14 December, 2007

On Beauty

In reply to a face painter's query on how to make people look and feel beautiful, and the difficulty of photographing people so that they look good.
This might sound like new-age hooey, but it's worth saying: what we're doing is an art form, we create an art, and its effect is glamour; a sort of magic that plays up perception. People are intrinsically beautiful, and when seen with the eyes of love they become more beautiful. It may not be possible for the camera to capture that, any more than it can capture the fun of glitter. I think it's important to tell our subjects that the beauty is underneath, we're just adding a little frosting to the cake. I remember once at an event, a group of teen girls were in line. One who was very physically beautiful made a rude comment to her other pretty friend about a third girl, who was less delicately-built and not as "attractive". It makes me sick that people treat each other this way. You can bet I took extra time on the girl who'd been mocked for her appearance, and I made quietly clear to her nasty little friends that "pretty is as pretty does". I was tempted not to paint them at all.

I understand and agree with all the theory about symmetry, health, and all the tips everyone has given. I also hope that every artist on this list will take time to study the art of figure drawing. You're not drawing on the body in this case; instead you're looking at a person's body from all the nuances and gestures, to all the subtle details, form following function.

Think about a baby: every single eyelash and skin fold is precious. As a child grows we continue to be delighted by their beauty, their solid structure and joyous movement and the utter floppy bliss of sleep - even the little flaws are treasured, and the child feels little or no shame about their body. Then something happens, (at least in modern Western culture) - we develop shame, criticism, and revulsion for the flaws in others and ourselves. I took my first figure drawing class at 14 and it transformed my ideas about beauty. At first I was grossed out and even frightened, but then looking at my models, something shifted to unconditional acceptance as I really observed how they were put together; suddenly the flaws themselves became a marker of true individuality, true beauty.

To me, one of the best things about face painting is collaborative process; the subject picks the colors or theme, and offers up the most delightful and unique "canvas". I take what is offered, combine it with my skills and materials, and let it go. It's free to bounce away into the world, making a moment special not just for the wearer, but for anyone who notices it, ricocheting around like a lovely little pinball.

P.S. - I have a slightly asymmetrical face and am overweight, so I don't really like being photographed. But the photos aren't really about me, they don't judge me, I judge myself - so why not let go of that judgment and open up? My dear husband is a photographer. So I try not to think about the camera much, I think about loving the people who will see the photo, and I smile, open my eyes wide, and relax. I won't be the scowling woman at the back of the row or halfway out of the frame, and I can participate joyously knowing that the camera doesn't capture the truth of who I am - it's just a moment.

The Door is Open

I took this phrase from two sources:
the U2 song "Gloria", and my favorite Rumi poem:

"The Breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you
Don't go back to sleep
you must ask for what you really want
Don't go back to sleep
People are going back and forth
Across the doorway where the two worlds touch
The door is round, and open
Don't go back to sleep"

I have spent a fair amount of my life wide awake and dreaming, other times sleeping where my dreams were so vivid I wanted to go back and figure out how to make them real. How do I bring dreams into the waking world - dreams of creativity, of joy, of peace, of fun? How to take the shadow of my psyche and use it to heal myself and others instead of hurt?

I have eclectic taste - possibly insane taste - ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. I like silly humor more than I like sarcasm. I have a lifelong interest in why the heck the world is the way it is... cause and effect? G/d/s? Quarks? Who knows. Even if I thought I knew, that would be faith. The intersection between faith and knowledge - a dangerous and blurry place.

As the Firesign Theater states ".... a force that can only be used for good... or evillllll..." but I don't remember what they were talking about, was it a time machine?

I'm blessed with brilliant and creative friends; you'll find links to their blogs, art and ideas here. I'll add my own art and interests as time permits. Daring to put ourselves out there is one of the greatest challenges many artists face. Creating is easy, sometimes it happens all by itself. Communicating... hard.