Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Getting To Know Trudi ~ An Artist's Progress & Process...

Trudi was a pushy girl but she was aching to be born...

I looked at my sketchbook today and then at the calendar and realized that it will be one month tomorrow since I did my first pastel. Ever. I have purchased them before, couldn't get up the courage to use them, and they got lost somewhere along the line. Then I bought some awhile back and dawdled. And then on February 20, 2013, I opened the box of pastels, and a sketchbook, and set to with a vengeance. I feel as if I were shot out of a canon with a pastel in my hand! Nothing has overtaken me like this in I don't know when, maybe ever. I am startled by the intensity of my desire to draw but it's not just a desire to draw it is as if I am being called by these women I am creating to get them out of my head and onto paper as quickly as possible. Maybe I'll make more space in there.

My process has been to do a drawing every few days, and then one a day or sometimes I would work on one for a couple of days, and then in the last 24 hours two of them emerged and I was more than a little startled by this but I had no choice, the urgency with which Trudi wanted to emerge left me no choice.

How does this happen? Where does it come from?

Maybe, at almost 59 (on April 30), there is a tsunami of art held back for nearly six decades that are pouring out because at this juncture there are an a boatload of women who have been waiting to be born. Did I know them in another life? Are they parts of myself? I'm sure the latter is true to some extent because I seem to know them intimately. I am not drawing things that I see like my parrots or pugs or garden or the sea, I am being called to birth these rather odd ladies and I'm thinking by the end of the year there will be an army of them. This is the third time I've said it and I know that's bad form, but it is indeed startling. I would never have guessed that when I finally started to draw this is what would come out. And the first few drawings I did were very gentle, madonna like women, very soft and nurturing, and then, Lordy Moses, out popped a vibrant, and one must admit, rather odd, being that had huge eyes and big lips and even while the rest of them are different these features are always the same and I swear I have no idea why. I never thought, "Gee, I'll draw a bunch of women with big eyes and lips," I just do. I draw the outline of the face which is always different, and then I sit there for a bit, and then I begin. The eyes come first, the lips, the nose, all almost exactly the same, and then away I go. Today it was Trudi. I knew her name before I started and I have no idea where that came from.

And then came the fun of playing with the original with a photo manipulation program. I have always loved them and played with them but now every image has an increasing number of variations and I think I'd sit up half the night making more and more if I didn't get a grip. I'm fully aware that this fever of drawing comes, in part, from my manic side, but since I am bi polar type 2 which is the depressive side of things, and since I have been depressed pretty much of the last decade and more and able to produce less and less of anything at all for a very long time there is also the excitement that being productive brings, and unlike manic episodes replete with destructive behaviors, this seems to be very healing, and joyful in a healthy way, and leading to what I believe will be an ever blossoming body of work that will head in more directions than I know I can imagine in this moment. Manic perhaps, but this is a very good thing. And I'm grateful. And I have said prayers of gratitude. This is not something I have done in my loop de loop phases before. Yes, it's a very good thing.

That the images are often peculiar, and might be seen as a bit alarming, even the darkest of them make me happy. Maybe that's because I am acknowledging and accepting parts of myself that I have tried to hide or push down or away most of my life. Parts of myself I have been criticized or ostracized for, and, too, from childhood on I realized that I was a chameleon of sorts. I would change, not to project a false version of myself but because I wanted to fit in or disappear or not stand out. Maybe I am looking at all of these chameleon creatures I have been in the past in an unconscious effort to integrate them and just come to accept them and move in the world as my authentic self, just who I am, no matter where I am or who I'm with. 

Or maybe, having been too serious and too scared most of my life I'm just cutting loose and having fun. I think that's more likely. Or maybe both are likely, and I'm fine with that.

I have become a journeywoman, an aprrentice to the art of art, and I am happy to pay my dues by moving through these early stages of discovery. I have been self-taught in everything I have done in my life, an ardent  autodidact, and I am finding my way with this too. I haven't taken an art class and I don't want to. I don't read books or watch videos on how to use pastels, and I may not be using them in what is considered the "proper way" if there even is such a thing. I am like a child discovering all of the treasures in the back yard, the dandelions and little stones, the wildflowers and ladybugs, and manys the time I nearly squeal with delight when one of the features turns out uneven or askew because that's what we are, we are imperfect in our aspect on every level, we are human, and that is as it should be. 

