“What a book a devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low, and horrible cruel work of nature!” – Charles Darwin, correspondence with Joseph Hooker (1856)
“When we reflect on this struggle, we may console ourselves with the full belief, that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.” – Charles Darwin, On the Origin of the Species (1859)
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was and English naturalist and geologist who solidified evolutionary theory with his work On the Origin of the Species. While Charles Darwin continues to be a polarizing figure long after his death, many people are unaware of how polarized Darwin was in his own life. Darwin was heavily involved in the church throughout his life, and even initially attended college to become a clergyman. It was his close observation of nature that brought him to question the concept of intelligent design, specifically the abundance of what he deemed “cruelty” throughout the natural world. His faith continued to dwindle up to the day in 1851 when his daughter Annie died.
In this piece I wish to explore Darwin’s attempt to reconcile his discoveries in nature with his pre-existing faith. As an artist with a strong reverence of nature, I ask fellow nature-worshippers if these images fall into their visions of veneration. Last, I ask with this piece if cruelty is an inherent quality of nature, or if cruelty is a human projection upon nature.
I created this piece for the exhibition in Curious Gallery PDX. I felt it was in theme with the Victorian’s and their complicated relationship with science. Each image was presented as a separate photo plate within the piece, digital paintings combined with photo elements and treated for vintage effects to create a hybrid of painting and photography. Contemporary and antique visual elements, contemporary and antique sensibilities.
Happy Wednesday, All. As promised, I am going to commit to updating this thing at least once a week. So what’s going on in Mystic Media studios today:
I CAN’T TELL YOU! Normally I would post about the process of my projects, but I’m in the process of working on a top secret painting. I will let you know this, however. It will be mixed wet media, much like my Crowley poem series, and I was fortunate enough to have the gorgeous and talented Sushila Battagione to model for this painting. I’m hoping to have it finished by the 1st of July. Stay tuned!
**NOTE: Does this lady look familiar? That’s because you probably know her either from her artistic excellence in producing Raqs Oubliettes or from her many services and workshops via her health spa Oracle Wellness. If you are unfamiliar with either of these enterprises, I insist that you check them out immediately!**
I was so pleased to receive so much positive feedback on my thesis post, I was even quoted in The Wild Hunt (WHAT?) Thank you guys for taking an interest in my art and taking the time to tell me what you think. And thank you all for being so forgiving about the offensive amount of typos in my mini dissertation! I basically sat down and typed it all out in an hour, so it was naturally rife with mistakes. Meh. Thankfully my actual 50 page thesis paper was coherent and beautifully copy-edited.
Enough with the face-saving. There isn’t much else new and exciting going on around here. I did get to visit with my dear friend Sean who blew in from the midwest this week. We went to The Lovecraft and caught up a little bit. I brought my sketchbook and drew in the dark. C’mon, that isn’t nearly as pathetic as reading a book in the club. Is it?…
OH YEAH, it was my birthday on Sunday. I had a wealth of birthday wishes, my best friend Kelli took me out for dinner, my boyfriend organized a surprise goth pool party for me (for realz) I received 2 birthday readings and my dear friend Maxine Miller gave me this AMAZING cimaruta. Maxine is the artist that designed this cimaruta for Raven Grimassi‘s line of witchy products. I was stoked to get it from the artist herself ❤
Ok, I’m going to finally embark upon the daunting task that is creating a blog post about my thesis work. I didn’t make this easy for myself when attempting to explain the work in a concise fashion for my Thesis Defense presentation, so the idea of summarizing the work even further into a blog post has been giving me nightmares for weeks.
Let’s make a deal: for those of you who would rather not wade through a dissertation on the work (nor be inundated with my politics) I will set up a slide show of the final images so you can FINALLY see the images that I’ve been bitching about for months. However, if you are left with questions about my process, choices, or are just confounded by the imagery, I will include a lengthy (yet distilled, trust me) explanation of the work.
Without further ado, here is my thesis project The Allegories of Subjugation:
About the Work
I have always been moved by the use of allegory in art and literature, from classical literature like Lorris’s Roman de la Rose to contemporary graphic novels like the Sandmanseries. The word “allegory” feels outmoded. It evokes a feeling of antiquity, though it is easy to demonstrate that we still make use of allegories such as Lady Justice, national symbols such as the eagle, and even our super heroes (Superman is the most transparent allegory for the good ol’ USA.) Even old allegories are largely relevant in our modern society, not only conceptually, but our cultural vocabulary is steeped in these sorts of images.
