For the last eighteen months I have been drawing portraits of people with scars. I have wanted them to be a celebration of imperfection and a counter to what sometimes gets mistaken for society, you know the magazines and films where the already surgically perfected get airbrushed into impossible proportions. There is a unique and geniune beauty about someone who has lived a life and who has come to accept what that life has made them, who accepts all the physical and emotional scars that life has drawn across their body and soul as proof of a journey taken. I have always known that I am interested in this because of the many scars I have and how difficult I find applying this philosophy personally – I find I am always less tolerant with myself than others.
Anyway, I soon began to realise that each portrait I drew had an element of self portrait in it, I was circling around something I was too scared to execute. All those wonderful people who agreed to let me draw them were so much braver than me.
At Christmas I drew my first self portrait, it was for my Jan assessment so when it came to having to display it I chose a dark corner in the basement of our studios and hoped no one would notice it. It made me feel physically sick to show it. I soon realised it was a pretty bad drawing, I was so scared of actually looking at myself Ihad rushed it so when it came to deciding what to do for my final degree show I knew I had to redraw it – properly this time.
I have taken twice as long to draw this picture than I usually do, really focusing on each centimetre. In the next few days I have got to hang it in the gallery, that is going to be the toughest bit and I am not sure how late I will leave it. A scar isn’t just a mark on your skin it is the story of a moment in your life. For me, my scar represents what I hate the most about myself, the fear that keeps me awake at night and is the thing that somehow makes me feel ashamed, I can’t quite believe I am going to stick it on a wall and let people see it – let people judge me. I have to remind myself that it also represents what I feel most proud about myself, what I have endured and survived and the example I want to show my daughter and son.
If I feel like this it might seem weird to you that I am posting this, but I am just sitting in my study typing, alone, this is me just dipping my toe into the water, any reactions are distant and removed. Real life begins on the 1st of June when the exhibition opens.
Its not the best photo but I hope you can see it well enough,it’s a little over life sized and I have framed it with glass so that the viewer can see their reflection over the drawing
Firstly, you are beautiful, scars and all! You get to have your fears but please know that most good people aren’t judging you, they are basking in your courage, strength and vulnerability, and expressions. Thank you for sharing such a difficult thought. Ae scars add to our character…not take away from it. Best in health to you, j.
thank you j
A scar isn’t just a mark on your skin it is the story of a moment in your life. Wow. This really stopped me in my tracks. As someone with more than my own fair share of scars, I also really identified with your comment about how much harder you are on your self than others. New York Times writer Dana Jennings wrote a moving reflection on the scars he now carries following his treatment for prostate cancer. He describes scars as “primal tattoos, marks of distinction that showed you had been tried and had survived the test. It’s not that I’m proud of my scars — they are what they are, born of accident and necessity — but I’m not embarrassed by them, either. More than anything, I relish the stories they tell. Then again, I’ve always believed in the power of stories, and I certainly believe in the power of scars.”
I return to this description anytime I am feeling down about my own scars and also this quote: “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars” Khalil Gibran
Thank you Marie,I love the Gibran quote, it’s beautiful, I do collect quotes about scars but I haven’t seen this one before.
I will definitely be researching him and the Jennings article.
Thank you for taking the time to comment, its lovely to think someone might be affected by what I’ve written.
Oh well then let me add another quote to your collection Carole – I collect them too 😉
“It’s a shallow live that doesn’t give a person a few scars” Garrison Keillor
Thank you Marie, very true x
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