Joseph Campbell’s books, the Power of Myth and The Hero With A Thousand Faces come to mind from this weeks prompt from Illustration Friday. I strongly believe we all follow the the path of the archetype hero. We walk the stages of the myth story as described by Campbell. Whether it be the stage of leaving home to begin a quest or meeting the trickster that will divert us from our adventure, our life paths seem to be headed towards a goal. We illustrators draw these stages over and over again in hopes of helpings our viewers to get closer to their goals.
At the present I think I am at the end a conflict stage in my quest. It’s been a year of struggles. Only now am I becoming more aware of the treasures I have gain from walking my path.
I began this piece last June when summer vacation began. Freed from the responsibilities of teaching high school students, I had time to sit down and draw. I started out doing the deletion technique on bristol board using ground graphite. I attacked that sheet of bristol board. What started out as a giant scribble transformed into a jungle of vines entangling my hero; stopping him, holding him and not letting him move forward. I think my subconscious was trying to work out my real life frustrations. I had been dealing with the death of my mother and the tasks of taking care of my 87 year old father. And like my hero, stuck and not moving forward, I had to learn to pause, breathe and just let go of trying to hold it all together. When I did, things began to settle down and I could handle things much better.
Isn’t it always that way with a tangle? You can’t fight it into order, you got to let go first.
Once the pencil drawing was done, I let it sit for a few months. Only last Friday when I learned that myth was the Illustration Friday prompt, did I look at it again. To finish it off, I scanned it into PhotoShop and with my new Wacom tablet started adding color. I’m still amazed at the fine quality of line and control the Wacom stylus gives me. I would have been fearful of trying to add color to the graphite drawing, but on the computer I stay tangle free. My quest is complete.
There is this question that is asked to see if someone is an optimistic or a pessimistic. Is the cup half empty or half full? I don’t like the question. Maybe it’s because I waver between the two points of view. Sometimes the world is good. Sometimes it’s not. Time changes one’s outlook on life. In fact, at this time in my life, I know that the cup is never empty because it is always full of space. It is space that allows the flow from full to empty and back again. Space that reassures me that there is room for that inevitable change that will come. All I have to do it look at the lives that came before me to know this. I can see the ebb and flow of it in all my ancestors lives. So I am neither a optimist or pessimist. I am the space between the two.
I didn’t know the connection between paisley and the ying yang symbol until I did a little research. Some believe that the paisley motif is one half of the ying yang symbol. This Buddhist symbol, that represents opposing forces in life like life and death or full and empty, is divided by a wave representing the tension between the two forces pushing or pulling against each other.
The images of paisley and ying yangbubbled around in my brain while I couldn’t let go of the “ripple” challenge of last week. I so wanted to create something about the oil spill in the Gulf, but I had to deal with the last week of school – signing out seniors, giving final exams, the rush to turn in grades and close my classroom for the summer. Though, during the rush to meet the needs of my students and complete everything I wanted, it hit me that is where the crisis in the Gulf began— in the tension between want and and need — a ying yang combination of different forces — our collective want of the life that oil gives us against the need for all of us in nature to live. When one side breaks the balance, Katrina on the nature side or the BP oil spill on our part, the consequences are violent. Both Katrina and the oil spill have ripped up the cultures that exist around the Gulf Coast. The BP spill has most definitely killed so many life forms. What we’re left with are voids where life use to thrive.
I hope that all will thrive again. That the Gulf Coast returns to it balance between man and nature and not slip into a permanent paisely of emptiness.