25 years ago, when I learned to paint and draw, the learning process had nothing to do with technique. In fact, by most people’s standards, it had little to do with painting and drawing at all – at least if I was doing it right.
I was being taught to see. Once I could see, I could paint.
And, while I don’t paint or draw at this point (someday again), I keep this lesson with me in every aspect of my life. To create, to find meaning, to communicate that meaning, I must be humble enough and patient enough and open enough and diligent enough to see myself and my world in its essence, to understand what it is offering and telling me – and then to create from there.
I took a walk in the woods today, and everywhere I turned nature was asking me questions. It caught me off guard honestly. I just wanted to get out and get some exercise with the dog, but the woods wanted me to do more. They wanted me to see. To paint. A self-portrait.
To be clear, I didn’t paint a thing – except in my mind. I tried to see what nature wanted me to see; myself, reflected in her. And, in her own constant changing with the wind and the water and the light and the seasons, she made it clear that my portrait was transient too. I am ever becoming a new self, seeing a new self, if I’m willing.
So, here’s what she asked. 9 simple questions I should probably answer every day:
What color are you today?
Color is a vibration. It is the perception of energy, wavelengths. So, what is yours today? Is it what you want it to be? How do others see it?
What colors do you surround yourself with?
How do they blend or complement or contrast with your own? What frequencies do you absorb? What bounces off?
What’s your texture today?
What coarseness is unavoidable at your age, given your life, experience? What strength can be created in the layers? What wisdom? What beauty?
What’s your light source?
Where do you find your light? Do you run toward it? Look askance? Turn your back? The light is there and it’s bigger than you.
Where do you cast a shadow?
How long is it? Is it getting bigger or smaller? Who is in it? What thrives in its cover? What fades or dies by it?
What’s your background?
What past wraps you in stories without words? What blurs and fades? What defines your form? Your sense of shape?
How much space do you take up?
Do you fill the empty space? How much positive space? How much negative? Are you the right size in your world, for your world?
What is in front of you?
What lies beyond the canvas? What will you see in tomorrow’s portrait? And tomorrow’s tomorrow? Where you look determines what you will have the chance to see.
Do you accept the beauty?
She didn’t ask where I find beauty or what I find beautiful. Its ever-presence was implied in her question. The question was whether and where and how I am willing to accept the gift.