There have been many times when people looked upon me with raised eyebrows, if not utter disbelief. I am, of course, not only accustomed to it but somewhat proud of it, being an artist. If I never surprised or seemed a little off-kilter to anyone I would think it called into question my credibility as an inventive person altogether. So I’m happy to report that my assessment by others has been heavily salted and peppered with expressions of doubt, disdain or possibly, diagnoses of delirium.The artwork above (four feet high, for your contextual reference) came from a period in my artistic development wherein I might have been forgiven for thinking there was a form of communicable facial paralysis among my contacts that left them all perpetually wearing masks of such disbelief. I had meandered through the three years following my undergraduate commencement, while working for my uncle’s construction company, barely producing a discernible body of small artworks the while, and still had opted to go off to graduate art studies. I had made a pitiful showing in my first quarter of work there, simply extending the slow, unproductive approach I’d had during the previous three years to cough up a tiny handful of pleasant but utterly unimpressive artworks without any particular evidence of having been changed or challenged by my reentry to the educational environment. But after the embarrassingly lackluster critique session that closed that quarter, I was perhaps uncharacteristically motivated to break out of the doldrums and sail in a new and more daring path, in hopes of visiting uncharted territories of worth.
Changing my approaches to media, techniques, subject matter, scale and speed, I found, all contributed to my discovering new sides of my artistic self. I became in some ways quite the opposite of the person I’d been previously in the studio, and while I never lost my love for the various characteristic media, techniques, etc, etc, that had defined my former self, I certainly never regretted having broken the mold I’d set that self in so firmly. An inordinate number of options and opportunities previously hidden from me by my insular fear and ignorance and self-imposed narrowness of intent and expectation suddenly seemed both possible and appealing, and I have continued to gallop around after them with abandon, sometimes with a hint of obsession and often quite tangentially, so I’ve grown to simply expect the raised eyebrows around me and relish the thought that they mean I’ve not settled too far into my former predictably fixed self again.
That, I think, is encouragement enough to keep me moving forward.
Being beautiful is such an ephemeral thing, to be sure. Making art that is beautiful is possibly even more so–after all, the same piece that appeals to one might hardly appeal equally to all, any more than the attractions of any one person might strike any others in precisely the same way. And our own tastes and interests and circles of friendship and acquaintance change so much over time that it’s a miracle if we even maintain contact, let alone a closeness or deep appreciation of each other and our various works and features over any period of time.Case in point: my playful attempts to learn the use of some digital tools for artwork, combined with the way that I tend to recycle my sketches and drawings, has altered both my perception of what I would keep, revise and/or rethink my own pieces to a pretty radical extent in the last few years. I believe that my overall style or the signature character of my art has remained fairly steady and therefore recognizable since it began to emerge some years back, but the tools and techniques with which it’s expressed have mutated enough to bring out some entirely different aspects of texture, complexity and even subject matter. The eccentric character in today’s illustration, for example, started out as a rather typical (if not stereotypical) caricature of a semi-human man who differed little in form from the sort of goofy fantasy creatures and people I’ve drawn for years just to entertain myself, but suddenly when I was playing with the sketch, coloring it in digitally as though I were a little kid with a digital coloring-book, he started to become something entirely different and new, a creation slightly unlike all that have come before him.
Now, because I am both unscientific and forgetful when I am immersed in amusing myself with art, I will probably never be able to replicate precisely the process that led to his looking like a hybrid of a stone-inlay project and a leaded window made of art glass. And though I like the effect and hope I can do something similar again if I work hard enough–especially if I want to make what in my own estimation is a sufficiently prettier character to warrant such a highfalutin treatment–it will hardly be the end of the world if he ends up being my only-ever stained glass and malachite creation. Being unusual and a little bit strange is just something we’ll have in common.
Quack Quack, Etc.