Personally, I find that the allegories that really resonate with humanity on a deep level so much that they persist thematically in contemporary art and literature and even permeate our popular culture are those allegories that speak of human suffering. The very first example that comes to mind is the classic Seven Deadly Sins. Pictorial representations of these sins require no explanation, as when we look upon images of horny devils and slothful friars the bigger concepts behind these characters read loud and clear.
I think what separates these images from more contemporary visual narratives would be in the approach to the subject of human suffering. The seven deadly sins are essentially cautionary tales to the individual, i.e. “Greed is bad, don’t give in to personal greed because it destroys your character.” Where as in more modern allegories talk about human suffering in the context of society, i.e. Lex Luthor is very greedy, and it is very bad for the people outside of Lex Luthor. Probably one of the best examples of contemporary allegory would be HBO’s series Game of Thrones (based on A song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, for you purists.) In these narratives, suffering is explored outside of the individual, and themes of ethics, morality, and social responsibility are recurring.
Considering these ideas, I was very interested in communicating the concept of social responsibility on an individual level as well as a societal level. Allegory allowed me to have a narrative to show a progression of societal issues and show the cause and effect relationship between them. Each piece in my series is a reaction to the previous one, creating a narrative to show how these issues can be connected. What I attempt to say with this series is that human suffering is not a string of isolated incidents: they are realted through cause and effect like people are connected through society, and there is a level of social responsibility inherent in response to human suffering whether it is acknowledged or not.
I was interested in taking on the challenges of creating poignant imagery to expound upon these timeless, human afflictions. My goal was for these pieces to speak with my personal artistic voice but, I want them to be as universally relatable as possible. While I talk about the work here, you will notice that I am mostly spending time unpacking the visual symbolism of these allegories in an attempt to demystify the the allegorical mechanism at work for the viewer. I have included a list of sources I used in my thesis paper when exploring these topics if any of you are interested in further reading on the themes presented in the work.
Before I dive into the work itself, I would like to illuminate the horned serpent in this series, as it is a vital component. The ram-horned serpent is an ancient motif found in bronze age European art. It is viewed in contemporary Paganism to be a symbol of vitality, and personal soveriegnty. This is a symbol that has always resonated with me as a personal symbol of strength in spirit and regenerative creativity. I have chosen it to represent myself in this work, but also as to represent where the viewer comes into the work, as well as the common, everyday person in relation to the issues expressed here.
The first piece in the series is called Brutality. I chose this title because the piece is not about violence, but specifically human violence. As people, we accept violence is a way of life. Our concept of history is essentially the story of war throughout the globe. Violence is no longer a byproduct of evolution but is now a chosen way of life and a means for domination on a small and large scales.
In this image, we can first see a Woodwose attacking a deer. The Woodwose is a fictional creature from medieval European folklore and heraldry. They were beastmen that lived in the forest, comparible to sasquatch. I chose the woodwose to be the symbolic embodiment of brutality. He is impulsive, reactionary, violent, primitive with total disregard of what damage he inflicting.
The deer is symbolic of a person in their natural, maybe perfected state, and as the series progresses you see the deer symbolizing a person in the state of suffering specific to the theme of the image. This is a scene of castration in the Fruedian sense of the word, the deer is mutilated and thus rendered powerless. Violence is always used as a means for dominion. Violence always conversely disempowers people.
The horned serpent is pictorially frozen in a state of limbo. Is it recoiling in horror and becoming party to this scene as a bystander, or is it about to strike and take a stand against the scene, furthering the cycle of violence. This is choice given to the individual.
The second piece is titled Repression. This is the effect that society has on an individual when they possess any form of otherness. We often repress our nature in fear of some form of brutality. Also the precedence for a need for dominion and power to be free of suffering is set in the brutality piece, making this state of submission to be unbarible. The animals are not only locked up, but are on display in these carnival wagons. By this I am conveying the urge to suppress our otherness as we feel in our culture that our actions are always being watched and judged, as we are raised to judge those around us. Examples of this would be instances where people feel they forced to hide their sexual orientation, or when people feel it is dangerous to revel their status as someone of a minority culture or faith. By repressing the vital and inevitable components of who we are, we are put in an unnatural state of restriction which leads suffering.
