Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Creative Process Part III: The Talent



I have, what I believe to be, the greatest composition for a painting that the world has ever seen. I think this about nearly every painting I do. My study is riddled with temporary bouts of vanity. My excitement is so thick that I can actually feel it in my throat. I want to start painting now. 
   Oh, if it were only that simple.
   This is a pretty typical interaction between me and my models. Some are easier, some are harder to work with. I'll use Blondie as an amalgamation of all the typical...
   First, I send an e-mail: “Hey Blondie! It’s been awhile since we talked about your posing for me. I have an idea for your painting and wanted to see if you were still interested and when you would be free. I’m looking forward to speaking with you about it. I think this project will be a lot of fun.” I follow it immediately with a facebook message.
   Then, I check every 45 minutes to see if there’s a response. I spend a little time doing some sketches to see if a pose comes to mind. I check facebook again. I could actually pick up the phone and call, but that's too 1994. A text message then:
  • “Blondie. Ready to pose? Your immortality awaits.”
   I quickly delete that. What kind of military recruitment poster bullshit is that? I re-type.
  • “Hey Blondie! I’ve been working up an idea for your painting. You down?”
   When did I turn into Shaft? Screw it. I hit send.
   Four days pass. You'd think I was waiting on an acceptance letter to Harvard. I'm in a near-panic that I might have to rethink this whole thing. Maybe she's changed her mind. Maybe my Shaft-esque text message was...
   My phone beeps. A message from Blondie: “That sounds awesome! Let me know when and where.”
I start typing a response, but maybe that sounds TOO desperate. How many days are you supposed to wait to call a girl?
...
   A week and a half has gone by since I've talked face-to-face with Blondie. Finally, our schedules are in sync and we are about to start our first photo session for the painting. I'm nervous. I always am. This is the first step toward making my vision a reality. This first step can really screw it up!
   "Honey, you think the kitchen is clean enough?" I ask TheWife
   She rolls her eyes at me.
   "I'm serious. I don't want the place to be uncomfortable. People have to model in here."
   "It's fine," she says. "Forget the kitchen. I'd worry about the bathrooms, if I were you."
   "I just did the bathrooms!"
   "Did you? Huh. It didn’t look like you did."
   I sprint to the bathroom with a mop and sponge. I hear TheWife giggling behind me.
   Once the bathrooms have been cleaned a second time I go change clothes. Again. I want to be comfortable, but not slovenly. I want to look good but not seem pretentious. I want to look professional but not seem over-bearing. I rule out the suit. I also rule out the sweat pants, the shorts, the khakis, and the men's capri pants I bought because they were featured on the cover of some magazine I saw in the grocery store. 
   Just as I've settled on jeans and a casual shirt, I hear the <ding dong> of the doorbell. I run to the door like a kid waiting for a candy delivery from the Easter Bunny, himself. I open the door with just as much excitement, huge grin on my face. And there's Blondie...sort of.
   "You dyed your hair," I say flatly.
    "You like it?"she asks.
   "Ummm, of course. It's not blonde."
   "Yeah, it's sort of reddish. It's a little redder than I thought, but I like it."
   "You should.  It's...not blonde."
   She smiles.
   I stare.
   She starts to look uncomfortable.
   I stare more.
   She shifts a little, looking past me into the house.
   I feel TheWife come up behind me. “Hi. You coming in or what?”
   “Hey honey,” I say through a forced smile. “You like her hair? It’s kind of…not blonde.”
   TheWife and Blondie-No-Longer spend the next three or four minutes talking about hair styles and dye jobs. I wander into the house behind them staring into Blondie-No-Longer’s hair as if I think a demon might step out from it. Here is my internal dialogue while all this is going on:
   Me: Shit. She dyed her hair. I wanted it blonde.
   Captain Artist: Cope with it, pansy. (Note: Captain Artist sounds surprisingly like Keith David, the voice of the cat in “Coraline,” Goliath in “Gargoyles” or almost every video game since 2004.)
 
   Me: This is going to be more difficult. You can't just paint someone's red hair suddenly blonde. The light plays on it differently. There's highlights I can't fake.
   Captain Artist: You are worthless! Get your ass in gear and start snapping photos!
   Me: But...
   Captain Artist: That does it. Your day is over, sissy! Out of the way!


