A Life in Paint
The million dollar question is what do these three things have in common? The obvious answer is simple, me. However, as with most things, there's the simple answer and the more complex one; today, we delve into the more complex. And before you get on me about the clown picture, calm down, you're not Cosmo Kramer, it's just me with make up.
The real message behind all the things listed in the title is self acceptance. It's really as simple and as complicated as that. First, the clown. As a child, I never really fit anywhere. It's a story I've told before, so I'll repeat it only briefly here. I was different, I knew it, everyone knew it, but there hadn't been a name assigned to it yet. I preferred my own company, finding other children annoying, for the most part, due to their child-like behaviour. I preferred to hang out in my room and draw or read. In school, I was bored, I never wanted to listen, I was content to stare out the window, making up adventures in my head. Of course, the social dynamic of the schoolyard dictates that one must fit in and it really can be a jungle out there. I didn't get a lot of hassle from other kids, likely due to my size and hot temper, but my real way of compensating for feelings of separateness, of feeling out of place, was to poke fun. I became the class clown. I'd draw funny men on the chalk board, make sounds or sarcastic comments during class, you name it. Well, obviously, I spent a lot of time in the hallway or having teachers screaming in my face. It didn't seem to work, I couldn't hold back, honestly, I felt compelled to act out.
Years later, I guess I finally got the message. When I was about 16 or so, and following me through much of my adult life, really until about 5 or 6 years ago, I again, tried to fit in. The class clown was out, it had no place in so-called manhood. So, I became a "man," a miserable, humourless, brooding man. I stuffed the humour in me so far down that even Indiana Jones wouldn't be able to dig deep enough to find the remnants of it. I didn't laugh, rarely smiled and was generally miserable and made everyone around me miserable. And when I say I didn't laugh, I mean it. Misty told me she actually remembered the one time I laughed between 1986 and 1990, seriously, ONE TIME. She used to call me a stuffed shirt. I bet I was one fun date! Nevertheless, being a man was serious business and if that's how I was supposed to be to force myself to fit, well, so be it. Of course all that suppression and pressure to fit came out in other ways, rage, restlessness and being a general asshole.
It wasn't really until a few years ago that I finally let the stuffed shirt go. I still remember the day, Misty wanted to show me a YouTube clip of a comedian she saw live in Birmingham, AL that she thought was hilarious, Ralphie May. I protested, saying I didn't care for comedy (pair that with my other two favourite lines at the time, I do not drink alcohol and I do not attend parties and you begin to wonder why she ever came back). Well, she persisted more, and I found myself laughing, out loud and everything. It felt good. Slowly, Mr. Stuffed Shirt left the building and I became able to accept the silly side of myself as just another part of who I am. So, now, looking down the barrel at 50 (I'll be 49 in June), I can honestly say that I accept all of me, the serious, the silly, the feminine, the masculine, all of it. And the clown is my way of showing that. It's my way of embracing and celebrating what was first punished, and later, suppressed, for so long. But don't worry, I don't always masquerade as a clown when I'm feeling silly, sometimes I play board games wearing a tin foil hat:
And you know the beautiful thing about accepting yourself, once you do, others will begin to accept and love you for you too, think about it, do you really think I make my own hats or paint my own face? Now, on to the art portion of this. One of my recent paintings is about exactly what I've been talking about. It's called Sweet Freedom and it's my depiction of the joy and freedom that comes with self acceptance, of letting go of the expectations and opinions of others: