How else will people know you are selling yourself if you don’t occasionally put out the streamers and the scary balloon-man with the waving tentacle-arms?
And another thing… I’ve noticed I feel depressed every time I finish a drawing. I think it is a reaction to the sudden lack of creative focus. The chemicals that swirl around my brain while I’m working on something make me feel really good, but then it’s done and they all dry up. Maybe I just need to draw out the joy this piece gave me as long as possible by sharing it with as many people as possible. Or maybe I’m just desperate for attention.
Either way, it wont last. As soon as I find a new idea to pour my mind into, this piece will become amateurish trash.
I recently finished working on a bit of artwork. I had the idea of making one of those old fashioned, victorian era botanical drawings but to use creatures and colors not found in real life.
I finished the painting (my first ever watercolor) and was completely disappointed. I liked all the parts of it, but I didn’t like the whole. What to do, throw it away and start over? Maybe… Or – Photoshop it!
It’s my painting, I can photoshop if I want to… right?
Why do I feel like it is cheating?
Part of the problem is that I am old enough to remember a time before photoshop existed, when there was no magic tool to fix red eye, or to crop or blur. I can imagine that for people who’ve never known a time without digital art the distinction wouldn’t be as great. Another part is the world’s strange need to know what is ‘real’ and what is ‘fake.’ Many have learned the hard way that there is no room for imagination in their works of art. If your memoirs aren’t completely fact checked, then beware the wrath of Oprah! The honest message you are trying to get across isn’t the point, it’s the color of the man’s tie on that day, at that hour that’s important!
I made up a picture in my head. A fake picture of fake things. I sat down at my desk, broke out my new tools and put that fake idea down on to real paper. I took that real paper and made a digital copy of it. It’s still real, but made of zeros and ones now. I pushed and pulled those digital bits, I added and subtracted ones to the zeros and zeros to the ones. All still real, all still done by me with the help of tools. Paper, paint, mouse, water, photoshop, brush.
Real or fake. You decide. But before you do, before you rip it to shreds, try to enjoy it first. See if it makes you feel anything. Because that is how I define art: A thing made by someone else that makes me feel something that I didn’t feel before. Don’t care how you made it, my feeling about it is all the real I need.
He reaches a hand across the table. She can see its motion out of the corner of her eye, a force so much larger than its representation. It takes over the table, the restaurant, the hotel they are in, but not in together, not like that. Just co-workers at a meeting. So typical. But not, really, not like that. Just friends. At least they were until he started moving his hand, inch by inch, gently pushing aside the unused utensils it its path.
What are the words that go along with the force of the hand? They are odd, and she is so completely focused on the hand, that she almost asks him to repeat, but no, here they are, “I wish I could clone you.”
She laughs. The smallest of giggles, a tiny breath of sound though smiling lips. Such a tiny sound, but with a power strong enough to stop the hand. The hand slows just as it is passing her salad plate. It slows, stops, reverses.
The words kill the depth and passion of the moment. What does she say in return? She can’t remember. Something nice. Something that will boost that fragile male ego.
They move on, see each other at the odd meeting here and there. Never a word spoken of the ‘cloning incident,’ as she remembers it.
But she never forgets. He wanted her. How could a girl forget being wanted? He wanted her enough to defy convention and tell her, that despite the ring on her finger, he thought of her as a person worth wanting. Every time she sees him, she feels more beautiful, not just physically, but mentally too. Altogether more everything.
Years go by, and things change. The ring is removed from her finger.
She sees him again, some meeting somewhere, some restaurant, some hotel. They sit next to each other, and behind the mask of louder conversation among their co-workers, she tells him the truth about herself. But she drinks too much, says too much. The next morning, her sober, hung-over brain will recall the way he leaned away from her as she shared the facts of past acts of infidelity, the reason for the end of her marriage.
And it becomes painfully clear that he only wanted her when he couldn’t have her. When he thought she was clean and pure. Something very different than what she is. The happy memories of feeling beautiful, tarnished by the fact that he didn’t really want her, he wanted a made up version of her. A cleaner, nicer version.
