In August, I visited the studio of an artist friend, took off all my clothing and posed nude for him. It is true, I am 50 years old, and I have body parts that have moved south permanently, not just for the winter. I had friends ask me if I was embarrassed and the answer is no, not in the least. What I exposed was merely the vessel, not the contents. It isn’t like this artist asked me to reveal what is in my heart , what is important to me or the contours of my innermost thoughts. If he had, I would have felt nude, naked, bare, exposed…vulnerable.
As artists who have some time behind us, we can identify the painting we made after the death of a loved one, or the one after we kissed our youngest child goodbye before leaving them hundreds of miles away at college. We know the piece we painted in anger after arguing with our spouse. We know too well the commission we worked on into the wee hours until everything we looked at was a blur. We have taken the weight of our lives into the studio and dropped it on the surface of our work.
We need to learn to paint naked.
We can be told to paint from the heart, we have all heard that. I am sure many of us have been told that our work lacks emotion or movement or texture. Of course it lacks emotion when you paint while seething with anger, or stoically holding in your tears. You can’t paint movement when your knees are hurting because you can’t paint what you can’t do. Why paint texture when your life course is bumpy?
By now, you know I don’t mean for you to go into the studio, strip to the skin and paint in the nude, even if it would save your wardrobe. I am suggesting that you toss away the pretense, discard the tension and loosen your grip on perceived reality. Let go of your cares and find your inner peace. Be nude, be naked, lay bare, expose the self and be vulnerable so that you can pour out the contents of your vessel. In other words…