A few years ago I discovered this gem of a site “Illustration Friday”. It’s perfect for us creative cats who need a bit of motivation or fun. Because I’m absent-minded and a procrastinator, I have posted a total of maybe 3 illustrations. That’s about 1 per year! Yeah…
So, this week’s topic is “fuel”. There were many thoughts that swarmed around in my head and a few drawings were made, but I just couldn’t feel them. And then I got it.
Backstory: On October 19, 2011 the Dalai Lama lead a day long prayer and global fast in honor of the people of Tibet who have self-immolated, were killed, or are jailed for fighting for human rights. This day of solidarity was something that I wanted to participate in and while I’m not religious and have few true beliefs, one strong one is that I believe that our minds are incredibly powerful and even sending out positive thoughts/energy can have an effect. Although I’m terrible at being calm and clear headed, I chose to fast and (try to) meditate in support.
I sometimes use candles to help me focus on something and nothing while meditating. I used a tea light and as I was drawn into the flame, I experienced some slight visual disturbance – enough to give me an image. The base of the flame looked like the silhouette of a person sitting in a typical meditative position. Of course it looked like it was surrounded – or on – fire. That made me think of those that self-immolated. I continued on, but the image didn’t leave my head.
I chose to illustrate that image for “Fuel”. To me, it goes beyond thinking of fuel as an accelerant. The fuel is many things: oppression, hate, desire for change, self-sacrifice, a statement. Thinking of the ancient elements: earth, water, fire, and wind, fire was the only one that could produce a chemical change. Anything could be something else.
Those that know me have often been subjected to very long emails nearing novelette lengths. And they’re just emails. They’re filled with possible ramblings or just several paragraphs of intense thought. But still…they’re emails. They should be short and to the point.
I’ve been working on that, so now my emails usually are short and to the point, but I really have to fight off rambling and giving every detail of every thing I’m attempting to communicate. I think partly it’s because of my fear of being misunderstood. This carries on into my blogs.
When I create a post that involves a drawing, it’s much easier for me to just quickly jot down a few thoughts about the image and leave it at that. I certainly have an urge to go in depth and tell you every thought I have about not only the resulting image, but also my feelings on it while creating it and so on. What happens is I end up with a very, very long post that not many people will want to read. Plus, when I write like that it seems I get burned out. So much so that I won’t post for a very long time after. Obviously, that happens now without the burnout, but I’m working on that too!
I feel internally divided – where one part wants to share a lot with the world and be very open about everything (I think letting people know they’re not alone while still acknowledging their unique circumstances is important) and the other part wants to remain closed off, severely private and almost cold, I suppose. It’s a constant battle and whoever the victor is depends on my mood that day or moment.
The reason I’m thinking about these things tonight and writing about it is because I want to try to find a middle ground or at least a comfortable place with my posting (and myself). Presenting those pieces as I do was a big deal for me because there is a lot (a LOT) of resistance from my family and some friends about the type of work I do and it’s always been a struggle trying to feel good about myself and please them at the same time. My family likes what I do as long as it’s not what “I” do, if that makes sense. I don’t think I would ever be able to show them the works that I post here and the amazing thing is that these pieces have been very well received by others – I didn’t think that was possible. The voices of my family rotate through my head when I make those sometimes, so to hear/read positive messages/critiques about them floors me.
I know that when some people meet me and then see my artwork, their initial impression of me goes through a pretty large overhaul. I could say that I’m not a violent person; I’m actually very peaceful, but that’s not entirely true. It goes back to that division I mentioned earlier – part of me is violent and angry and the other part is incredibly peaceful and loving. That’s not to say that the work is violent though. I don’t think it is. I think the last two images I posted are actually very loving and represent an ultimate of something…maybe self-sacrifice? There are so many themes that could be applied and, if it were up to me, “violent” would be at the end of the list.
I like to keep this blog not too personal, but not so distant either. I hope I’m achieving that. I’m pretty sure I rambled…
The process of creation is certainly a difficult one. I thought I would be quickly updating this with new pieces and progress shots, but I’m empty. I’ve been working and re-working a drawing these past several days so much that the paper has pilled and is now useless to me. It resembles a note-taking scrawl worthy of reference but not much more. Stress.
While fighting with that drawing, I had the words “Well, you’re not really an artist then” echo through my head. In my post, Messing Around With Sculpture, I mentioned a conversation I had where I was told the above line. It never left my brain…it was scorched on there…branded. I was in my hometown having a conversation with a respected, well educated businessman. He had just returned from a vacation abroad and was talking about the differences in our country’s view on art/artists to the views other countries held. He felt, compared to these other places, we didn’t respect artists, understand art, nor took either seriously. He was aware of what I did and wanted to know about my process. He wanted to know everything: why I do it, what goes through my head, what master is reflected in my work, and so on. I didn’t have the right answers for him. I think he was eager to use his new found interest and have a conversation with Michelangelo and I could only give him responses from a small town weirdo.
I told him I didn’t know why I did what I did – I just had to do it. Sometimes nothing goes through my head and it feels like I’m doodling while other times I’m so overwhelmed with emotions that I leave my brain and get trapped in brushstrokes. And then I listed a few artists that inspire me. My answers didn’t suit him. He was stuck on my use of the word “doodle” and said “Well, you’re not really an artist then” and ended our conversation.
I was crushed. I was still quite young and very, very new to the idea of the possibility that I could be an artist and I took his words as truth/fact. He was educated, after all. And he went to places that I’ve, still, only seen in pictures or had explained to me by family and a couple of friends. I was convinced that he was right and I was a fool. It wasn’t until I got out and met artists that I realized he was wrong. Because he had the Sistine Chapel above his head for a period of time does not make him an expert on what makes artists tick. He was simply a sort of poseur hoping to use his travels to seem semi-interesting to a community that is not interested. He did not want to know why I do what I do and even now, years later, I highly doubt my slightly evolved answers would suit him. He made up his mind while learning about the celebrated masters….anything or anyone less than that would be insulting and worthless.
Hopefully now that I’ve spat a bit, I can get those words out of my head, grab a new sheet of paper, and start again!
6:10 a.m. Wednesday, June 3, 2009. This day is important. It’s the day of transformation. I haven’t slept yet because I had such a surge of creative energy that I couldn’t control. I drove. I painted. I took nude photos. I blogged. And I worked on my website. For the first time in years, I felt like I wasn’t wasting any time.
I’m alive. I’m alive. I’m alive.