In this piece is introduced the character of the Wolf. In this series the wolf is symbol of a predator within society and/or our own predatory nature. The wolf is essentially is a victim in this piece. His potential for danger in his nature was not addressed, no attempt to domesticate him was made. He was simply locked away in the hopes to contain him as a threat rather than attempt to fix or change him. With no other recourse, his nature over comes him: he mutilates himself to get out of that situation. He enacts his own brutality upon himself to escape a situation where he is powerless.
The next piece is called Desecration – I chose this title because it is usually used to describe the violation or damage of something sacred. This piece is about sexual assault and abuse, the acts of violence that leave unhealing wounds in the psyche more than the physical body. As a reaction piece to the events in the Repression piece, the wolf unleashes he predatory nature. The wolf has become this Lycanthropic figure, and this is a nod to the history of the werewolf in folklore, as it has always been a symbol of our undesirable or criminal impulses, and the fear that they will take us over and be unleashed on those around us.
Unlike the Woodwose, the wolf is not wrecklessly violent. He is calculating in his nature, he choses a victim, specifically someone who can in no way fight against him. So he maliciously attacks this female figure. She is representative of victims to these kind of violations. She is an allegory for the survivors of violation, it be in the form of literal sexual or domestic violence. It is largely women and children that are the most vulnerable to these sorts of attacks, it is they are left with lingering psychological ramifications.
Her pet rabbit is the part of her which is sacred and innocent which she is trying desperately to protect, that psychological aspect that she is trying to maintain despite this attack. Last I want to talk about the tapestry. This is an acknowledgement of many current events and the idea of rape culture: the notion that societal attitudes toward women is conducive for these attacks to happen.
This is a piece that speaks about mental illness, from more common disorders such as clinical depression and anxiety, to more severe conditions such as agoraphobia or schizophrenia. As a reaction to the events of the Desecration piece, the girl is engulfed by the emotional trauma she is left with. We can see that time has passed since the wolf’s attack, as her body has matured and the wounds the wolf inflicted on her have become scars.
Like a fish out of water, but the reverse scenario, she is in an unnatural habitat and this presents imminent danger to her. She is in an idealized female form, as our culture glamorizes damaged women much like it vilifies strong women. Women are taught the virtues of self-sacrifice and that behavior that is demonstrative of inner or outer struggle is not acceptable, so she is in a martyr’s pose. This is the portrait of a person who is giving up. She gives in to the dysfunctional impulse to drown.
What awaits her are her phobias, anxieties, psychoses which are encroaching upon her in the form of the ink. It is a threatening, nebulous material that is creeping up on her, near impossible to grab and therefore difficult to combat. The ink also takes form as the wolf: torturous memories that haunt her and threaten to consume her. The form of the horned serpent is also present, acknowledging the cultural stigma of mental illness and the critical response of society and the self to emotional struggle.
The word Avarice means extreme greed. This piece is about the effect of avarice on the common place individual, how personal greed becomes societal greed.
Here the girl has managed to escape the water she was drowning in, though she is still wet so we know not much time has passed. Her rabbit has died, and she implores the Emperor for assistance to fix this tragedy. Gigantic and surrounded by opulence, the Emperor stands in judgement over the girl. He questions why he should aid this girl who he doesn’t know. The desperity between the Emporer and the girl is obvious.
Upon examination, it is clear that the Emperor himself is just a straw man or a host for a greater system of greed, represented by the monstrous mouth at his core. The mouth is the mindless parasite of consumption, the fervent obsession with growth and acquisition. Preventing the girl from approaching the emperor, the woodwose intervenes as an armed guard. Greed often breeds brutality, a connection we don’t readily make when it isn’t in front of us. And last we can see that the deer and the serpent are being help in captivity, they are pets for the Emperor, dependent upon him for their basic needs for survival. The deer is swift and could run away, the serpent could bite the hand that feeds, but considering the enormity of the emperor and the woodwose at his disposal, the fear of reprisal out ways their dissatisfaction and they stay where they are.
This piece not only speaks about how society often lacks the empathy to help people in honest need, but how common place individuals are stuck within this system that encourages personal greed. In a capitalist society, greed is a biproduct of perceived scarcity, experienced through our basic choices of where we purchase our goods and necessities to our ideas about social welfare and how wealth is distributed. We learn that the more you acquire the more free you are. This all creates an endless cycle of greed.
