The Art Of Painting Faces

When I was younger, my family was very close friends with another family. It was actually my brother and one of their kids who became best friends in kindergarten – the original spark of it all. Despite the fact that my family eventually had to move to a new town, we continued to stay close, often inviting them up to our house for weekend getaways. 

Backyard badminton tournaments, rainy day board games, Michael Jackson themed dance shows, and long walks in the woods were just some of the staples. It’s incredible how many monumental and fond memories I have of our time together, but one moment in particular has always stood out to me a little bit more than the rest.

I remember getting ready for bed one night. My friend and I were sleeping in the den together on the pull out sofa. We had this dark brown couch from the 70’s with red and caramel vertical stripes all over it. You could always feel every single spring in that tried old mattress, but it didn’t matter. It was just so fun and refreshing to be doing something different, outside and far away from our every day routines. 

When we finally got all settled in, her Dad came in to say good night to us. He tucked us in and asked us if we wanted our faces painted. I assumed this was something my friend got to experience on the daily, and even though I didn’t know exactly what it was or what it meant, it sure sounded nice. 

I watched carefully and attentively as he painted his daughters face, and then eagerly waited for my turn. 

When he was finished he walked to my side of the bed, sat down softly beside me and said “What do you want to be?” I answered quietly, and replied “A cat.” He spoke in a whisper and said, “Ok, we are going to put a little pink nose right here.” As the words began to leave his mouth, I could feel the skin on his finger just barely touch the small, tiny hairs on my nose, as he gently moved the pretend paint in a circular motion. 

This continued for every single, little, intricate detail on my face. It was of course relaxing and immediately helped to calm me down after a big, exciting day, but it was also much more than that. There was a level of effort and intention behind his actions that was not only inspiring and completely mesmerizing but also extremely telling of who he was – the deepest part of him. 

And even though I’m sure on some level his intention was to just get us to sleep, that’s not at all how it felt. It felt as though the purpose was to actually make me a cat, the greatest cat there ever was, with all the right colours and all the right things. There was something about the commitment and dedication of it all that has never left me, not even to this day. 

I think when you paint a face it’s more than just a simple action, it’s actually a deep-seated intention – or at least that’s the art of it all. And when you find someone who does it well, I think it can give you a glimpse into the depth of their soul. 

But it takes a stillness, a presence, and a special kind of person to deliver that to someone else. And it’s a beautiful thing. There is a lot to be held and appreciated when you can see and feel that in another person. It not only makes you feel more at home, but it allows you, when the time is right, to expose your depth to other people as well. 

Now as a parent myself, 30 years later, I often ask my kids at bedtime if they want me to paint their faces, and they almost always say yes. I pretend my one hand is a pallet of different colours of paint and I gently rub my finger in a circular motion over a particular colour before I start on the canvas that is their face. I detail everything that I’m doing in a soft whisper and it’s usually only a few minutes before they fall asleep. 

And again I know it helps them to relax and allows them to fall asleep more easily, but I also know that they, and myself included, love it for many different reasons in addition to all that. And even if they can’t quite articulate the feeling just yet, I know they are experiencing it – my depth. 

…….

It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago, my kids, fortunately for my sanity, go to bed early, but that also means that they get up early. Some days it’s a little past 6 am which is perfection, but other days it can be as early as 5 am – on my birthday, it was 5. 

But regardless of this, I had potentially the greatest wake up of my life. I woke up very calmly and gently to the soft whisper of my daughters voice, who was laying quietly beside me. She rolled her body towards mine and said, “Do you want me to paint your face?”, I kept my eyes closed, immediately smiled and answered, “Yes, please.”

I could feel every ounce of her commitment, dedication and intention – it was absolutely glorious. And as I felt her depth and soaked up every little bit of it, I felt so grateful. 

…….

A heartfelt thank you to Mr. Simon Coles – one of the greats. What may have been a seemingly normal moment for you in the course of your younger years as a Dad, has cascaded and carried through my entire life. Your depth, I’m sure, has not only extended itself out to me, but I imagine to many, many different people, and the world is very lucky for that. Like I said before, it takes a special kind of person, and that’s exactly who you are. 

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