See It As It Is

apple-and-pearA few weeks ago I started going to an informal oil painting class in town. The first painting project is very structured – a still life of an apple and a pear. The teacher was reviewing the light sources and I had the sudden realization that, even though I had never painted before, I knew a lot of the concepts she was explaining.

little-red-riding-hood

Gustave Dore – a favorite of mine

It was a revelation to remember that once, long ago, I had spent a lot of time drawing. In school I was always doodling in my notebooks – epic scenes I stole from comic books and science fiction book covers. I was known as “Sleepy Dave” back then, the kid who never paid attention in class and did a lot of drugs.

I’ve changed a lot over the years and it’s funny to remember that I was ever like that. I did my last illegal drug almost twenty years ago. My drinking tapered off when I moved to California in 1998 and now I hardly drink at all. As you might imagine, back when I was young I had no interest in reality. Reality was boring – a world of teachers and rules and do this and do that.

Art back then was an escape but my adult view is the opposite. Now I draw and paint to open my eyes and perceive reality. All too often we get caught up in habit and responsibility and fail to see things as they are. Now that I am drawing regularly, I notice things. When I look at my daughter’s face, I recognize how her eyes are darker on the edges and the color lightens as it approaches the pupil.

When you start noticing things like this the mundane stops being mundane and starts being interesting again. I took the dog for a walk recently and my senses were overwhelmed. It was almost too much. Whoa, wait a second, I’m venturing into Sensitive Artist territory with that last comment.

But it’s nice to see things as they are rather than how I want them to be. There’s something Zen about drawing. When it’s going well, you experience a complete removal of the ego. You enter an state where nothing matters but the lines and colors. You forgot your worries, responsibilities and cares. It is a world free of pain.

Awareness of self and ego causes pain. I have relatives who have ruined their lives obsessing about themselves. They tried to drown it out with drugs and medication but it never works. You need to find the thing that allows you to forget yourself. The thing that will make you stop thinking.

My brother told me about this originally, “Stop thinking!” he advised. He does it by playing basketball relentlessly for 2-3 hours a day, longer on the weekends. When he’s on the court, he forgets he even exists. He’s in the zone. That’s how I get when I draw.

Sensitive Artist

I am a sensitive artist…

I am a sensitive artist.
Nobody understands me because I am so deep.
In my work I make allusions to books that nobody else has read,
Music that nobody else has heard,
And art that nobody else has seen.
I can’t help it
Because I am so much more intelligent
And well-rounded
Than everyone who surrounds me.

I stopped watching tv when I was six months old
Because it was so boring and stupid
And started reading books
And going to recitals
And art galleries.
I don’t go to recitals anymore
Because my hearing is too sensitive
And I don’t go to art galleries anymore
Because there are people there
And I can’t deal with people
Because they don’t understand me.

I stay home
Reading books that are beneath me,
And working on my work,
Which no one understands

I am sensitive…
I am a sensitive artist…

 

Bear Brook

07

The girls with their new heroic boyfriend. Not sure what I think about this guy.

I was without the girls all last week as they went on vacation with Emily’s parents. It was a little shocking to me how much I missed them. I knew that I would but I didn’t realize the scale. To come home to an empty house and wake up in an empty house caused me actual physical pain.

Part of that is I’ve been seeing them every day, giving them dinner after school and putting them to bed, and giving them breakfast in the morning for the past ten months. I’ve become very used to the routine. It’s jarring and disorienting to suddenly lose that.

So when they were driven home on Friday, I took the dog for a walk to kill some time and when I knew they were getting close, I started picking up the pace and my heart started racing to the point of bursting. Seeing them again and taking them in my arms wasn’t so much an overwhelming joy but more a relief from pain.

I’ve read that people feel twice as much pain in loss as they feel pleasure in gain. When I held them in my arms I thought, “Oh thank God the pain will stop.”

03 But I’m getting on a tangent. Today I took the girls to Bear Brook State Park. This is a little known gem that’s great for kids and families. It’s also awesome if you are into mountain biking. There was no mountain biking for me today though.

There’s a well-kept beach with a rope-lined area for swimming. It doesn’t get very deep and there is no current. Of course I didn’t think to take pictures until after we were leaving. The pictures below are the results of me saying “Do something for the camera.”

040506L has really got a knack for this kind of thing. Break out a camera and she’ll tilt her head to side and give you her biggest smile. I’ve seen her literally push C out of the shot to be front and center. In the photo series above, she was generous enough to allow C to follow her lead.

College me on left, Randall on right

College me on left, Randall on right

Last week wasn’t a total wash. I watched “Her” which was outstanding. I also watched the movie “Clerks” which I last saw at the age of 22. Man, have I changed. At the time, Clerks was my movie – I was the target slacker audience. I even vaguely resembled Randall.

Now the suburban dad version of me watches it with vague disgust. It depressed me. Did I once see the world in such bleak terms before? The art doesn’t change but the lens through which you view it sure does.