Yesterday I realized I have a sad face.

I’ve been a bit stuck on this large painting I’ve been working on. Mostly I think because it’s part of a series which is a bit of a departure for me but also because I’m trying something different with the technique. Usually there’s an almost textile appearance to larger areas in my compositions that I create through small flat brush strokes. I’ve touched on that in the lower section of this particular painting but not in the dominate feature of the composition which happens to be a stormy sky. I wanted to create a smooth transition from light to dark which worked well for another piece in the series (it’s a triptych) but I’m just not feeling it with this larger piece.

 At first I couldn’t tell what was wrong. I felt …stuck. I sat and looked at the painting and looked some more. I would get up and do some random things around the house. I’d browse Imgur, do a crossword puzzle or read a book. Then I’d tell myself to get my act together and I’d sit in front of the canvas, dab a bit of paint on it and then stand back and look. Another dab and look again. I thought maybe it needed a glaze of colour to create distance in the background. So I tried that. It looked better but it still didn’t feel right. Days passed and became weeks. I thought fine…I’ll leave it for a bit.

I decided to work on some other stuff; pen and ink sketches, a little bit of writing (I’m using that term very loosely) for a local theater group I belong to. I was just trying to keep my momentum up in the hope that it would shake something loose, letting me move forward on the large canvas. Doing other stuff was when I discovered the whole sad face thing. I’d thought of a concept for a self-portrait but I wanted to work from a photo rather than a mirror as my image would only be the starting point of the composition. Yesterday I decided to take some pictures with my phone and a mirror. I basically think I look okay after I’ve done the makeup and style your hair thing. I’m getting older so there are signs of that but for the most part I’d say I’m average though not in a horrible way. Aging, in case you haven’t realized yet, happens to us all. I think it’s best to accept it as gracefully as you can. Unless you have a ton of money, then fight the good fight if you want and go down screaming. I’m getting used to looking a little older each year and I did see that in the pictures I took. The thing that surprised me was how SAD I looked, even when I retook the pictures trying to look a little more cheery. My choir director says we (that is me and the other ladies in our choir) should try to lift our eyebrows when we sing because it makes us look like we’re interested and happy. So I tried the eyebrow lift and I just looked surprised sad and I wondered-Did I always have a sad face and just never notice?

There aren’t a lot of pictures of me as I’m always the one on the other end of the camera. Most of the time when I’m in a picture it’s usually in the background. I had to hunt a bit to find some older examples to compare these new pictures to and you know what? I didn’t always have the sad face. Now I should probably explain that the past couple of years have been particularly rough on a number of fronts. There have been some pretty stressful events for me, my immediate and my extended family. When they talk about those stress scales and major stress events in a person’s life I can honestly say we’ve hit all the markers. When it rains it pours and the weather is still looking pretty cloudy. So…Is that what’s happened to my face?

Looking at my sad pictures of my sad face I suddenly thought of an incident a month before when I had asked a friend to un-tag me in a Facebook picture because I thought I looked sad in it. It was a picture of me at a party and I thought it was just a bad picture because who is sad at a party? Well according to that picture I am and apparently my face says I’m sad at other times as well. It’s strange because I don’t remember being sad at the party and I didn’t feel sad when I was taking those pictures the other day but I sure did look sad. Maybe that’s going to be my face from now on. That’s not a great thought. I tried to remember the last time I had a good hard laugh. It wasn’t too long ago. I’d gone to see a play with some family and friends and things got a little goofy during drinks afterwards but before that night out I think it might have been awhile.

What could I do about my sad face? I decided to smile hard. I felt a bit foolish smiling vacantly at myself in the mirror but I figured if I didn’t want to have a sad face I should maybe try to have a happy one. As a matter of fact for the rest of the day I smiled hard every so often. You know what happened? I hurt my face. I think my smile muscles were so out of practice that I actually made my face sore by smiling through the day. I might have to rethink that strategy. Anyway if anyone had seen me they probably would have thought I was insane, smiling like a maniac as I went about my business. I’m sure my dogs weren’t judging me (they don’t do that sort of thing do they?) but they must have been wondering what the deal was. So what to do about the sad face? I don’t know. Maybe in time it will sort itself out. Right now I hope nobody tells me a joke tomorrow because I wasn’t kidding about my face hurting.

I might be ready to tackle the big canvas again soon. I’m starting to think that maybe a little bit of texture in the sky would be a good way to communicate the power of the storm. I think I’ve known it for a while but have been holding back because I’d gotten attached to how successful the new approach was with the triptych as well as feeling some trepidation as to the sheer volume of work that will be required to address the sky with a small brush. I’ll just have to put those thoughts behind me, move forward putting my trust in the process…and maybe think happy thoughts a bit more.

I think an appropriate song for this post is Sad Eyes by Robert John from way back in the early 70s. The video is grainy, the audio is tinny and it starts off with dancers in flowing dresses- enjoy.