Art Doctor: essay madness and smiling lessons

Dear Art Doctor,

I’m falling apart. I spend all my time in the library and I can’t remember how to have conversations. To make it worse, I’ve fallen for a boy and he only sees me at my maddest. What can I do?

Anon.

Oh, you poor dear. I’d love to help, but I’m actually in a pretty similar situation myself – do you do history, perchance? I jest, of course, I wouldn’t be much of a doctor if I wasn’t impeccably organised and constantly on top of things… (I wish). It’s probably not much help to tell you not to leave things to the last minute, is it? I know, I know – you don’t mean to, it always just sort of happens.

Let’s deal with things one at a time. First, the stress. I prescribe brisk walks and hot baths. You might think you don’t have time, but try swapping your library cafe breaks for a take out coffee and a stroll around George Square gardens – it’ll make a difference, I promise. As for the baths, well, you have to wash at some point (and it’s easier to read in a bath than a shower). Art-wise, I think you should avoid excessive stimulation and stick to simple prints. I’m assuming you don’t have time to go to galleries, so I suggest having a sneaky internet search for something lovely and natural and soothing like Garry Fabian Miller’s Cow-parsley, Swaledale. This print is wonderfully serene and pure, and it will remind you of your happy amblings around the gardens.

Now, crazy looks and forgetting how to socialise. Practice smiling (do this in the privacy of your home, not the library toilets) without baring all your teeth like a lunatic. I suspect you have resorted to the old open-your-eyes-wide-and-show-all-your-teeth formula. This is not, I repeat not, how normal people smile. Remember those relaxed pre-essay days, just a few weeks ago? You could manage normal facial expressions then. Take inspiration from Daisy Grant at the National Galleries (she’s in the first room as you go in, or you can find her on the website under Francis Grant in the Artists A-Z) who manages to look calm, collected and dignified despite putting her gloves on and walking at the same time (which is too much for me at the best of times).

As for the boy, if library delirium continues, you could try lassooing him or putting a giant net at the bottom of the stairs, but I think it’s probably best if you just give him a Daisy-esque smile when your eyes meet. And maybe, just maybe, you could ask him if he wants to join you on one of your walks.

Originally published in The Student.

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