On Gifts and Devotion
"Love is at the bottom of all we do" - Makoto Fujimura
People often say to me 'you are just so talented, I could never do that'. I agree that I have some gifts that, although I work to develop them, do come naturally without thinking. Capturing emotion, connecting to the energies and spirits of things (which is really mysterious to me and hard to talk about without sounding weird and woo), seeing imagery and faces in just about everything. The knack for connecting to healing information through making art. These are things that I would consider gifts.
I think that my current ability to create faces (and it is always shifting) comes from where the intersection of those gifts meet practice and devotion. I love bringing a face to life in a sketch or painting or even just because I have a pen in my hand! I have taken some online classes (am currently studying with Pauline Agnew) and learned different things from each person. I peer at people's facial features while watching television, this has helped me learn to actually see what a nose looks like and how one might vary from another. I have a collection of drawing tips on Pinterest (you can see my board here.) Some attempts are absolute disaster and they get painted over or reworked or just left as I move on to the next one.
So why all this practice? I practice because I love...that's the devotion bit. Getting better at rendering faces and figures matters to me. Tracking who wants to emerge and working to bring them to form is a huge part of my artistic framework (which I learned about from studying with Ardith Goodwin). I'm not sure that anyone would have said to me "wow, you are so talented" after seeing this first attempt at creating a face! But it is wildly important to me that I learn to give expression and form to energy and emotion. It is a vital part of how I tend to my spirit and my well-being. Lovely end results, while awesome, are often secondary to the time spent with my art supplies and listening as I am directed around the page or canvas. Devotion often brings me to the studio even when I don't feel like making art and I especially depend upon it when I am struggling with depression and its attendant voices who are shouting that the work (and my life) don't matter.
So yes, it is for sure more than learning the technical skills of putting the eyes where they belong. And I don't write off the innate gifts either, but in the end, it is about love really. About devotion and about love.