   And just like that, there’s a no sheriff in town. I have lost complete control
   Blondie-No-Longer is chatting with the wife, standing in the hallway, holding a couple of bags. I think about saying something polite, and as my mouth opens I hear Keith David’s voice come out.
   "You can put your stuff down where ever you like. We'll get started soon. Your hair will be perfect. Goddess of the Dawn. Dawn sky is reddish. Your hair is reddish. Be just fine."
   Blondie-No-Longer beams at me, or rather, him. "Good, I was worried," she says.
   "No worries," the Captain says. "Let's get started."
   I...er...he rushes around like a man on fire: Setting up lights, moving furniture. Blondie-No-Longer is talking to me but I can't respond. The work is calling. Steps must be taken. Nothing can be skipped. The Captain is all about efficiency. And as much as I hate him...and I do hate him, my fellow adventurers. I really hate him...But I need him. I recognize that without him I would sit and drink margaritas with my models for three hours before I get to work. I'll watch youtube videos like Double Rainbow and snack on microwave taquitos. But this plane has got to leave the ground. I can plot a scenic course with the best of them. But you do NOT want me flying the plane. Trust me.
   I hear Blondie-No-Longer say something.
   "What's that?"
   "I brought a few changes of clothes with me."
   "Good," the Captain barks. "How about you go in the bathroom there and we'll take a look at all of them."
   This part fills me with dread. Captain Artist is super efficient. He gets things done. But he has the creativity of a gerbil on an exercise wheel. Letting him choose the outfit would be terrible. I try to resume control, which means I spend about 5 minutes pacing back and forth in the same 3 foot square, a science fiction robot repeating "does not compute" over and over again. I watch Blondie-No-Longer come out of the bathroom in a blue dress with heels. Blondie-No-Longer has great legs, so the heels would be a good touch. The dress, however, covers up said asset too much.
   The Captain doesn't care about great legs. He doesn't care about cleavages or pecs or asses or strong arms or even breasts. This can be good. Left to my own devices, I will sit and stare at a model in an incredibly inappropriate and pervy fashion for hours on end. There would probably be drool. The Captain, however, just wants you out of our house. You may be the most beautfiul woman on the planet (I'm talking to you, Sofia Vergara). You can stand in front of me and rip everything off in one smooth motion, then strike some impossible yoga pose and yell "booya!" The Captain will cringe at the increased noise level and start snapping pictures without a second thought.




   Unfortunately, that means that when given choices that are directly related to beauty, as in "do we emphasize these calves or not?" the Captain will tend to go with whatever is most efficient.
   And so, I was appalled when I heard my mouth say, "that's perfect."
   Blondie-No-Longer pouted. "You sure? I brought a lot of stuff with me. I don't mind trying it on."
   "No, don't worry about it. Stand over there."
   Blondie-No-Longer looked over her shoulder toward the bathroom where her other clothes were waiting.
   TheWife rolled her eyes at me again. "Honey, she did bring a lot of stuff. How do you know this is the best one?"
   The Captain almost said something stupid. He doesn't mind sleeping on the couch. The other 299 personalities in my head hate it, however, and we all rallied, putting an invisible hand over the Captain's mouth and wrestling him to the ground of my psyche. It was a glorious battle. While the other's held the Captain down, a second personality shows up. I managed an impassioned, "that would be great. Sorry. That's a great idea! Please, try on everything you’ve got!"
    Thirty minutes later and I've settled on an outfit: tight jeans that emphasize strong legs, a white tank top that's tight enough to show a strong core as well as accentuating the shoulders, and boots to show the viewer that this is serious work, not the flippant project of a high-heeled harlot. I’m pleased with the choices. Blondie-No-Longer has been instrumental in helping with the choices, as was TheWife. There is more clicking in my head and poses are starting to make themselves known. We all get an ice cold beer and relax for a few minutes.
   Then, the posing begins and we let Captain Artist do what he does best.
   “Stand over here. No, face that way. There you go. Turn your head a little to the right.”
   Click, click, click. Not in my head this time, though. This is the camera, a Fujifilm 10 megepixel beauty that we bought last year with money from the change jar.
   “Raise your arm a little. Higher.TheWife, move that light to the left some. Shift backward.”
   I have some poses in my head, but the Captain doesn’t care about them. His goal is to take as many poses as he can. Anything that seems to make sense is fair game. I click my way through seventy-eight pictures before the Captain considers his job done. I spend 5 minutes getting rid of crap and deciding on the best pose. This part is mostly intuitive. I see what I like, and I chose it. I call Blondie-No-Longer over so she can have a say. TheWife is always welcomed to help with this part, but she rarely does. I’ve never known why. She just smiles that enigmatic smile that says, “Husband, something is happening here and you don’t get it, but it is for your own good.”
   It takes a very short amount of time to chose the pose we want to use. I have Blondie-No-Longer memorize it. I memorize it. I have my wife memorize it. I pick up the camera. I wake the Captain. And thirty minutes later and I have more reference material than I could ever use. And it's good. Close ups, distance shots, different lighting, different angles. The Captain knows his shit. Bondie-No-Longer and I look over the shots. I tell her what the painting is going to look like. She seems excited. TheWife is excited. Even I'm excited. I have a physical representation of something that has been in my head for weeks. It is satisfying. It is incredibly powerful. We have created something from nothing. There is no more clicking in my head. There is no more uncertainty. Everything I need is right here in front of me. My mind is quiet and I am at peace.


   How quickly I forget. The easy part has just finished. Hell begins tomorrow.

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