I Miss Getting Dirty

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My senior year of high school, my art teacher came to us with a project that seemed more fit for a kindergarten art class. She told us to finger paint animals. It was one of our final assignments for the year and I was nervous. It seemed silly. It seemed frivolous. I thought my finely tuned motor skills could have spent time doing something with a little more teeth.

I sat down in my basement with a giant canvas-board. With large strokes from a wide paintbrush, I painted the white into black. I waited for it to dry and with a pencil outlined long arching necks adorned with spots. I stared at the blackness. I stared at my pallet: a warm mix of yellows and reds and browns. The red gleamed like blood and stared me down. With a shaking finger, I pushed into the yellow paint. It squished under my force and felt cool on my warm hands. I brought my finger to my face and watched a bead of yellow paint race down my hand.

I smeared the yellow paint, smooth and easy, onto the rough canvas. The yellow shone against the black, and suddenly I was a woman possessed. My hands quickly became colored in paints. The lines on my palms had been erased by the thick, beautiful paint — like my destiny didn’t matter so long as I was using my hands to keep creating. Slowly, two giraffes appeared from the darkness. I covered my hands in red paint and brought them down upon the canvas patpatpatpatpat.

This is the art I feel connected to: art that I can literally dip my hands into and smear across a canvas. This is the art I miss creating. I miss getting dirty.

I love how clean everything looks on Photoshop. I like the depth and breadth of things I can create. But I miss making things imperfect, and I miss getting my hands dirty. I miss finding graphite and charcoal on my clothes. I miss the smell of acrylic paint. I miss soft pastels melting between my fingers. I miss getting dirty.

There is something visceral that happens when you’re making traditional art. It becomes a whole body experience. There are times where I find myself standing over my art, bent over it as if I am trying to crawl into the picture itself. Trying to become a part of my art.

When drawing digital art, it becomes a much more separate — but no less hypnotic — experience. It becomes more about learning how to use the medium versus knowing the medium and using it to your full advantage. And it’s very clean.

There are times where I “mess up” with an art piece and it ends up becoming a pretty essential part of my art. There’s a certain margin for error that allows me to go a little wild. When I’m creating digital art, it becomes more about making something perfect and clean.

Maybe that’s where I have to go next. I should try and move my digital art in a direction where I can get a little dirty. We’ll see how that goes. 

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