Raised Eyebrows

There have been many times when people looked upon me with raised eyebrows, if not utter disbelief. I am, of course, not only accustomed to it but somewhat proud of it, being an artist. If I never surprised or seemed a little off-kilter to anyone I would think it called into question my credibility as an inventive person altogether. So I’m happy to report that my assessment by others has been heavily salted and peppered with expressions of doubt, disdain or possibly, diagnoses of delirium.oil pastel drawing 1988The artwork above (four feet high, for your contextual reference) came from a period in my artistic development wherein I might have been forgiven for thinking there was a form of communicable facial paralysis among my contacts that left them all perpetually wearing masks of such disbelief. I had meandered through the three years following my undergraduate commencement, while working for my uncle’s construction company, barely producing a discernible body of small artworks the while, and still had opted to go off to graduate art studies. I had made a pitiful showing in my first quarter of work there, simply extending the slow, unproductive approach I’d had during the previous three years to cough up a tiny handful of pleasant but utterly unimpressive artworks without any particular evidence of having been changed or challenged by my reentry to the educational environment. But after the embarrassingly lackluster critique session that closed that quarter, I was perhaps uncharacteristically motivated to break out of the doldrums and sail in a new and more daring path, in hopes of visiting uncharted territories of worth.

Changing my approaches to media, techniques, subject matter, scale and speed, I found, all contributed to my discovering new sides of my artistic self. I became in some ways quite the opposite of the person I’d been previously in the studio, and while I never lost my love for the various characteristic media, techniques, etc, etc, that had defined my former self, I certainly never regretted having broken the mold I’d set that self in so firmly. An inordinate number of options and opportunities previously hidden from me by my insular fear and ignorance and self-imposed narrowness of intent and expectation suddenly seemed both possible and appealing, and I have continued to gallop around after them with abandon, sometimes with a hint of obsession and often quite tangentially, so I’ve grown to simply expect the raised eyebrows around me and relish the thought that they mean I’ve not settled too far into my former predictably fixed self again.

That, I think, is encouragement enough to keep me moving forward.

16 thoughts on “Raised Eyebrows

  1. Im quite drawn to this piece of artwork; your stories behind your work fascinate me. I cannot draw or paint. But what I have begun to do is mess about with my one hand (left, as the other has now been taken from me) with oil or chalk pastels simply merging colours. I find this very therapeutic, but I do so wish I had more artistic ability. So I follow you with great interest and look forward to much more! ๐Ÿ˜Š Xx

    • Christine,

      You’re doing a very smart thing! Merging colors with a loose medium is, of course, where the great Impressionists found a magnificent peak of vision. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Also, I spent some quality time in grad school working to see whether I could develop a bit of ambidexterity both by drawing left-handed (I’m right-dominant) and by working with both hands simultaneously (mirroring, something that drawing faces lends itself to well), and it was a great experience. Actually, the latter might be an interesting (if frustrating at first) experiment for you to try, to see if commanding one hand to do a task will allow the other to follow a bit. In any case, it was a freeing exercise for me because I’d become surprisingly set in my ways and as a result, kind of a control freak and conversely terribly timid about trying anything new, and I had no expectationโ€”or even hope, at that pointโ€”of producing anything but a mess. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised, first by enjoying the effort as much as I did and then by some fairly quick improvements. I’m far from ambidextrous, especially so long after the practice, but it was as much good psychologically to help me let go of some of my fear of helplessness as anything. ‘If not this, then *this*’ became more of a problem-solving reality for me, and I’m glad I stumbled over that idea.

      As for being artistic, that’s both a matter of degree and of practice (or in my case, practicing until I could earn a degree!); with your inventive mind, you have the most important tool of all, and with your interest in and love of the arts, another exceedingly crucial one. Perhaps given your will and passions, you will find that you can offset some of the losses that you encounter with new, inner gains. You know better than most how hard-yet-important it is to be able to revise and re-vision your idea of Self, something that most of us do a time or three in life but you probably encounter a time or three in a month, so the ability to find new facets as you are doing may be a greater gift than you know. Certainly you have already given me an immense lift in the encouragement to think about what I do and how it might give me the ability to step outside of and beyond any barriers I may approach, whether external or internal, and I cherish that present from you.

      I relish our conversations and look forward to much more as well!

      • Hi Kathryn,

        Thank you for this lovely comprehensive reply. It encourages me to keeep trying and experimenting. I did put one of the colour things I did on my blog a good while ago because I showed it to a blogging friend and she wrote a poem around it!! So I wanted to share her poem. They looked good together. Xx

    • I do believe it’s my high corn quotient that most often causes eyebrow raising, come to think of it. I’m delighted you are a connoisseur of such things. Then I *know* I’m in good company! Thanks for that!

  2. This post reminded me of something I learned about Monet – that he abandoned art school because he wasn’t getting anything out of doing the rudiments of ‘learning’ to be an artist. A couple of Monet quotes that I found:
    ‘While we sketched from a model, Gleyre criticized my work: ‘It is not too bad,’ he said, ‘but the breast is heavy, the shoulder is too powerful, and the foot too big.’ I can only draw what I see, I replied timidly. (Claude Monet)’

    ‘By the single example of this painter devoted to his art with such independence, my destiny as a painter opened out to me. (Claude Monet,-at age 17 )

    ‘…I had so much fire in me and so many plans…’ (Claude Monet)

    Perhaps you would enjoy reading some more: http://artquotes.robertgenn.com/auth_search.php?authid=299
    XO โ™ฅ

    • Yes, I’m enjoying looking through this! Thanks.

      I’m not sure I would agree with M. Monet that he only drew what he saw, though; he saw so differently from all of his peers that he clearly had an inner vision assisting his eyes in ways that few people ever do. ๐Ÿ™‚

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