So, I finished the Paffooney pencil drawing that I was working on to illustrate my struggles with the creative act. I can noodle on the piano to some effect, but I cannot play Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor the way the boy (or is it a girl?) in the picture is doing it. What I can do is create a symphony of words and pictures that reveal my inner self as thoroughly as if I were performing naked in front of the audience. So what you see here is not the real naked me. It is, rather, my naked thoughts, my soul, the beauty that is hidden inside my hideously aged and peeling flesh. Inside my mind is beauty and rhythm and rhyme… On the inside you can see what is there without the usual patina of pain and depression and pessimistic pondering. I have explained the naked piano player, but you may be wondering still about the butterfly. You see, long ago when I was a butterfly hunter, I longed to catch the tiger swallowtail that flitted about our back yard and played about the neighbors’ hollyhocks. It was a very elusive butterfly, you see. Monarchs and red admirals, mourning cloaks, fritillaries, painted ladies, and even spicebush swallowtails I had captured and mounted in my butterfly box. But never the tiger. He always seem to flit too high above my net at the last moment. I would see him towards the tops of towering maples, but rarely within reach, and never long enough to grab him in my net. So, one day, I was sitting under the little maple in the back yard, reading a book, when the tiger swallowtail came to light on the back of the hand I used to hold my book. Now, I could have grabbed him right there. I would have been victorious. But in clapping my left hand over him to capture him, his wing dust might have smeared, or his lovely wings might’ve cracked and broken. I had to make an instant decision. I chose to let him flutter away. I did not crush the butterfly, and so… my life, my art, my inner self have all benefited. To this day I can say… “I did not crush the butterfly” and that has made me who I am.
Tag Archives: naked piano player
As you can see, I made a tiny bit of progress over yesterday… but in many different ways. I got my son to finish his week’s worth of online school despite his not being completely well. I got the fake shutters off the windows on the wall where the city is expecting me to put up new siding so the house doesn’t shame the neighborhood. (I wonder if they threaten the other shabby yards and houses in the neighborhood with fines, or am I just special?) I got the dog to choke down 30 per cent of her heart-worm pill. And I added the keyboard and a tiny bit of Chopin to the Paffooney.
Why is the piano player naked, you ask? (Well, really you don’t ask, that was really me. But I have to connect the idea somehow, don’t I? Don’t answer that.) The piano player, like all writers, story-tellers, performers, artists, and other motley fools must put something of herself or himself into the piece. It has to be the true self, the inner self, the often private self. Having been the victim of sexual abuse as a child, the fear of being naked and vulnerable like that is nearly overwhelming. And yet, in a very metaphorical way, it is what I am compelled to do. (What? You can stop screaming. I’m not going to take my clothes off, if that’s what you’re afraid of. I know how horrifying that thought is.) I am only baring what I feel about the creative process. I am writing that part near the end of The Bicycle-Wheel Genius (the fool novel project I am now working on) where the bad guy must be defeated, the good must be made clear and maybe win out, and somebody dies or does something else irretrievably sad. I did it in Catch a Falling Star. I did it again with a major character in Snow Babies. And now, one of the characters that I have created and loved will die at the climax of this novel. A resolution and a death at the end of the tale, just like some cheap Robert Altman movie. How can you possibly have a comedy where nobody dies at the end? Wait, am I doing something wrong here? Who knows?
So that is the meat of this Paffooney process. I give you the drawing, even though it is not complete. I give you the ideas, even though they are half-formed and goofy as heck. A naked piano player… and, I don’t know if you can see it yet, a tiger swallowtail butterfly. The butterfly will be naked too.
What is the meaning of the naked piano player? Remember the naked guy playing at the beginning of episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus? I had a friend who painted a naked boy playing piano in high school art class. He was a band geek. He later proved to be gay. I asked him why he painted that. He said, “That’s me being creative.”
My oldest son is now in the Marine Corp boot camp at San Diego. He says in his first letter home that things are going great. He was a self-taught piano player. He played beautiful music, including classical pieces by Mozart, by ear. He even composed his own music. That was him being creative. So, why did he want to become a Marine and be regimented and told what to do?
Before I started this crazy naked-piano-player drawing, I had a dream. I was performing in front of an audience, naked. I should’ve been embarrassed out of my old mind. But I wasn’t. I think it was because that was me being creative. Sometimes total randomness and surprise is creativity. Definitely being completely open and honest with the audience, being naked, if you will, is being creative.
So here is the start of another colored pencil Paffooney project. I think I will call it, “Baring the Creative Soul.”
I will keep you posted on my colored-pencil progress. This is just the initial sketch in graphite. It does not mean I am contemplating learning piano, or deciding I have suddenly become gay after 57 years. It means, “This is me being creative.”