I recently found the following draft from a post I intended to publish in 2011, a month after my dad died. For some reason, I never published it. I thought it was fitting to post it now. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
I’m a writer and an artist.
I have discovered that whether I’m writing about a person, a character, or painting a person’s face, there is one thing I must do. I must really SEE the person.
I don’t mean that I have to notice the color of his hair or eyes, but I must really SEE. I have to determine what makes that woman in my chair, her. What characteristic makes that man, him.
Sometimes I portray a distant sadness, a longing in the eyes, sometimes…pride, self-importance and sometimes, a free and generous spirit. Sometimes a sketch ends up projecting a sense of wandering, longing. Often a person will sit in my chair and in ten minutes time tell me his or her entire life story. There is a comfort in having a stranger draw your face, much in the same way that there is a comfort in sitting next to a stranger on a bus or an airplane.
As an artist, I often feel like a bit of a palm reader. I have to look into a face and discover what line, what shadow or smudge, portrays the depth of a person’s character and if I leave it out or add what is not there, then I loose something.
It’s not so much an emotional experience. I suppose it can be, but it’s more like a revelation. I think drawing is a spiritual experience, not a religious one. Pencil on paper is honest and it’s hard to mask. Not everyone will sit in my chair. Some people are afraid to see themselves through the eyes of another. Some people are too self-important. Some just aren’t into art. Some just have ants in their pants and can’t sit for ten minutes.
Another thing being an artist has afforded me is a fly-on-the-wall view of people. Often times when I paint murals in a public place, people come and go without so much as realizing I’m there. I hear their conversations, pick up on body-language, and other things that I would not maybe notice if they were in conversation with me.
Whether I’m painting in a resturaunt, a school, a church, a business or drawing faces at a festival, pow-wow or some other type of gathering, I have come to understand that inevitably I will encounter the following types of people:
1. The-Whatever-People. These folks follow trend. They make up the vast majority. They don’t want to stand out, or think too deeply. They worry about being branded as weird, yet, they secretly want to confide their hopes, fears and life details to someone. They are usually good-hearted, hard-working people. They just want to be reminded that they have value.
2. The -I’m-More-Powerful-or-Spiritual–Than-You-or-Anyone-Else-Here-People. I call them the Moses Wannabes, because they want a crowd of followers. I’ve met them in churches VERY often. They are the ones who exert power over others, who tell me what I should or shouldn’t wear or whether or not my motives are “righteous”. They are the self-appointed gaurdians of everybody’s lives and the ones who rejoice to know that all the “unworthy” are gonna one day get what’s coming to ’em. They know more scripture or are somehow more equipped by God to tell me what it all means. They are the ones who expect people to follow them. And, of course, at Pow-wows, they are the ones who self-proclaim to know the “Old Ways” better than any of the rest of us and they are also the ones that get mad and storm off like a child when someone doesn’t swoon over them or asked them a question which they can’t answer [um, yeah, I do that sometimes]. They seem to gain energy from other people by exuding some type of control over them. I guess, in some ways, they are intimidators. They control by lording over others. They are dictators at heart.
2. The “Lone Wolf” People, this is usually the I’m-so-cool tough guy, you-can’t-touch-this type or the “Redneck Woman” (like from the song) kind of woman. These people are usually putting up a big front to mask the insecure child they still are on the inside. They’re usually full of a life lived in pain, fearful of rejection and terrified of being ridiculed and embarrassed, so they put up a front. Often, when they know they can trust me, the front falls. I meet a lot of biker, redneck types who are like this. I meet a lot of women who are like this. They often cuss and talk bold. They sometimes brag about fighting, but sometimes they tell me stories that tell me that they are fragile and vulnerable. They don’t want pity. They want someone to say to them that they are brave spirits. They are still searching. Their pretense isn’t to gain power over others. It is merely to protect themselves from pain and hurt and from those who want to exert power over them.
3. The I’m-a-Mystery-so-Notice-Me People. This is, I hate to say it, often the artist. Sometimes when I go to art festivals I will encounter artists who feel they don’t need to actually “talk” to you. They can just drift around, being all mysterious, because they get some kind of pleasure from people trying to find out about them. Seriously. I meet a lot of musicians like that, too (and oddly enough…mechanics) Sometimes, these folks will try to be all “mystical” and “super spiritual”. I don’t know what the deal is except that having a Merlin persona somehow gives them a boost of energy. Then there are the ones who are self-sacrificers because looking super humble and meek makes them feel more spiritual which in turn really feeds their ego.
4. Then there is the I’m Smarter Than You People. No matter what subject you bring up they know more about it. They are the “experts” on everything and rarely shut up long enough to learn anything. Whatever topic I bring up, they twist it back to their own topic of choice and ask me questions so they can prove how much more they know. They get power from imparting information, whether it’s correct or not. They just have to know that they know more than I do. So, I let them believe they do, because informing them otherwise might destroy their fragile selves.
5. There are the Poor-Me-Feel-Sorry-for-Me-Because-My-Life-Sucks People. These are the ones who gripe and complain and tell me all of their woes, their angst. It gives them a sense of power when someone feels sorry for them and it feeds them, at least for a little while. They have predetermined that their lives are full of negativity and it makes them feel good to know that they feel worst than the next person.
6. Finally, there are the Genuinely Rare People Every once in a while, I will encounter these rare gems. There are people wandering around out there, some who have endured great hardships, others who have not, yet they do not need anyone to pity them, nor do they need to be in charge, or to know more or to feel they are more spiritual. They do not need put on a show or try to prove how tough they are, because they KNOW who they are. They are like sparrows and dragonflies, they just exist and go through life being what they were created to be and doing what they were created to do. They aren’t afraid to laugh or smile or cry. Nothing is done for a show or to gain dominance over others and upon these people rests the responsibility to let others see that when you know what is true and you act on what is true then you are free.
They have no need to control because they have no fear of being controlled. They have no need to dominate because they have no fear of being dominated. They are the people who have learned the secret–the one who lets go, gains all and that the one who holds on too tightly ends up empty-handed.
They are not religious. They are not prideful. They do not feel that they have prominence over others and whenever one of these people happens to be a leader, they understand that being a leader means never asking another to do what you would not do yourself. It means never lording your posisition over others just for the sake of feeling important, not proclaiming yourself more annointed, or spiritual, or needed. They understand that each of us is a spoke in the wheel of life and no one spoke is more important than another.