#Selfie 12: My face belongs to you

As a musician I know this – that I am most effective as a performer when I get my Self out of the way, and simply allow the music to flow through me and out.  People who are listening are then much more able to hear and recognize themselves in what’s being played, and can then respond more deeply.  Who I am matters, of course, and whether I’m grounded, healthy, emotionally honest and stable – but only in the way that a conduit should be strong and wide enough for the greatest amount of energy to travel through it.

cellobelly

In the weeks of working with the ubiquitous #Selfie phenomenon I’ve come to wonder if in fact it works this way with my face, too.  I know my voice is, but my face also?  An instrument?

A strange sensation, looking at this photo of my cello.  It's like looking at my own back.
I feel a strange sensation looking at this photo of my cello. It’s like looking at my own back.

I can’t tell what I look like when I’m in conversation with other people.  I suspect, because of the wide gamut of responses I get, that I look differently to close friends than I do to colleagues, differently again to family than to strangers.  A good and longtime friend remarked some months ago that he’d never seen my face look so open.  In response I immediately closed it, and said, with some gruffness, “Nobody sees my face this open”.  Certainly not I.

the latest #Selfie painting - 5 feet wide by 6 feet tall - about the way negative and positive are both required to describe an object, an idea, a person.  Who one is, and also who one is not.
the latest #Selfie painting – 5 feet wide by 6 feet tall – about the way negative and positive are both required to describe an object, an idea, a person. Who one is, and also who one is not.

At this point I believe that my face is like a sketchbook for use by whomever I engage with.  I wear it in public knowing that it’s up to me to keep it clear of furrowed brow or clenched jaw, since if that is written there I will most likely encounter anxiety, repressed anger, rigidity and emotional blocks in the people I meet.

There are at least ten thousand songs written about this.

I suspect that this painting will be mostly finished by tomorrow morning.  Art factory, here...
I suspect that this painting will be mostly finished by tomorrow morning. Art factory, here…

It’s also up to me to keep my cello in tune and my bow tightened, with good rosin on the horsehair.   In between painting tasks I habitually run through finger exercises, dissect and practise tricky solos to ensure that I’ll present well at the concert tomorrow.

There is personal expression, yes.  But I would say that it’s an exchange of sensibilities, awareness, perception and empathies between me and you.  A live improvisation, if you will.  In a good conversation we reflect all of this for each other by changing the shape of our mouths, foreheads, moving our eyebrows, opening or closing our eyes, shifting our gaze away then back from each other.

My face is more familiar to you than it is to me, when all is said and done.  You can tell, often before I can, whether something is wrong or right in my internal world….

a posed #Selfie.  Always less comfortable, since I'm looking at a camera through my face that I don't know.
a posed #Selfie. Always less comfortable, since I’m looking at a camera through my face that I don’t know.

I have the same odd feeling looking at this photo as I do with the back of my cello.  Is THAT what I look like?  It resembles me, but no, it’s only one of many possibles.  I suspect I look quite different when I’m with people.

But then we need all parts – including the shadow – to describe the whole.

 

I have a PS.

Anyone in the area who loves smart, engaged young people should come to this concert at Meaford Hall tomorrow (Monday May 26).  The GBSYO is an incredible team of folks with great energy and skill.  They’ll be joined by more excellent string players from the Georgian Bay Secondary School in a massive string orchestra.  I’m very excited and honoured to be part of it.  Do come – I know you’ll love it.

GBSYO_May2014_finalB

#Selfie 11 – Truth beneath the truth

This drawing took about 2.5 hours.  I erased most of the right-hand side...
This drawing took about 2.5 hours. I erased most of the right-hand side…

I’m at the stage of production for this show that’s the most intense on all levels – emotional, psychological, mental and physical.  Each piece has its’ own trajectory and arc, and I work in collaboration with this.

re-building the idea...
re-building the idea…

There are sixteen different painting ‘trajectories’ to define and follow to completion –  in 22 days –  if I’m to make my deadline of June 13.

And I shall.

One key tool I use to get this work done in a short timeframe is composite studies.  This one is a layered mock-up of the painting built from bits of the selfies posted on social media in the past six weeks.  It's about the way we build our faces before we take ourselves into the public.  Masks like filters.
One key tool I use to get this work done in a short time frame is composite studies. This one is a layered mock-up of the painting built from bits of the selfies posted on social media in the past six weeks. It’s about the way we build our faces before we take ourselves into the public. Masks like filters.

I’ve done it before, though not with pieces this large – but hey, it’s good to add a challenge each time.   Everyone has a process, or a road to completion, and mine requires utter surrender to the moment I’m in, the mark I’m making, and the reason why.  I need to meet myself again and again in all my joy and ugliness, take off all the filters and tell the truth.  Then the truth beneath the truth.

‘Clarity’ gains whole new levels of meaning.  It becomes something I can taste.

the same painting the next day with things removed and re-added differently.
the same painting with corrected drawing.  Today I will work with washes to push and pull the images, and knock the whole thing back so the final drawn images can sit on a top layer.  They should appear to float in front of the painting…

There are still bank lineups, lessons and rehearsals, concerts, meetings and phone conversations.  These are more interesting than usual, since my self-observation has become so finely tuned.  The filters I use to get simple tasks done are much more obvious to me, and I know when they’re slipping…. it’s not always appropriate to discuss the psychological effects of spring green when sunlight hits it just so with the person behind the counter who just wants you to pay for your gas.

More soberly – not everyone wants to hear a bald truth, no matter how comfortable I might be with my clarity.  Nine times out of ten it’s better to say it with paint.

#Selfie_ProductionMay20
Next up: #Selfie4: Negative/Positive – 5 feet wide by six feet tall. Should be done in 3 days… or so…

Creativity is like willing oneself into madness – the kind necessary to make something interesting out of wood, canvas, paint, charcoal and …. perception, imagination, intuition, rage, hope, love….  all that.

Just nod and smile.  Or better yet, come on over & jump in to an underpainting – I’ll provide the oil pastel & canvas.  Mind the lack of filters, though…

I’m loving this.