Don't worry, I'm not going all Jeffrey Dahmer on you. Just read on.
During two of the very few non-rainy hours in June, I actually took my kids to the pool. It felt like honest-to-goodness summer, and I loved it. So did they. Of course, I did not don a bathing suit, nor venture into the water. It turns out I prefer private mortification to public humiliation. And lately my body has felt more like a prison than a temple. (Note: This is not good.)
Then (when my nose wasn't buried in my book, and I pretended to be watching my kids) I started looking with my artist's eyes. And I remembered one of the things I love about the beach (okay, and in Utah, public pools.) Bodies. Wonderful, fleshy, Rubens-esque bodies of every shape, size and color. (Okay, not color, because it's Utah. V e r y l i m i t e d c o l o r.)
Usually I pack along my sketchbook, and I start collecting bodies. One of my favorite art teachers, Carl Purcell, taught us that in order to incorporate people in his paintings, he is constantly collecting figures in his sketchbooks. Body shapes in motion. Gestures. Figures of all ages and sizes.
And so I heft my sketchbook onto my lap and I draw — quickly, rhythmically, sometimes without even looking at my paper. And I start to capture all this beauty, these bodies. People walking, people standing up in the pool, hips cocked to one side, talking to fellow parents. People stooping over big, unwieldy beach bags. Children, sliding and splashing. Toddlers, wrapped in bright-colored towels, trying not to shiver. I try to capture it all. And I find that — to an artist — the imperfect ones are infinitely more interesting. Honestly, the rolls and folds create beautiful forms. I find that a pregnant woman's belly looks so much like a toddler's, and contemplate the symbolic mirroring. I study proportions, and find that none is wrong. They are all just fascinating to me.
I also find myself in awe of the heroic individuals who courageously parade their rotund corpulence with little inhibition. They are merely in suits enjoying the water and the sunshine right along with everyone else. As they should.
I wish I could develop more of an artist's eye as I regard my own imperfect body. I wish I didn't bemoan the fact that it takes me the whole summer to turn from blue to white. I wish I could rejoice in my own ripples and curves rather than lamenting the loss of the perfect hardbody I had when I was 20. And I wonder if I spent just a little more time in my basement art studio, poring over the beautiful bodies in my sketchbooks, perhaps I could escape this notion of a prison once and for all and celebrate my body for the temple it is...not for how it's shaped, but for the divinity it houses.
P.S. For some great photos of Mr. Cool's t.v. commercial shoot, earlier this week, look here.