A few years ago, I saw a old high school friend. He wasn’t in the best place in life. He had scars from his past, open wounds he was trying to heal. We started talking about our shared interest in art.
He had drawn a sketch on a piece of wood. He had this concept of what he wanted all laid out in his head. He asked if I would paint it, bring it to life. I was hesitant at first. My view of things and his were different. Art is such a personal thing. We often aren’t even aware of the things we transcribe-translate onto wood, paper, paint….
He insisted, brought over his drawing. There were two sides. Both he had sketched out his designs. Over the years, the thing he most identified with was Frankenstein. He had drawn out two versions, the man and the monster within.
We talked about colors and his envision of how it would be painted. I tried to encourage him to paint it. I was fearful my vision would not match his. He still insisted, “No, I want your style on it, you to paint it how you see it, how you see me”.
I accepted the challenge… nervously of course. The thought of ruining his drawings weighed heavily on my mind. He had already been through a lot in life. Material possessions, were of no concern. But this, something he created, something he identified with and he had carried with him over the years…. To him, this had value.
I thought long and hard before I began to paint. I stressed over my use of Colors, style and direction.
Then I considered every conversation we had. Every interaction I had with him throughout life. I heard his struggles, his highs and lows. Suddenly I realized…. This was not as much about Frankenstein, as it was about how he actually saw himself.
I started added layers of paint. Nervous about his reaction and mindful to not ruin his drawings. I sent him photos during different stages….
With each layer of paint. I could see him peeking out from inside the drawing. I saw his emotions, his sadness, his pain. I heard his stories over and over again…
Each phase or new layer, the more personal it became. At one point, I felt uneasy. As if I were peeking inside his mind, his most intimate thoughts. I just proceeded cautiously, sending photos as it progressed. Waiting, patiently for his reaction.
The more I painted the more I can find, the boy I once knew hidden inside. I do not think he ever intended for his drawings to reflect his hidden emotions, much less mirror himself.
Sometimes in life, everyone feels things too deeply. We each have a way of releasing the pressure. For many it is working through tasks. Never slowing down to reflect or feel the emotions; just keep moving, till it passes. For others it is stopping time, looking back, embracing the pain. Some choose to drown out the sensation of emotions., with people, relationships, Substances…. For each individual it is unique.
When I was done, careful to not over paint, not to hide the drawing underneath. I looked and notice… the image was quite clear. There was no longer Frankenstein, but my friend did appear.
On the back he had drawn the Monster within.
Oddly I thought, I recognized that grin. It was of course the mischievous nature of my friend. When I asked him if he noticed that. He got quiet, silent even… He replied… “I just drew what I felt and saw inside”.
Last time I saw him, he was at peace. He had meet his new bride, gotten married and seemed at last content. Almost a whole year had passed, I ran into him again. I almost didn’t recognize him. He was changed from within. He smiled, so bright from inside out. I asked how he’d been, before I could finish he pulled out his wallet. He flipped through his photos to show me his daughter!
I mentioned to him, you never got your painting. I had mentioned, how I had tried a few times to send it to him. He just smiled, “you keep it, I know where it’s at”. He was no longer that sad little boy, no longer fighting demons within. He had a new identity…. Father to a daughter & Husband to now a wife!
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