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The Bubble

Baby Hippo looks cute. Baby Buffalo looks cute. Almost any baby creature is undeniably adorable. This may be one reason why I don’t do portraiture, except children. It’s assumed that the little ones have a lot to look forward to and even they believe it according to their expressions. They still have steam in their pipes and  light in their eyes. In adults, it’s just as beautiful to behold and every bit as enticing to depict, but more rare.

A decade ago I assigned myself to draw one hundred live sketches so that I could overcome natural shyness and perhaps master the genre. Each sketch took around an hour. The best ones were done with a Ticonderoga #2 pencil and an ebony soft lead on 120 lb. cold pressed watercolor paper.

While I’m not convinced that it improved my drawing skills or reduced that shy nature, there were benefits. One of the best was the bubble.

There are rules in inspiration as it pertains to art creation and while I don’t pretend to know where they originate or what causes their enforcement, I’m satisfied that they are real and non negotiable. Learn them, and prosper.

For the live sketches I discovered that the conversation with the subject is best limited to whatever makes them feel the way you want their face to look. In my case, I wanted them relaxed, confident, and at their sunny best. Smiles were not encouraged unless that was the natural state of the person being sketched. I kept the discourse light and free from anything dark.

With this, I could feel an insular bubble form around the subject and I, followed by a transformation in which their very soul seemed to show through until the age and other mortal identifiers seemed to fade away except only as markers from which to construct a sketch of the now raceless, ageless eternal being. Gender did not fade away. Even adults had that look that makes youth so attractive.

Upon completion of the drawing, the person sketched would sign their name and I would mark it with a sequence number  and date and hand it to them. At that moment the bubble would leave and we both would emerge almost entirely restored to our prior selves. Sometimes though, for my part, it was as if I’d been in the company of an angel and it’s impossible to remain unaffected. The impression remained.

Those oft repeated experiences were my first exposure to non accidental invitation of the spiritual in making art.

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