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.
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!
That is a working title, although I’m sure I’ll keep it. First thoughts are generally the ones I go with.
I am not thoroughly pleased with this piece. I felt that I really rushed it, especially today, and that impatience lead to a slew of problems. I intend to redo it at some point after I’ve given myself time to look it over and nitpick.
One thing I’ve been trying with these last two pieces (talking about the post prior to this one that has yet to be titled) is to play with the paper and see how tolerant it is. I use this paper a lot – Bristol Smooth. It’s one of my favorite papers to use, but I’m not so sure it’s suitable for pastels. Or maybe it’s the repeated erasing and aggressive rubbing that did it in, but not long into working the sky the paper started to pill up – mainly around the female’s head. It all went downhill from there.
One thing I like about the picture are the expressions. While the faces aren’t nearly as expressive as I wanted them to be, I feel like I still got some of it out. It’s certainly an excellent starting point for the next attempt at this particular piece.
I’m growing accustomed to this sigh I get when I finish a work – usually right after removing all the tape. It’s…relief. Pleasure. Excitement and anticipation. I like it! My rotator cuff, however, does not and is super pissed.