The last piece in this series is called addiction. It is a reaction to the last piece in that avarice can often lead people to this position. The girl is here, incoherent and amacieted. Her rabbit is nowhere to be seen, as she has either discarded it or forgotten about it completely. She is stained with ink, which is now the substance of her obsession. It is the same ink from the Neurosis piece, and she willfully consumes her own nightmares, hates, and shadows, an immersion that she thinks makes her free of them. She is reveling in her dysfunction. When people feel that society gives no solutions to their problems, they will often form addictions as a form of escape.
The Octopus is the last character to be introduced, and like his many arms imply, he is a complex character. Clearly, he is the pusher in this scenario, but he also the enabling friend. He is also innovater – unlike the deer and the serpent in the avarice piece, he is not willing to be at the mercy of the Emperor for survival. He takes his cleverness underground to support himself, and perhaps even loved ones, outside of these restrictions. Ironicly, he still gives in to his personal greed as he takes advantage of the situations for his own benefit. He denies the responcibility that he has toward the girl in her vulnerable state, as a fellow creature in this societal struggle.
The deer is dead (deer skull), we indulge in addictions to numb and escape our emotions and we kill our inner nature in the process. The serpent is pickled, and this is a reflection of how addiction kills our vitality and out relationship with the rest of the world.
Stepping back, this appears to be a very bleak series. I think it is very important to point out that the potential for redemption is in every one of this pieces. The key to the redemption in these pieces is choice. The characters in this series have the choice to act differently. Even in areas where no choice for individual characters is present, the choice for societal intervention is always present. I don’t want this series to appear as a portrayal of a dire reality or an inescapable cycle of victimization, but more of a mirror for examination, why these things needs to change, and where the potential for change lies.
Before the onslaught of hate mail arrives, I would like to point out that I acknowledge that am neither a sociologist nor a political scientist. I certainly do not claim to have any answers to these monumental problems. These pieces reflect my experiences as a working class US citizen, a female, and one who falls into many categories of being “other.” I claim no real authority or expertise in the massive social issues that I bring up in this series. My goal for this artwork is to contribute a different perspective to the dialogue already in place around these subjects.
My process for this series was fairly experimental for me. My work has been moving in the direction of a synthesis of digital and traditional work, and I decided to continue that evolution with this series.
What I didn’t expect initially was how much work was going to be put into the conceptual phase of this work. I felt like I initially had these ideas mapped out pretty thoroughly, but what I discovered was that I made the concept way too expansive. Because I am covering a number of pretty diverse and loaded topics, I really had to work to figure out what precise things I wanted to say about each subject, and how to be concise and remain on topic for the overarching goal of these allegories. The range of topics still remains all over the freakin’ yard.
Initially, these images were going to be involved portraits of elementals or spirits which were going to be the representation of each theme. But then I realized that it was more important for me to show an interaction between characters in these allegories to convey the social ramifications of these issues. Also, when I approached these subjects personified by elementals, it was too easy for this project to go into religious and dualistic territory. I wanted to approach this conceptually from more of a sociological point of view, as well as a complex one showing culpability on all accounts instead of vilifying one side or one character. So coming up with these characters and this loose narrative allowed me to accomplish of this conceptually.
The physical process of the work was something I’ve developing since the beginning of this school year. I developed thumbnail compositions of each piece by sketching the basic composition first, deciding upon the palettes for each piece, and then creating photocomps by collaging images together in photoshop. I used to primarily be a collage artist, and this is still the way of making a composition that comes the most natural to me.
After the photocomp, I would then draw all of the componants for the piece separately. For example, in the Brutality piece, I drew the background, the deer and the woodwose, and the horned-serpent separately with graphite on paper. Then I would scan all of the images and collaged then together in photoshop to create the linework for the image.
At this point, I would print out the linework, and from the basic shapes in the linework, I would create a textural painting with ink on a piece of arches paper. These were very basic ink paintings, that conveyed the value differences in the images and with the use of various media like salt and soap, I created different textures that I wanted to incorporate into the texture of the final image.
I would then return to the digital image file, and paint underneath the linework in photoshop. This was the part of the process that took the longest, each piece on average took a few weeks of digital painting, and I worked on several at a time. Once the digital painting was finished, I would change the linework from black lines to colored lines at various levels of transparencey to create a more painterly feel to the image. And last I would scan the textural paintings, and work them into the image.
