Whenever I think I’m finding my balance, getting the hang of things, or otherwise making rational sense of my life, something happens to remind me that in my reality, these things are impossibilities. And probably unnecessary anyhow. The longer I look at anything, the more its illogical qualities emerge; the more illogical and foolish the world appears to me, the more at home I feel in it. Go figure.
The artificial construct of American Valentine’s Day is a wonderful economic boost and boon for those who manage to take full advantage of the opportunity. And it’s not terrible, by any means, to feel a nudge toward wearing my heart on my sleeve a little more boldly and publicly than usual on occasion. But isn’t it also marvelous to be romantic and loving just because one really does feel kindly toward and admiring of another person? To do so not merely on one predetermined day of the year but any old time, and without requiring mass popular pressure to ensure that the signs of affection meet commercial standards, but rather, simply, that they please one’s beloved as a token of genuine affection?
Yes, I do still think it’s charming and admirable if part of what I feel moved to do is to shower particular tokens of tenderness and love on the object of my affections by treating her or him to a day of delirious delights smack dab on the aforementioned Official day of love and romance, along with any and all of the other days. Have at it! There is absolutely nothing wrong with honestly effusive compliments, dizzyingly gorgeous chocolates, fresh flowers, and champagne, if you ask me. Feel free to send them my way.
What’s trash to one is treasure to another, as it’s so often said. Few others are compelled to admire and delight in the same inventory of weird and ridiculous, horrendous and lovely things that speaks to me. My little mental attic is just as specific as anyone’s, and likely to be as unappealing to them as theirs would be to me.
But one of the pleasures of this individuality is the ability to share our stories about what’s stored in our unique vaults of ideation, whether in truth or fiction, and revel in our moments of visitation to unknown worlds through the tales. In writing, telling, reading, and hearing, we share and exchange ideas and beliefs, feelings and fantasies, insights and excitations with each other, all from the safe remove of communication that need not be wholly shared experience. After, we can choose to join in on the newfound interests and adventures, or we can choose to retreat to our own inner worlds, perhaps changed a little by the passage or, if not, only glad that we don’t have to dwell in each other’s lives and happy to return to the familiar comfort of our own favored inventories of thoughts and things.
Secrets. For good or ill, we all have them. Not much remains secret for terribly long; guilt brings out our ‘tells’ and happy secrets will always do their best to bubble to the surface because we long to share them. Secrets.
Strangely, there are times when we have no secrets, too. Not just when the latest secret, good or not so good, has been revealed, but that’s often the moment of assessment when one might consider that the slate had been wiped clean. There are times when it seems that all in life goes so smoothly and predictably and transparently that no secrets are generated. Or required.
But most of us crave a little surprise, color, mystery, adventure. At least at times, we rather thrive on the frisson of the unknown, don’t we. I love to feel safe and on track, I crave it. But behind the mask of convention or genteel propriety, there somehow lurks the slightest hint of the curious child, the rebellious iconoclast, and maybe even a tiny, tiny, tiny touch of the mischief-maker that thinks a secret is a good substitute for the more dangerous sort of thrills that lure adrenaline junkies.
Even though I know that’s a charming little delusion. Secrets can be dangerous.
Still, there is a certain amount of the unknown that fuels my imagination and brings out a part of me that’s braver and more interesting, more dedicated to seeking both answers and new questions, than my overt and ordinary, everyday self. That, I’m pretty sure, is neither a dirty secret nor a secret of any sort at all to those who know me even a bit. But I might surprise you all one day, if it should turn out that I had secret superpowers or was secretly fabulously wealthy or was secretly brilliant. I know it’d be a surprise to me, having been so successfully kept secret from my own self all this time as well. She said, looking demurely coy.
Stuff is ephemeral; imagination is what endures.Real life has enough elements of adventure, romance and mystery to sustain us–indeed, to astonish and entertain quite endlessly–but if we don’t record and celebrate such magic parts of our history they are lost. If we fail to study our chronicles and journals of such marvels, they are but dust.
So the sages among us keep what documents they can and teach us as much as we’re able to learn. What, though, becomes of all this if we are ourselves not so sage? Those of us for whom history is mostly data, steeped and stopped in the past, rely on fantasy to renew in us a sense of the remarkable. The fictional, metaphorical and colorful characters, creatures and cataclysmic events we create in our arts give us vehicles for understanding the true mystical powers in our real lives. Types and archetypes remain because they represent not Things so much as Experiences, not acquisitions but states of being. Through these avatars and our vicarious living of all the extremes that we can imagine, we revisit–and can even revere–the lives that have gone before us.
Through these imaginings, we are best moved to become greater than our small natural selves. In our better selves we have hope of living out lives that might, in turn, outlive us to inspire later generations to dream beyond, to imagine greatness and loveliness not yet known. Dream on, my friends, dream on.
