
I guess all that is to say that art is:
Expressing my emotions in a way that doesn’t hurt people.
Expressing them without becoming them, “I am a person who…”
A search for order and sense in the tumult of emotion without words.
You should try it sometime. You don’t need to have talent to express yourself through art. It’s remarkably freeing to not worry about defining anything, to speak only in the language of color and lines.
Why self portraits:
My art teacher (the same one as earlier; he teaches classes at The Drawing Studio in Portland, best teacher I’ve had. Look him up if you want some classes) said that he switched from abstract to portraiture because he realized that without a subject, his abstract art all came out the same. It’s true: without limitation, its harder to be creative. Your actions slide back into your normal pattern, and you don’t challenge yourself. Portraiture is a subject that he can focus on to try this and that, always something new to see and try.
I wholeheartedly agree. I like portraits because there is nothing more interesting than people. I often forget to worry about background, position on the page, etc. Its the subject I work best through, and I don’t want to trouble myself with supercillious details.
I choose myself as my subject because 1) I’m always free for a sitting, and I don’t have to stand the embarrassment of asking someone . 2) pictures are fine for a while, but the real challenge is to translate a live object to the page.
But mostly the reason is that I often experience what I like to call moral vertigo. I made the term up. I empathize too much, put myself in other peoples shoes so easily, always see two sides of same story, focus on the future and past and what people might think till I’m so turned around I have lost my footing in the world. It’s like when you stare at words so long they just become shapes. Self portraits help me come back to me, to reality. “This is my nose, these are my cheeks…” Often I am searching for the real true version of myself, the accumulation of all that I am, minus fake things like future and what should be and what others might think. The search is of course impossible, but the experience brings me back to me in a way that little else can.
Staring at myself for a period of time, following my shapes with my charcoal reminds me that I am in fact a human being, flesh and blood, not a dark cloud of thoughts and feelings that stretches out every which way.
Now that you know my secrets, you can see some of my art at