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.
Several times a week I take my dog, Mike, for a walk on a trail that is part of Lake Chabot Regional Park here in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is our time to exercise, build up some vitamin D, and decompress from the stress of the day. That last one is more for me than Mike. Anyway, I often get lost in thought, day dreaming about all kinds of stuff. We enjoy the people and dogs we meet along the way. There is so much beauty on that trail. It seems that with every walk, there is some event or experience that calls to be illustrated.
With our last walk we came upon this guy at sunset with shoes off and arms raise in the most intense, focused prayer. While he was silent, his whole body was vocal in his communion with a greater power. I wish I could have captured his express more so that you could see what I saw. I was tempted to join him and bask in the glory of the moment; feeling the life that surrounded us. But, I would have hated to disturb his moment of connection.
Whether by actual voice or intent, connection is what we again when we are vocal. What is an echo but a reverberation across space and time that says , “I’m here,” and waits for the reply, “I hear you.” And, so is a prayer.
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.
After a month of sunny days in the Bay Area, it’s winter again. Trees are in bloom. Their pink and white blossoms are hanging on through gusts of wind, raging rain and bombardment by hail. I’d suffered through my seasonal,winter to spring cold. My turtleneck sweaters were all stack for storage. I was in that spring time groove of bicycling in warm sunlight while breathing deeply in rinsed cleaned air. Well… I’ll just get to experience all over again. Another Spring!
My Illustration Friday entry may not be a sweater per say. Hopefully a shawl is close enough. They both create the same affect. Whether a bulky, turtleneck or a big, thick shawl, both offer a wall of defense against a draft or a chill. What could be nicer than to doze in their cozy warmth as you bask in gentle sunlight falling through a window during a break in winter’s angry mood?
- Projects ” How-To’s ” Sweater Fabric Flowers (cutoutandkeep.net)