Where callas leapt into the day from darker places and made play
Of turning winter into spring full suddenly, the single thing
That was most lovely in that place, that clearing full of sweetness, grace
And peaceful calm, was that the birds alighting there, beyond all words
And dreams of nature, sat quite still and quiet, and a subtle thrill
Of magic held the place in thrall–as if amid a concert hall
The orchestra fell silent, yet their silver melodies still set
The air a-quiver, pulsing, live with such wild music as to thrive
Beyond its moment and to sing whether the birds sat or took wing–
The butterflies that came around this glade of gladness also found
It fit to sit rather than fly and flit about the gleaming sky,
And set their wings to capture sun rather than race about and run,
Their painted beauty neatly limned as though tall ships in port had trimmed
Their sails to rest and find surcease in this most gracious bay of peace–
And yet, the clearing’s finest gift was that no butterfly would lift
A wing disturbing stillness there, nor bird stir up the hovering air,
Nor even angel choose to float aloft, disturbing the remote
And pleasant sense of such remove as was existent in that grove–
All this to say, though all could rise and wing their way about the skies,
Each visitor the clearing drew found on arriving that she knew
It was a place whose joy and mirth might make her leap up from the earth,
Yet with serenity so blessed she chose instead to lie at rest,
By flight’s exertions not be led, but letting souls fly high instead.
Time to take a few moments here and there to commune with my inner art-monster again. The busyness that takes over at the end of every semester always makes it a challenge to get much done beyond the basic chores and projects that simply get us through the day, and I don’t like to get too far away from regular art-making, so I feel a teensy bit itchy just now. I need to get my hands on some paper and pencils or pens and make something in addition to the photos and digital collages that have been my mainstay lately.
And it will happen. Always does. Patience and urgency, laziness and obsession are all in a little wrestling match inside me most of the time, and each wins occasionally. What really matters in the end is, I suppose that eventually I win. So yes, I’ll be drawing again soon.
I’ve already admitted to what I’m certain can have come as no surprise to you: that I was frequently in trouble during my school days for spending my attentions on observing things outside the window, counting the holes in the acoustic ceiling tiles, or mentally redesigning the architecture of the building rather than focusing on the requisite elements of discussion (I was too shy to speak up anyway, so what was I going to contribute there?) or question-answering (when I didn’t already have the entire assignment complete to my satisfaction I was the last one willing to offer a participatory guess anyhow), or perhaps at least getting some more study and writing done. That last was, of course, what I thought I was doing quite efficiently while I was apparently staring off into the ether, but the parallel actions I performed of contemplating Other Things were clearly not obvious ways of meeting class requirements, at least to my teachers and fellow students.
All I can say in response to this is that (a) I have managed to live a remarkably happy life and get a few useful things done along the way despite these obvious shortcomings of mine and (b) conformity is highly overrated. Oh, and (c): thanks to my wilfulness, I did get to grow up (relatively speaking, anyway) and follow a ‘career’ path that takes full advantage of–even encourages–such Frivolity as woolgathering, lollygagging and other highly refined forms of daydreaming. I’m an artist, y’all. So you will just have to sit by and suck it up when I choose to so use and/or abuse my time on a continuing basis. I take the liberty of assuming that if you’ve shown up here, and especially, if you’ve come by and still bother to return after seeing what I’m doing (or not doing), then you evidently either condone or at least tolerate such shenanigans on my part.
In that spirit, I’ll hand over, if not my actual homework for the day, a doodle of some other fanciful daydreamer, and we’ll call it good. Or good enough! And I wish you all, in turn, the freedom and ample opportunities to live in your own little fantasy worlds too, and if it suits you, to produce nothing more pertinent than whatever odd little items appear as evidence of these flighty fun activities of yours. Because I’m here to tell you, it’s a mighty fine way to have a life, even if it doesn’t make you a living.
Not much needs to be said here. I’m on another of my tangential rambles with my art practice, and what pleases me a great deal about crawling my way into the digital era is that not only can I document my work better than I used to do, I can retain it in numerous, widely varied states and play with it without nearly so much difficulty in changing my mind and erasing or altering things as I like. Talk about a bonus for a mercurial goof-off like me.
Discovery and learning don’t always have to come at the expense of laborious study and practice. Sometimes they are handed to us by the magician-teachers who simply tell us exactly what they have done, lifting the curtain and letting us see what’s behind it and in the works from beginning to end. That, at least, is how the learning starts for many of us. Certainly for me. I have been gifted, over the many years of my life, in which I was, am and will be a student forever, with a number of such generous teachers.
I can only return the favor as far as my skills and wit allow, but I hope I’m at least skilled and sharp-witted enough to make it worth a few other people’s while. Of course, the plain facts don’t complete the education by a long shot–the study and practice parts have to follow to make it stick and create anything useable out of it. What you do with the information, as they say, is what completes the equation. But isn’t it fun to share our little secrets, to let each other peek at what’s behind the facade of polish and confidence and see what we can make of it?
Herewith, another little set of iterations digitally made to convert a black and white graphite drawing into a full-color digital illustration.