The idea did however at least function as a segue to the topic of this post: eyes. Jon and I recently watched a television show which showed a series of animal rescues. In every case, body language, especially that of trust, revealed itself through the eyes in particular. The infant baboon, lovingly bottle fed by a calm and nurturing woman, maintained adoring eye contact with her until his wee eyes closed in sleep. In general, relaxed eye contact, whether by ocelot, grizzly or raven, was the hallmark of a loving relationship. It was trumped only by the ultimate surrender — submitting with closed eyes to a full body rub.
I have learned the hard way that monitoring eye expressions is always smart. My mom was the first to point out to me that cats have expressive eyes. She pointed out that the our mercurial Tigs squared her eyes when she was in a rotten mood; only once did I ignore that warning and still have the scars to prove it. When they are enraged, birds engage in what is called pin-pointing: the pupils rapidly and repeatedly open and close. Because Gussie, our orange-winged Amazon parrot, was riding around on my shoulder, I didn’t see his eyes in time to save myself a vicious bite but once I pried him off, I could see that his eyes looked like spinning tops. That bite is still a mystery but I carried him on my hand after that. And you will recall that the chomp Mouse (the house grouse) delivered when he was furious at Jon (see “One Foul Fowl, August 29) was preceded by a stink eye. Don’t ask me to describe it: I only know when I see one.
We all do. And that is why I love and fear painting portraits. Forget big: go “eyes right” or go home. I am just beginning a small portrait now of a young boy with beautiful and unusual eyes; my version of these eyes will either be bang on or the whole portrait will be wrong. I will let you know. In the meantime I will show you the eyes of someone special.