There’s nothing adverse
That I throw in the sauce
As I start to rehearse
The demise of the Boss
But as I descend
To the end of the day
It’s more tough to pretend
To be lightsome and gay
When I feel in my marrow
The building of rages
Brought on by the narrow-
Ness by which he gauges
My quest for perfection
In service to him
Whose extreme predilection
For being quite grim
As you guess is a needle
To nag and annoy
Like the high nasal wheedle
Of a self-centered boy
Until something explodes
In the back of my brain
At some one of his goads
And I go quite insane
So I must kill him gladly
By end of the day
And go off quacking madly
As I’m carted away
Lo, the lazy morning passes,
Finds the weary lads and lasses
Still abed, or on their asses,
Half awake and half a-snore,
‘Mid detritus of the pizza,
Hot wings, chips and other treats a
Sober student seldom eats, a-
Strewn in heaps upon the floor–
Partied late; what was it for?
Shattering the blissful quiet
Suddenly, a loud impiety
Is screamed and starts a riot
Right among the corpse-like corps:
All a-scramble, grabbing trousers,
Shirts and shoes, these late carousers
Start remembering the wowsers
Of the night they’d passed before,
Though recall was rather poor–
Finally, wakening more fully,
One of them, if somewhat dully,
Crawled across, his brain still woolly,
To fling wide the knocked-on door
And reveal the dawning horror
Come to waken every snorer,
Standing, looking faintly, more or
Less, like someone seen before–
Somehow shook him to the core–
Ay! It’s Mother stands there staring,
Arms akimbo, nostrils flaring,
Challenging his story, daring
Him amain: Explain this war!
What’s this wreckage, who these bodies
Strewn among the butts and toddies,
Some dressed only in their naughties,
Covered all in festive gore?
He stood gawping, nothing more.
In the cursèd silence stretching,
From a distance came a retching
Sound and instantly, all fetching
Up as though a manticore
Chased them out of their reclining,
They responded to this shining
Call and left the poor repining
Lad, with Mother, at the door,
Beast and trembling matador.
Dust now settling, son and mother
Gazed intently on each other,
Understood this bit of bother
Must be rectified, the score
Evened out: this was the chore.
Mother, calm now and quite cool,
Explains to him that, while in school,
Her son shall still observe the rule
Of sober thought. The lad’s encore:
Will I party? Nevermore!
Or just uniformly old?
Does it matter? Not much; never mind. As it happens, I was a little hazy to begin with, so there’s not much worry about the old marbles disappearing. Who really needs marbles anyway, except for a game-playing champ or, say, Michelangelo. For me, the touch of lunacy just adds a little color and a lively element of surprise to my everyday existence.
My fears are principally these:
Of sharks, the dark; of killer bees;
Of speeding cars and drunken louts
That race them through the roundabouts;
Bloodsucking leeches; of the kind
Of beasts that populate my mind
In doctors’ offices; of tests
That only earn me second-bests;
And most of all, I fall in tears
Lest someone should unmask my fears!
When I post drawings, they almost always require a digital tweak or ten to be clean and sharp enough for putting up on view. Most of the time, it’s merely the need for getting rid of visible dust and scratches or evening out the tone across the piece to more accurately reflect the appearance of the original, stuff like that. Even a direct high-definition scan doesn’t eliminate all of the little oddities.
No doubt there are endless ways to do what I do to the images much more simply and cleverly and efficiently. But having as little technological skill and wisdom as I have, I must content myself with doing in a hundred steps what others can do in ten. At least until I have the time, the money and the gumption to get the necessary education, anyway.
Still, slow and ambling and rambling as I am, I get the occasional urge to mess around with the existing drawing and manipulate it further digitally. Silly, yes, given that it takes me eons to do the first drawing part and a multitude more ages to do anything further via the digital medium. But you know how these things are: inspiration or perspiration, it’s all a command one has to obey once the Muse prods me in that direction. Here’s last night’s drawing (above), followed by the series of phases I put it through today. That is all. For now.
Under a slab
Of cement I sleep,
Racing the hallways
Of my dreams,
With muffled screams;
With throttled throat,
I strive to wake,
Covered in cobwebs
I cannot shake;
Imprisoned in doom,
In the dreamer’s tomb.