If this blog goes the way I am tentatively planning as of this writing, one of the main things I will be posting here is new artwork every other week. I thought it would be useful to start with an overview of my artwork to date, and some context as to what my art has meant to me through various phases of my life and intellectual growth.
In The Beginning
Drawing is the one thing I have that is really and truly mine, the only thing that has remained constant as far back as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are of drawing. When I was a toddler, I would draw on the blank inside front and back covers of coloring books I received as Christmas and birthday gifts, but would leave the coloring pages uncolored. Eventually my father started bringing home the occasional damaged stack of dot-matrix printer paper, otherwise headed for the garbage, for me to draw on instead.
In high school — approximately 1983-ish — I took up drawing in a more serious way. My first medium was graphite pencils, and my first artistic goal was to produce photographically realistic drawings. I got pretty good but I never had the patience to make my drawings truly photo-realistic. My second medium was colored pencils. Around the time I picked up colored pencils, I also began using ink. Not a lot of my artwork from back then has survived until now, but this ink sketch is pretty typical of my high school work.
After High School
At some point in my early 20s I began combining ink and colored pencil. My drawings began to take on a bona fide style that featured a thin outline with rich color inside, with depth shading applied to the edges of individual elements to indicate shape, but not between elements, such that all elements appear to be on the same flat plane.
When I was 26 years old, in 1994, I fell ill after a long period of extreme stress. I stayed ill for more than a year, and took another couple of years to recover. During that time period I stopped drawing and never really resumed. I would sketch here and there but never seriously. All my drawings from the mid-1990s until late 2010 would probably not even fill a whole sketchbook.
The market crash in 2008 hit me very hard. I spent a good chunk of 2009 homeless; after a period of stability, in late 2010, I lost the job I’d been able to find and was unable to find another (or, alternately, any web and/or graphic design clients). This event ushered in a period of devastating loss which culminated with my eviction on April 30, 2011.
During those months, as I watched every last piece of my life melt away like snow in the rain, as I stared into the abyss of complete destitution, I began drawing again. At first I just drew small sketches in an old Moleskine sketchbook I’d received as a gift and never used. I stopped worrying about recovering what I’d lost artistically and just sketched, for the sake of my sanity.
Over the months I made a few attempts to return again to the ink-and-colored-pencil thing I had going on way back in the day, but alas, no joy.
I also attempted some pencil sketching just to see if I could still do it.
It seemed I had not entirely lost my technical skill but I was lost as far as creativity, direction, expression. It had been too long and I was no longer connected to whatever it was I had been connected with back in my misspent youth.
Beginning in late 2012 and ramping up over 2013, I became very seriously ill (again), an illness I continue to battle (and may continue battling for the rest of my life). I creaked around the house like a ghost, sometimes unable to get out of bed for days at a time, sometimes not sleeping for days at a time, my hair falling out, my joints and muscles aching like I was a 90-year-old woman. During the worst of my illness, my drawings became tiny patterns that, in retrospect, looked vaguely like neural pathways or perhaps living tissue cells.
The worst of my illness began lifting in late 2015. Around this time I came to dislike the cramped, shrinking patterns I’d been drawing and began looking for a way to stretch out. I wanted to try pastels — a new medium that would not suck me into ever tinier creations the way a finely pointed pencil can. (How I love a finely pointed pencil!) And so in 2015 I began learning pastels.
One of the first things I attempted was a landscape from a photograph of Dolly Sods Wilderness Area in West Virginia, which my husband and I had taken while on a day trip there. It turned out pretty well for an early try. I’ve always found landscapes difficult with colored pencil, because the imagery does not lend itself to the kind of detail pencils and ink are better at recording. With pastels however, it was much easier to convey diffuse areas of blended color & nondescript shapes.
Over the following months, I did a fair bit of pastel drawing and am super pleased with the results. Clearly I have a distance to go mastering this medium, but overall I feel really good about what pastels allow me to get down on paper.
The worst depths of my illness, its circumstances and outcomes, have been so severe for such a sustained period of time that it has radically altered the foundations of my personality. I will have much more to say about this at a later time, but for now suffice to say that the only way I know to understand it, is as a type of shamanic initiation. I will be unpacking the symbolic, spiritual, and transpersonal meanings of my experiences for the rest of my life. I’ve tried talking and writing about my experiences, but it seems as soon as I try to wrap words around these things they are drained of life.
In early 2017, I became possessed of a nagging, background compulsion to fill up a piece of paper with color. No particular imagery came with this compulsion, I simply desired to put colors on paper. I blew it off for weeks as a waste of materials, and then one day I decided to indulge.
About halfway through the drawing, a title came to me: “Dark Eagle Sunset.” The drawing itself had only a vague hint of either “sunset” or “eagle,” but these were two of the most powerful symbols related to my initiation experience. By the time I finished my pastel experiment I knew I was on to something.
I tried another one. This time the title that came to me was “Hiding.” Again the drawing itself represented nothing in particular, but turned out to be an amalgamation of many of the ickiest symbols from my experience. I can’t stand looking at it. Then I tried another. The title that came to me for this one was “Equinox Eclipse,” and after I had the title I grokked what the symbolism was going to be and tried to take it over as a conscious expression, rather than an unconscious one. I dislike the execution of the picture, but now I know what not to do.
As of this writing, my new artistic goal is to learn how to create drawings not from a linear, literal head space, but rather from a nonlinear, symbolic one. I’m trying to set aside the importance I’ve always placed on the draftsmanship of my art, and instead open a channel for the symbolism that overtook me during my illness to find expression in the material world. My hope is that by rebirthing my initiatory experience as art, I will be able to apprehend the full information field represented by each piece, and in time, to apprehend all the pieces together as a whole. It is, ultimately, a sleuthing exercise.
So to conclude — yeah I got nothing else.
My plan currently is to post a new drawing every other week, along with as detailed a description of the symbolism as I can manage. Over time the specifics of my experiences will flesh out in the order the symbolism presents itself. On off-weeks, I’ll post whatever seems interesting to write about. The last Tuesday before the New Moon, I plan to post a New Moon astrological forecast, to practice my astrology chops. Next Tuesday, May 23, I’ll be posting the first New Moon forecast for the super new moon on the 25th. \m/