Another time and place. He is engaged to a person tall and athletic, not a thinker, but a doer, like him. He reeks of smug superiority. At dinner, he is the one drunk, and he calls her a terrible word. She reacts with nasty words of her own, slashes his ego to ribbons. She is far smarter than he is, after all. A thinker, a planner.
And finally, he is married and all the things she found attractive about him are gone. The sweet loyalty, the casual kindness, the relaxed laughter, all gone. The stress and strain show in the lines on his face, the hunch of his shoulders. Another meeting, another hotel, he treats her like a disagreeable sibling. She avoids him and declines his invitations to dinner. With co-workers near by, he reaches a hand out, to grab, what? The hand is both mean and meaningless.
“What happened to you, so wild and fun?” He asks, when she says no, again.
She laughs, a large laugh, a laugh to shred conversation. She remembers plans made and broken, opportunities missed, and instead of regret, finally, she feels relief that it never worked out. It would have ended so badly if it had ever started. Usually she can’t picture the endings, but this one is clear.
Despite the clarity, she can’t make herself understood. How can she tell him that she does not exist?
My tired eyes move rapidly left, right, left, right, trying and failing to grab the blurred images I see through the speeding car’s window. I can’t feel the movement, but I know it is happening because I have seen the effect on other people. On some level I am registering what I am seeing, another car, the lines in the road, the guard rail, but only because I already know what I am supposed to be seeing. The blur fits in with pre-identified objects. My eyes do a tremendous amount of work, while my brain sits back with a yawn and lazily categorizes.
Why do I feel so small in the back seat of this cab? I feel like a child, my eyes are only just level with the lower edge of the window next to me, and the glass partition separating me from the driver restricts my view to the front. I have to strain to sit up and lean forward to see anything more than cloudy sky. I feel safer in the back of this cab than I normally do in cars with other people driving. I think it is because I can’t see potential death every other second, a car drifting into our lane, a bit of trash flying into a windshield, someone going too fast or too slow and throwing off the rhythm, a pothole, an animal, a rain drop, because I can’t see anything at all.
Perhaps I am confusing the feeling of safety with the feeling of relief. I’m on my way home from a meeting in a horrible place. A building with no solid walls. Transparent glass partitions for the conference rooms, but for the employees, every thought, every feeling, every need, exposed to the world. The insanity of the modern, open-air office space. I cringed every time that stranger, across the aisle from the glass box I sat in, casually looked up from her screen right at me. People surround her on all sides, staring at screens, mice in hands, all of them aware that if they stopped appearing focused, if they took a breath, a sip of coffee, stretched back their mouse-cramped arms and closed their eyes for even a second, the entire office would see and judge that moment as unproductive. I shiver in sympathy for the imagined torture.
The person I am meeting with, when I ask how he likes working in that space, says that it is cold. Open air is hard to insulate, I say. I try to explain how awful this environment is and he says what everyone in corporate america says, but Google does it this way… But Google isn’t corporate america, it is a fantasy land where people are recognized and honored for their creativity. That is not the reality of your corporation, I want to say, but don’t. I’m there to help him be creative, after all. The extent of my creativity, for the entire four-hour meeting, is making a plus sign in PowerPoint grow and shrink. That’s it, and they all ooh and ah like I’ve made magic.
I give tiny bits of advice. Too many words, not every slide needs a title, perhaps you can show an image and just say those points aloud. But they don’t listen. They need their charts and their bullet points, and, honestly, they are correct. The data points are important, the people attending the conference next week need to learn these details.
The tiny details, this number or that went up or down, these people here want this thing, those people there want something else. Slide after slide after slide. There is too much. The dots and lines and letters and numbers blur into something the eye can’t follow anymore. But the tool used to convey the information through hard-working eyes to lazy brains, PowerPoint in this case, doesn’t matter, so don’t get mad at it. The problem is the information itself.
My eye moves, left, right, left, right, my hand moves the mouse to follow. I capture conversation and translate sounds to symbols. I can’t see through the glass at the stranger across the aisle anymore because I’ve sunk too low behind my screen. Four hours of pushing pixels until… I escape from the glass box, from the cold, open air, from the constant, unblinking eyes of others. Out through the revolving door and to the street where I can hale the cab that will take me home.