I distinctly remember that first class: oh my God, there's a naked woman in front of me, just standing there! And, oh my God, I get to try to capture her! Oh my God indeed: each pose felt like a different face of God. I went home a changed man.
Now my dominant feeling is frustration. No, that's not what she looks like. No, those colors aren't particularly right or interesting. No, that's not an interesting pose that he's assuming.
I struggle with self-doubt and self-accusation. Get off your high horse, I say to myself. You're about as deep as a puddle. You've got this little watercolor schtick you like to play with, and sure, it gets you some pretty pictures (ever more rarely). But this is no "spiritual practice," like you pretend it is. It's just a bit of self-gratification. If you want to play with yourself, fine. But don't pretend it's anything other than it is.
I wonder if this is part of what it means to get older. The hardest thing I've found about aging (I'm 45) is sustaining innocence and simple joy at taking in the world around me. It does get harder.
In a previous post, I've said that drawing is the practice of learning to see the world as it is. Well, in some ways, practicing art makes it harder, not easier, to do so. You start out, and you realize that drawing has the power to awaken your "tired eyes" and therefore allow you to be surprised and filled with wonder by what there is to see. But then, I think, you get better at your practice. And then your "drawing eyes" get tired too.
In painting this picture, I found myself surprised by Anna Maria's shoulder blades. It's OK, I think, to lose your mojo, as long as you have faith that the mojo is still there, waiting for you to see it, when something as beautiful as a model's back has the power to pull off the film of tiredness from your eyes.