I have always found people beautiful. But until recently I’ve never been able to tell if it was objectively true, or if it was just my subjective understanding. My dad often scares people because he looks like a bikie – he’s a big guy with a shaved head, a beard and a weathered face. But I think he’s one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen. So I know there is a discrepancy sometimes between how I see people and how the majority sees people.
Whilst any assessment of beauty is subjective, I refer to ‘objective beauty’ as that which would be agreed upon by most people. Signs of health, for example, are objectively beautiful – like clear skin, clean teeth and bright eyes. These things are generally considered to be good. A subjective understanding of beauty is a result of love. Of course you think your friends and family membersare beautiful. It’s even obvious that you’ll find strangers beautiful, if you assume whatever you see in them is good. You’re not seeing their outside appearance – or if you are, you’re seeing it bathed in the glow of who they are.
So I was resigned to never glimpsing an objective superficial understanding of people, until I enrolled in the first year art topic, Drawing and Design Fundamentals. During these classes, we were basically told to start drawing what we could see. We were encouraged to stop seeing people and objects as images to which we had attached significance. Rather than drawing an eye as the symbolic circle within an almond shape, we were to draw the lines and shadows that our minds would translate into an impression of the eye. When I drew a person, I stopped seeing her as everything I knew she was, but simply as a collection of lines and contrasting tones.
Three sketches of my tutor – can you guess which one was done with my left hand?
Now that I wasn’t acknowledging in my mind the personal significance of what I was seeing, I could focus more on an isolated understanding of aesthetic. That was when I realised that beauty wasn’t at all in my head. I started marvelling over the curves of wrists, brows and ankles – things that I would never have found exceptional before. I revelled in every new model, because by tracing all of their perfect lines I could pin down another unique form. I wanted to blurt out how beautiful they were, and why, throughout the entire process. The truth is, dear reader, people are just as gloriously beautiful on the outside as they are on the inside. Now I can’t help but swoon over everyone I see – and there is literally no one without something that makes them gorgeous.
A sketch of Daniel.
But then, if I focus entirely on a person as a group of lines alone, my drawing often finishes up not quite true to life. Somehow I don’t quite grasp the whole image; there’s no soul in it. So now, whenever I draw, I try to swap back and forth between seeing a person as a meaningless image and seeing them in their ‘glow.’ I try to impress upon the paper both their objective aesthetic and the identity that lights up their entire form. It’s the only way I can make my drawings work. It seems that, regardless of how superficially lovely a person can look, their spirit is an essential part of their beauty.
Another of my tutors. He sat extremely still; it was both useful and a little concerning :P
I am writing this article mostly because I want people to know how amazing they are. When I see a person and think about how great they look, I don’t usually say anything. I would be disturbed myself if a stranger approached me and gushed about the lines of my shoulders, or how the light makes the hair on my forearms look like sparks. I can tell a person that I like their clothing, or their jewellery, but there’s something very personal about commenting on a person’s body – even if it’s complimentary. I think it’s because it is proof that you have been looking at them more closely than they would like. So I ignore the impulse to vocalise my inner swooning. But you, reader, must know that you are beautiful. It’s too easy to forget.
So while I can’t talk to you personally and point out all the ways you look fantastic, I can talk about the one thing we all have in common: eyes. No matter who you are or what you don’t like about your face or body, your irises are two perfect circles in the midst of all the organic, asymmetrical lines of your form. Two perfect circles, filled with delicate mixes of colour that can be likened to the explosions of light found among the stars; to the delicate fibres of bright coral; or to whatever your conception is of magic. Eyes are beautiful on a phenomenal level. We express most of ourselves through our eyes. This means eyes are the visible connection between our physical beauty and our inner beauty. Your eyes are perfect. You are perfect. No one is an exception.
So if anyone comes up to you in the future and tells you that you have amazing ankles, please don’t be scared. Maybe she’s not a creepy stalker – maybe she’s just a creepy artist.