When the eruption of fall colors has withered into the forest floor and the cold, damp air of winter descends; my ‘art friends’ and I reluctantly retreat indoors. We hang up our ‘plein air’ painting hats and abandon the outdoor landscapes. We light our fires and brew strong (sometimes very strong) black coffee. We sip it in front of the hearth while flipping through collections of art books, often a very large pot of soup simmering on the stovetop.
There are a few brave souls who stand in snow, fingers frozen, or on rocky beaches with icy salt spray soaking into their very bones. They frequently come away with beautiful pieces of art for their suffering and unquestionable bragging rights. For who could say the mountains in winter are not more dramatic and the sunsets the most unique with the earth tilting just so? He turns his back on us. And yet, looking closely, we see him smirking over his shoulder.
On these gray winter days, I remember that there is an adventurous and daring woman living inside me. She says, “Layers. You just need layers. WooI.” Her more practical roommate whose fingers get cold and won’t move and who isn’t sure she can weld a brush properly with a gloved hand gives argument. And so it came to pass on one of these gray days when none of my art friends could play, I found myself alone at the window. My forehead resting against the frame, I gazed out at the misty forest like a sad child watching the other children play. As my breath fogged the glass, I stepped back and saw my reflection staring back at me from what seemed like another dimension.
Setting aside the fact that I was not wearing any makeup and my hair looked like it needed, at the very least, a thorough brushing, I was drawn in by my reflected features. I contemplated that shadow which falls beneath the brows into the eye sockets and how it contrasts with the light bouncing off the cheekbones. And yet another shadow, cascading down the nose like a waterfall on a mountainside to pool in the hollow above the jawbone. These structures provided the backdrop for the eyes and mouth, ever spilling the secrets of the human soul.
And it was then I discovered another landscape, one more complex, more intriguing than perhaps any other– the human face. I turned from my reflection and searched for a photograph, rerouting my endeavors indoors. Abandoning my palette, paints and easel, I reached for a simple black piece of charcoal and began a thoughtful tug-of-war with a piece of brown paper. Caring not that the rain fell and the wind gusted, I became lost happily in the intricate terrain of the human face.
“There is nothing more interesting than the landscape of the human face.” – Kershner
“Art is a shadow of what a person is thinking . . . a small glimpse of what they hold inside. Little secrets, regrets, joys . . . every line has its own meaning.” Sarah (LCMS)