As I look at this new collection of figures I have been painting, I see a deeper meaning to a ‘birthday’. By painting the human form, it seems I have discovered a deeper understanding of alchemy and the power of creation. It has been interesting to observe an emotion as it arises from painting a certain body part; or to see how the slightest adjustment of the light on a muscle can change the entire feeling of the painting. Every inch of a body tells a story beyond the obvious form. There is a relationship to the environment reflected beyond the skin. There is a power, latent or relaxed, in every curve of a muscle. There is a foundation and history in every bone that creates the basic form. It’s crazy when I tap into the presence of the figure I am creating. I am painting a person, creating a personality, telling its story, with every brushstroke.
Most of the figures I am painting reflect an aspect of me. Not only am I my own model when I need a quick reference, I am also relating to the story the figure is telling. These paintings are more personal, intimate and vulnerable than some of my previous work. Possibly it is my own story on a subconscious level? I really don’t think about it until the painting is finished. Nevertheless, the story is created, as the figure is created, on its birthday. And it happens to be my birthday too this month.
My personal story is ever evolving, like a painting. When I look from a different perspective, I see a different story. I can retell an event from the perspective of facts, emotions, or a particular focus, and the event has a totally different meaning, just as the painting changes with different lighting. So on this birthday I am keenly aware of the story of my life so far and how it may be read in every inch of my human form. From scars to smile lines, grey hairs to strong hands, hidden secrets to a foolish heart. It’s all there waiting to be perceived, recognized and given meaning so that the story can live on. As I paint and change the slightest view, I realize what alchemy is. This power of creation, or the ability to change reality, alchemy, can be as simple as changing the context of the story. It can be as simple as reading the story differently, from a slightly different angle or seeing it in a new light. The wrinkles are a wealth of experience or sun damage. The strong hands hold hours upon hours of creation, or calluses. The foolish heart is stronger in its regeneration or just naive. The context, meaning, or relationship these details have with reality is actually what creates the story or life. I love the idea of alchemy (forging metal into gold, etc.) and from what I can tell… An alchemist changes the metals relationship with reality to create gold… and that’s the magical secret… the relationship with reality. While the metal may seem solid and real, the relationship is changeable. The relationship, or how I relate to reality, is absolutely within my power to change or create.
What better way to celebrate a birthday than by creating a beautiful life? To change any part of my story to gold or spectacular beauty, simply by changing how I relate to it. That is the birthday present; a ‘real’ gift.