Friday, March 4, 2011

Art, Misc: Da Vinci and Me

A few years back, I was getting counseling as part of an effort to overcome some personal struggles I was having as a result of my insecurity, anxiety, and undiagnosed low-grade depression. I found myself repeatedly mentioning how I loved to create and to be creative - despite the very uncreative existence I was living at the time - and that my attempts to pursue a 'practical' life was in conflict with the person I was created to be and the life I was called to lead.

red conte on paper, 18 x 24"
"Who is it you want to be?" I was asked at one point. It took all of a half-second to decide. "Leonardo da Vinci," I replied, completely serious. I went on to explain that the man was a genius, fascinated by everything, threw himself into everything he did, and while he didn't produce a huge number of works in his lifetime, what he did finish mattered - he lived passionately, if impractically.

Not to sound arrogant, but I'm pretty smart, pretty good at art - I want to produce all sorts of creative works in a variety of media, and I have the tendency to jump headlong into everything I try ... up until the point at which I'm distracted by the next shiny thing that catches my attention and I jump into that, leaving a dearth of half-finished projects in my wake.

Fast forward to a week ago. I'm taking Advanced Drawing; free classes being one of the perks at the university where I work. Our assignment it to pick a Renaissance artist and copy one of his sketches. Then, produce an original sketch in the artist's style. By now it should be obvious who I picked. And, to be honest, I was pretty proud of the sketch I copied. It turned out well and I got a good grade on it.

However, when it came time to do the second piece, an original sketch in the selected artist's style, I was so burned out from trying to do justice to da Vinci's self-portrait that I honestly didn't care. I approched it like a regular drawing and drew like Paul, not like da Vinci.

pencil and charcoal on paper, 18 x 24"
The grade on the second drawing wasn't as high. Below the class average, in fact. Initially, this bothered me - I like to excel in everything I do and below average is not excelling. Then I started to compare the pictures and realized something: There is more of me in the self-portrait - literally and figuratively, than in my attempt to ape da Vinci's self-portrait.

It's real. It's honest in a way the other picture is not, flaws and all.

Don't get me wrong, there are certainly things I could get hung up on and criticize - the face, for example. But that line of thinking always pits me against myself: "I'm not da Vinci!" I'd gripe as I started to chafe at the differences in skill between myself and a dedicated Renaissance master; an all-to-common conversation, I'm embarrassed to admit.

And then, for the first time, it hit me: No, I'm not da Vinci, I'm Paul.

And I'm okay with that.

1 comment:

  1. Very happy to hear that you came to appreciate the difference.

    I too have a 'thing' for DaVinci and his works. In fact, it was not so long ago that I posted some thoughts on the subject.

    It's funny, but that quote from Leonardo seems appropriate at the moment. Your self portrait does seem to tell the tale/persona of the man - and that's a fine thing indeed.

    Keep the faith sir - keep drawing.

    A lot.