Dec 16, 2020–Symmetry is boring.
This thought came to mind when I ran into a pal in a grocery store aisle (where else?) and he apologized for his lopsided gait due to a physical issue.
My reply was, “Symmetry is overrated.”
I trace this ontological insight back to Freshman Art, one of my first high school electives. I was not very good at art, but I have a pattern of plunging into things I’m not good at. Which is how I built a skill stack of mediocrity in tap dancing, magic, banjo, and being a husband.
One early art project was writing our name large in cursive using thick paint, then folding the paper to make an abstract image that looked sort of like a candlestick. It was a clever way to produce art from words, but it was uninteresting. It was a symmetrical image with no creativity or point of view.
We went through the standard art curriculum of perspective, shading, still life, landscape, and eventually tackled the most difficult subject to draw on this planet–the face.
You would think after looking at faces all our lives, we could closely approximate a typical visage on paper. But no, for some reason, they all come out looking like what an alien imagines a human face resembles.
Conveniently, we took turns acting as models for our classmates. What our art teacher told us, and what we soon learned to be true, was a revelation to me. She said that good-looking people are harder to draw. An attractive face is not that interesting, artistically.
It’s true. Try it. Next time you are out with friends, study their faces unobtrusively. Then pretend you are sketching their features on a napkin. You will find that the most beautiful among you are the most difficult to capture in two dimensions.
A pretty face has no distinctive features. It’s like driving through Kansas.
On the other hand, gaze at those faces of your friends that are filled with character–deep lines, crooked smiles, horrible scars, missing teeth, frizzy hair, misshapen noses. They are easy to draw.
I don’t know why. There’s just more to work with when drawing a person that could work in the freak show of a 1930s circus than there is drawing an Instagram influencer.
Need more proof? Which is more interesting–yet another scrubbed-face toddler plopped in the middle of a field of bluebonnets, or the grease-covered neighbor kid working on his bike?
A manicured, irrigated front yard in a subdivision, or an uncultivated Hill Country roadside?
Another beautiful ocean sunset, or a dark wind-whipped willow tree during a rainstorm?
A toy kaleidoscope’s primary colors or a cathedral’s stained-glass windows?
You get the idea. Pretty is shallow. Beauty is deep.
The moral of this column? Embrace your flaws. They are what make you interesting.