And I feel these women, their vulnerabilities, the many layers and colors and textures of them. Trudi is shy, and a little in awe of the people around her, she is an innocent, and yes, she is easily startled. She is whimsical and disarming and her eyes change back and forth between green and blue and her colors change to blend in with the landscape, or people that she is around, or mood. She is a late blooming artist, she is bohemian and bookish, and you would most likely find her sitting in a corner of a cafe writing for hours over endless cappuccinos, oblivious to the world around her, with a pile of books beside her, her journal, and a fistful of colored pens. I'm not sure why she doesn't have pugs, she has an Irish Wolfhound named Danny Boy and she sings the song to him as they are both prone to melancholia. She has a black and white cat named Gertrude and a goldfish named Eloise. She doesn't know if the fish is a boy or a girl but she liked the name Eloise. She bought beta fish before Eloise but they tended to jump ship and Gertrude ate them. This was not a good thing. Trudi likes girls, not boys, but she is too shy and afraid to let anyone know. She doesn't think there's anything wrong with it but she has had such a hard time fitting in her whole life that she doesn't want to add one more thing to the list, and she likes her solitude. Little does she know that this is going to change sooner than she thinks, and despite her certainty that no one could possibly love her, especially what with the Irish Wolfhound who takes up most of her double bed, and Gertrude who likes to sleep on her head, and Eloise whom she talks outloud to all day long, and that she sings a lot, off key but with gusto, well, she is absolutely certain that no woman would love her. She is about to get the shock of her life. 

And I know so much more. I may write a play about these characters, or a novel. I think Trudi misses the horses she grew up on and she wants cowboy boots, turquoise ones, and a cowboy hat, but she figures she has to have a horse to have those. This is a great disappointment to her. But she did get the little vintage camper that she has wanted for ages, and obsessed about, and spent too much money on, but fixed up really cute. The thing is it sits in her back yard and she sits in it out there and dreams of all the places she doesn't go. She will soon head out west with Danny Boy, Gertrude, and even Eloise, because the mystery woman is a go getter and finally gets Trudi to go. Some places at least. More places than she usually goes or ever thought she would. 

I know these people that I create. Really well.

The only trip Trudi ever took -- and this surprised everyone who knew her -- was to New York to see an Andy Warhol exhibit. She bought lots of posters and excitedly took them home but they didn't go with her vintage furniture which she got at those old grandmother's antique kinds of shops and even if they looked a little oldish and maybe a tad frayed here and there she loved all of her old furnishings and whatnots dearly because she was an orphan who grew up in a foster home that had plastic on the furniture and plastic runners in the hallways and she was often scolded for touching the nice things. This depressed her and she swore one day she would have a house she could really LIVE in. And that's what she got. But the Andy Warhol pictures didn't fit and so she rolled them up and put them in the back of the closet but, disappointed that she couldn't hang them, she walked around for days pretending to be in one of those posters, she imagined Warhol painting her but she wasn't a soup can. In the end she thought this was a very dark and disturbing period of her life and told no one about it. Pretend that I didn't tell you. She burned the posters late one day in the rusty trash can in the alley after it got dark and promptly forgot about it. She was soon into her Barbra Streisand phase and watched Funny Girl a lot, bought all of the albums, every single one, real albums, not cd's, it was back in the day, and she sang all the songs over and over -- she knew all of the words to every single song that Barbra ever sang, ever -- and she was thrilled that her nose was a little crookedy if not quite having the flair that Barbra's has. 

This phase lasted a very long time. A very long time.

(She especially loved the song, "I'd Rather Be Blue" from Funny Girl and even bought roller skates to skate around on her hardwood floors while she was singing it. She came to a bad end one day and her Barbra phase was over and she burned the roller skates in the rusty trash can in the alley after dark. There was a full moon. She felt wistful, and wondered if she could really give Barbra up, but she was still badly bruised and her elbow was broken and she didn't think she could take any chances.

If anyone could love anyone like her she would be startled to pieces. Yes, she gets startled a lot too.

I can't wait to see who shows up tomorrow, and to learn what story she brings with her, and I have no idea what her hair color will be or if she has ears or not, I just hope she doesn't show up tonight. Between the blue woman and Trudi I'm worn out. I'm going to go curl up under a pile of pugs and watch an indie flick. Probably an art one. That's what I do these days. I think Trudi likes them too.

"I do."

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