Once all of the images were finished, I printed them out a million. I did small and full scale test prints to figure out what paper I wanted them on, I looked for any light and color correction I wanted to make to the images files once they were printed because images always look different on screen. And also, once I printed them out this big, I looked for all the tiny flaws and mistakes in the images that I may have missed when they were on screen. And then, when I thought I was done with printing everything, my cat ate my prints, and so I had to print them all out again at the last minute.
My personal style of work fluctuates a little bit between painterly, photo realistic and illustrative. I chose this illustrative visual style to make this series in because I wanted to continue the visual dialogue in allegories that has been set by graphic novels. It was graphic novels that first introduced the idea of allegory to me at a very young age, and it was this illustrative style that I first attempted emulate as a kid teaching myself how to draw. Being that this is the style that I have been developing all of my life as an artist, it is the one that is the most personal.
I see this work first living in a gallery setting. After thesis, I will be having a solo show for this work at Violet Star Gallery in North Portland for the month of September. One thing that my panel pointed out after my defense is that these images definitely yearn to live with text. I plan to write a little something (maybe some prose) to accompany the images for the Violet Star show.
I have toyed with the idea of creating more allegories for this series and releasing them all in book form. I do a lot of creative writing, and I’ve definitely considered the idea of deepening the narrative present in this series. These images will definitely end up in my portfolio, I think they are applicable to a lot of illustration work that I would like to pursue, such as character design, conceptual design, and graphic novel work.
So, that (plus a 50 page thesis paper) was my thesis. If you have read this far, you are a saint. Thank you so much for taking an interest in my work, and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about my project.
Amanda J Green, Animals in Celtic life and myth, London: Routledge, 1998, 227–8.
Chase, Truddi, and Robert A. Phillips. When Rabbit howls. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1987.
“David Gibbons.” Comicbookdb.com: The Comic Book Database, Accessed May 7, 2013. http://comicbookdb.com/creator.php?ID=54.
Eligon, John, and Michael Schwirtz. “Todd Akin Provokes Ire With Legitimate Rape Comment – NYTimes.com.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/20/us/politics/todd-akin- provokes-ire-with-legitimate-rape-comment.html (accessed May 7, 2013).
My current assignment for Advanced Illustration is to create an illustration in collaboration with B:Light Magazine (pronounced either Be Light, or Blight. See what they did there?) The art director, Lauren Schaefer, came in and spoke with our class about B:Light and to give us our illustration prompts.
“B:Light seeks to acknowledge and explore realities that are largely ignored, misunderstood or under-analyzed by mainstream cultural media. We hope to enhance literacy regarding such issues in hopes of motivating readers and out community to further inquiry and/or action. Our second issue of B:Light attempts to understand the omnipresent yet elusive complexities of addiction while pointing the finger back at ourselves, realizing that on some level we are all obsessed/addicts.” – Lauren Schaefer
This mission statement makes me want to mail them my thesis when I’m finished with it.
There were two articles to choose from, one about Portland, OR and another about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I was most interested in illustrating for the latter. We were asked to make the illustration not too dark to avoid alienating the reader (damn it) but still honest and not “glamorizing” the condition. Does that happen? Do As Good as it Gets and Monk really count?
I find the biggest disconnect between people with forms of neurosis like OCD, as well as other intense anxiety disorders, and the people that do not have them would be in empathy. It is extremely difficult to explain to someone what a panic attack is, or why it is happening, or why why isn’t even in the equation since they can happen at random. Many people have no reference for that sort of experience, and it can be frustrating to try and understand why your friend or loved one has to suddenly leave the grocery store or a party. At the same time, it is insulting to that friend to be asked to justify what is happening to them on a chemical level.
For the few people in my life with OCD, I know they experience the same frustration when trying to convey the anxiety that they experience over their fixations, and when they are not respected. They do not want to have to explain why they can not concentrate in a room with cupboard doors open, or have to justify why they have their apartment arranged in a very specific way and can’t handle things being out of place.
That disconnect, which can seem like a small thing, can be extremely alienating. Whether someone is unable to get out of bed because of clinical depression, unable to leave the house because of agoraphobia, or perpetually stuck in a compulsive ritual, it can feel like life just goes on for the rest of the world around you and you will find little compassion extended to you.
