It's a work in progress, but I've begun my first serious attempt at a self-portrait. I set out to use the same style and materials as the portraits I created in my "Climbing the Tree" series--India ink on paper, plus pen, etc. I sketched myself in pencil, marked my features in pen, and erased everything to prepare for the ink washes. I tried to remember what it felt like to relinquish control, to "let things happen". I opened the jar of India ink, which had a thin bubble stretched across the top and I popped it with my brush. As I might have predicted had I not been so focused on my excitement to get started, the ink from the bubble splattered (lightly) all over my portrait before I was able to even make my first move. Fuck it. Such is the process of getting to know myself.
I've been putting this off for about a year and have run out of excuses. Portrait work means intimacy (for me, at least) and I couldn't stand the thought of spending hours on end looking into my own face. There are so many things I (and anyone, really) push down in order to function, so many ways I avoid looking myself in the eye. I wasn't sure how I was going to manage the introspection, how I was going to deal with the flaws--I'm talking about the depression and anxiety, the secrets, the vices, the identity confusion, the spiritual conflict--everything that makes me human; everything that makes me the person I struggle to nurture.
Maybe that's what this project is--a way to nurture myself. There is a revolution going on right now. People are making the decision to love themselves. And I'm not talking about people who find this easy or who are loved by the world. I'm talking about the people who (in one way or another) are constantly and systemically told they don't deserve love. I'm not going to say that I am one of these people, that I "understand" or have had "similar" experiences. But I'm also not going to say that I don't have a place in this fight. I want to join this revolution any way I can, to support and encourage the people who are involved in it and to contemplate what it means for me. I want to join this revolution so that I can become a person who nurtures others, and when I find ways that I contribute to their harm--to the non-nurturing of them--I want to stop and be held accountable for this, and then I want to change.
I want to join this revolution as a person deciding to nurture the part of myself that I have spent so much time quietly hating and disguising for the sake of "functioning in society": my mind. My over-diagnosed, medicated, easily-panicked, uncontrollable mind--the destroyer of my relationships, the supplier of nervous breakdowns (at utterly inconvenient times), that factory of all my art.
I will start here.
Let me paint myself and love in the act of it.