It’s April, and the world is in bloom. I’ve spent the weekend working in my backyard garden trying to get it back in order after it’s been neglected for so long. Winter in California is a holiday compare to other parts of the country , but still it can be cold and wet. During the winter, my garden is best experienced from behind a window in a warm and cozy room. The sunshine this weekend,however, demanded an extended stay outside. So I shot myself outside and hunkered down to do some serious weeding and trimming. A rototiller rejuvenated raised beds with a health dose of organic matter, or in more earthy terms, cow manure. The wild hinter lands are less a jungle and my winter, white skin has the beginning , if not a summer tan, at least a spring one.
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.
Have you ever just started drawing and just went with whatever came up, like random shapes or squiggly lines? You let it develop it’s own life. It might look like a Rorschach test for a while. Then it morphs into images that you recognize, but your don’t know what they’re doing together. Still you just let it flow. You keep working at it, finding patterns and forms you want to develop. The composition develops with focal area and subordinate elements. Then, just about when you’re done, you get it. You see the connection from what you’ve be making to what’s going on in your life. It’s like you’ve been sitting going over and over a dream that you’ve had when all of a sudden the symbolism becomes clear. You get it.
That’s didn’t happen with this piece. It’s still a secret. Why are there angels? I don’t know. Where he is pulling her to? I don’t know. Why is she holding back? What is she about to see? You tell me. I painted this piece a couple of years ago. I’m still wondering about what’s going on with the two of them. Maybe, like dreams that fade as morning wanes into the afternoon, too much time has passed, and I’ll never know. Some secrets are never revealed.
Swamps are messy things. They’re wild and untamed, life unfettered. This is a great prompt for me right now. I hours away from Spring Break and the daily grind of teaching high school students. While I love my students, I also need time away from the regimen of the classroom. My swamp image reflects my mental need to let loose. I’ve thrown together this image using a variety of techniques. It’s a little traditional drawing, some digital painting and some digital collage. It’s a little scattered which is how my brain is acting right now. Yes! It’s time for a break.
This weeks prompt for Illustration Friday brings up a quote by William McFee; “There is nothing like an odor to stir memories.” How often this is true. A whiff of mowed grass on a warm summer afternoon while walking home from school, the smell of mom’s apple pie during a dreary, raining day filling our home with cinnamon or the scent Old Spice after-shave on my fathers neck as he gives me hug before bed, they take me back to events that haven’t been thought of for years. Then just as quickly they fade back as the present calls me to this moment. Once recalled, though, they flavor current events. The past affecting present. The past changing this moment that like the odor will drift away to be recalled by some other smell one day.