When I was a kid I was scared of the dark. Not like I couldn’t sleep with the lights off, but I didn’t like to walk into or out of a dark room. I felt like I was about to get ambushed, or like there was someone sneaking behind me. I especially hated walking up the basement stairs in my childhood home. The light at the top of the stairs was hardly comforting compared to the massive darkness that was threatening to swallow me from behind.
Sometimes I still get that feeling. That even though I’m moving forward and I’m moving up and I’m moving toward the light, I might still get swallowed up from behind by that massive darkness. I’m not even entirely sure what the darkness consists of…old memories? Old emotions? Subconscious fears and insecurities? That’s the funny thing about being afraid of the dark. You aren’t afraid of something you know is there.
You’re simply afraid of the uncertainty.
I am notoriously bad at self-portraits. I’m just not good at making faces look like the person they are supposed to be. I’ve learned to look at my various attempts as “interpretations” of myself, such as this one from when I was 16 and a smoker:
I deliberately kept it vague so it was more of a representation of me. Then there was the honest attempt I made when I was in an art class at 23:
Which I like even less. You can see I tried, but I was so focused on getting the individual features right that the whole face turned out distorted.
But of course, it’s time to try again. This is my latest attempt, although at 27 I made myself look 40. That’s ok. Sometimes I feel 40 but without the advantage that another 13 years of experiences would bring me.
I had an art teacher once tell me I should steer away from color paintings until I had a better understanding of how to use them. I still don’t understand, and I often have anxiety once the colors start hitting the page. But I like the way this one turned out, at least up close.
Does it look like me? I guess you’ll never know. But the answer is no, not really.
This painting started out as a bland, fearful attempt to be creative. I painted it over ten years ago, and I recall even after I finished feeling like what was the point of that?
I was anxious and I was always trying too hard to be something. Anything. Instead of just allowing myself to be. I was always focused on the end result instead of just enjoying the process. This sad canvas board is a snapshot in time of that artificial lifestyle.
I recently updated it, mainly so I do not have to look at it anymore. It’s funny how rusty my painting skills are, and the end result is something I once would have beat myself up for. But this time at least I know it was painted more honestly and with less fear. So that’s something.