It’s a little cooler, which is good. And I have fallen into the school year routine. I haven’t been writing much. I painted a koi- and it is one of those paintings that came out on canvas just about how it looked in my head. I am very happy with the result. But right now I have to get out of bed and at some point go to work. But I should write.
And I am thinking, “Damn, I’m tired.”
I know that under all the busy activity that I am fighting depression and sometimes it takes a lot of effort. That effort sometimes can drain me of everything. And I can’t tell you why it seems bad right now. Shorter days? Diet? Lack of exercise? I can’t shake that deep and heavy sadness and I can feel it pulling at me. I know there is a sadness, but insomnia, anxiety- even a bit of anger in the mix- yeah, fighting that can leave anyone a little worn. I can take a little time to write.
And I don’t know if I can explain what it is like to have these strings of words, that inner voice, these thoughts and half conversations in my head looping and repeating, going over things over and over. Trying to focus on something or dampen them out, or just sleep sometimes. And then when I am with a group of people, trying to follow a conversation, trying to respond and participate. I should try to talk to someone.
So someone I respect- our art director- is talking to me about my art. I don’t think he really likes what I paint, but I listen to his advice without getting defensive or offended or angry. Listen. Learn. I take it in and plan out in my head the next piece. (A koi? I think that will work.) He’s got good ideas.
The gallery opening was in a couple of days and he thinks there is too much darkness- sadness- in my paintings. “People want paintings that make them happy,” he says… and he uses the word, “happy” which I find strange, and inside, I silently disagree. He also wants me to change my bio. He wants me to lose the reference to Ethan’s death. Which he says is a downer and will affect how people see my work. (It’s only there because the other gallery owner, who does like my work, told me to write it in.) I think about my choices… about figures, animals, over abstract. My choices of bright colors, of starry night skies and moons, and even the occasional skull. And I think my work is sufficiently “happy.”
I look at images on my phone. I wonder if he thinks I’m ignoring him, because I’m not giving a lot of feedback. He gives me some specifics. Which is helpful. On the cougar, he says maybe that I should do something like that, but just the eyes, and everything else in abstract. (I’m working on something like that now.)
He shows me what he likes in some of the other artist’s work. And I think that now we are talking about appeal and sales. So he tells me how his abstracts are all “happy” (there is that word again…) and how it all leads to Jesus. (I look at his wall. His work is abstract and largely symmetrical. I squint a bit and try to find Jesus among the shapes. I see textures and horizons and suns…) And he’s right about one thing: In a gallery, you do have to consider why someone would connect with your art to want it to hang on their wall at home enough to take money out and pay for it. Wall space in someone’s home is a precious thing.
I know he counsels people in his church… so when he starts onto how he knows that my painting is part of dealing with grief, but… I gaze at him. “Jesus will turn your sorrow into joy,” he goes on. When he starts sharing how he lost his dad and went through a divorce and you get over it, and I realize that I am hearing some of the worst grief counselling possible. I finally stop him. “You don’t really want to say that to a grieving parent. It really isn’t the same.” I look over at his wife who has been sitting all this time at the desk. She smiles.
I look at my work, and the challenge critically- to think about appeal and connection- I like what I see. I don’t see darkness, but in some, beauty in darkness. Turning sorrow into joy… beauty from the ashes. And yeah, I think Jesus is right there. Suffering. Redemption. Resurrection. I think some people connect to that strongly. And I think others just see fuzzy animals and blue starry night skies. And that is okay. And there is always some dissonance. Some edge. For me. it doesn’t really work without some communication of emotion- some tension or contrast or something that evokes a feeling… which isn’t always happiness. Some people like night scenes and birds or tree branches or even skulls. And some want happy paintings.
And what do people want on their walls? Something that reflects something about them. Something that gives a room a mood. Peace? Stability? Maybe something they find interesting. A focal point. Contrast. Beauty can take many forms.
I look through about 40 of my paintings and most of them I like. I’m happy with them. I think people connect with stories. With beauty. Even with something a little disconcerting and off and sadness can be beautiful. And I think other people don’t get it and really don’t have to. It isn’t for them. I see process. The focus it takes to try to get something right- even the brush technique and how completely rendered- how fine the detail, or how removed from reality something is.
I think that the koi might be my best work. And it is small… only 12×12″ I’ll probably do more fish. More shallow water.