I love authentic people.
I was raised strict Catholic when I was growing up. As a matter of fact, I attended a Byzantine church for most of my early childhood and sang along to the cantor (no music allowed) in Slovak- not understanding a word of what I was saying. Talk of religion aside, there is something inherently soaked into you at an early age of what is “right” and what is “wrong” when you are part of a very structured religion. At least it was for me. And along with that comes the guilt.
As I got older, I realized that not all people that drive a Harley or get a tattoo are “bad.” That male artists that crimped their hair or wore unconventional outfits were some of the kindest people I knew. That going to college and getting the American “dream” of a pink house and a mortgage and mountains of college debt really are options in this world. I am glad I have had the chance to be exposed to cultures and individuals beyond my “correct” and “right” upbringing. I am glad I have introduced them to my children.
I say hanging out with artists has “normalized” me over the years. I see a lot of good and creativity in souls that Sister Dolores would have said were “damned.”
An authentic soul is a beautiful thing to see on this planet. Now I find myself painting them. Agressively finding out who they are and what makes them tick.
A woman that shaves her head and is more feminine and comfortable in her own skin now has my utmost respect. (and my passion to paint her) Another woman that has battled issues of identity and now identifies as pangender I applaud. A man that likes beaded purses? Hmm… where can I get one?
I am working with a slew of new models now. And they amaze me with their authentic beauty and individual take on this world. I can only step back and try to interpret them. NO artist can truly capture the beauty in another soul. It is too big. Too grand. Too beautiful. I have moments when my breath is truly taken away by the depth and richness and color in the shadow at the turn of a 4-year-old cheek or the energy that radiates from a unique soul, and I humbly try to mix up something that is a poor substitute.
After all, I can only render my interpretation of a person in paint. Only an interpretation. How freeing is that though? I can’t capture them perfectly. We need to embrace that. And unlike a specific space in a room, there is no “right” or “perfect” color. It can’t be done. So how can I emphasize, change, exaggerate and heighten my response to them? That I can tackle. That is what an artist does.
So authentic souls move me. Charge up my brain with ideas and stories and intentions. I get so fired up I forget to eat or put off sleeping. I find myself awake at night trying to figure out how to best represent a skintone, a glint of light, a tiny toe. But technique can only take me so far.
I can’t pose them. I try, but it is better if they pose, and I watch and wait and try to record. One idea leads to another which leads to another.
Man, I love my job.