Considering all of those things, plus the criteria that Lauren had given us, I thought I would try to work from a form of obsession that everyone can relate to and push it to severity. But I did keep it light:
I wanted to illustrate the concept of obsessive-compulsive nature in a dignified but fictional/conceptual way, and in a way that was relatable at the same time. As much as I like this drawing, I think the concept did get away from me a little bit. To reinforce the compulsive-ritual element to the piece, I created a wall of numbers with a brush pen and I plan on incorporating that in the background if the figure’s all consuming ritual of pulling off petals and her inability to stop doesn’t scream “psychosis!” to the art director.
We’ll see what happens. I will post the final illustration when it’s finished.
Happy Equinox! I started a tradition this year: The Ostara Rabbit Graffiti Challenge. Go draw a bunny somewhere you aren’t supposed to.
I seem to be the only person that has taken myself up on this challenge so far, though my uncle drew a rabbit in his office and my boyfriend drew on himself. I will strive for more clarity next year.
The midterm review was a little intense. I had to present my thesis concept to a panel of professionals (my panel consisted of art directors from the design, comics and gaming industries, and one freelance artist.) I also showed them my process and my work in progress. Here is a glance of the process behind my Brutality piece, the first image in the series. These are just a few of the items that I presented:
The panel thought my project was very strong conceptually, and they really responded to the work itself. I was thrilled. I also presented my current portfolio. Why yes, that is gold leaf!
The panel seemed excited about my work. They were all very nice, and gave extremely thoughtful feedback. This was definitely the help and encouragement I needed to push forward into the rest of my studio work over the next 6 weeks. And I must thank my amazing thesis mentor Annie Heisey once again. She knows exactly when to push me and when to not freak out! It’s a crucial balance that I think I need from all the people in my life, but she has been especially helpful this semester and I’m sure I’ll gush about her awesomeness a few more times before all of this insanity is over. Thanks, Annie.
Hello! I’m back from an insane week of decompressing from FaerieCon West and catching up on my work. I have finished my Star Goddess illustration!
I mentioned in the last post that Christine Hoff Kraemer had commissioned this illustration from me. Christine is a religious studies scholar, specializing in Paganism, sexuality, theology, and popular culture. She is a teacher, a prolific author, and the managing editor of the Pagan channel at Patheos.com. I was absolutely thrilled and honored that she sought me out to create the cover illustration for her upcoming book Eros and Touch from the Pagan Perspective: Divided for Love’s Sake.
Finished with the thumbnails, I proceeded to create a textural background that I could scan into the image. I created this with a mixture of wet media: gouache, acrylic ink, and liquid acrylic paint. I felt like I was back in Anna Fidler‘s studio! When I create these kinds of textural pieces, I really feel like I’m in communication with the animal part of my psyche, or maybe my subconscious, that part of me that doesn’t analyse but simply responds to stimuli. It is very meditative.
Then I moved on to the line work. I knew that the lines in this image would mainly be a scaffolding for the painting, and I was prepared to remove it all together. For this reason I tried to make it as simple as possible
This drawing was deceptively challenging. Because I was painting God Hirself here, my goal for the figures were for them to be feminine, but ultimately gender-neutral. I was also very concerned with being able to express the angles of the faces without much detail, which was difficult. This was was probably my fifth attempt at drawing this.
I then scanned everything in and started painting digitally. Here are screenshots to show you some of the process:
And here is the final result:
I’m happy with her, and Christine seems to be as well.
On another note, I wanted to say that working at FaerieCon West 2013 last weekend was an amazing experience. It was extremely high energy and chaotic for me as part of the staff, but it was exciting. When I got home I was apparently still reverberating with all of this insane fae energy, my boyfriend asked me what it was like and all I could say is “I feel like I just spent the last three days doing meth with my boss in a hotel filled with glitter.” It was magical!
Faerieworlds LLC is such a wonderful creative enterprise. There is something very empowering about giving people permission to harness their creativity and step into fantasy roles which express something very real about their inner selves. I have had a few conversations with the producer of Portland’s annual Vampire Masquerade Ball who has expressed that that is the main reason she runs the ball every year. She loves to see people feel beautiful and empowered at her event.
I view these sorts of events as giant art instillations that implore the viewers to interact. In fact, the instillation is comprised mostly of the participants and their contributions. It was truly amazing to be part of such a gorgeous, giant, crazy piece of living art and I look forward to working with Faerieworlds LLC as long as I can get away with it.
So now that it has been approved, and I have sorted out some of the details, I will finally divulge the premise for my thesis project.
The back story is this: when I was first considering giving up smoking a few years ago, I was discussing the difficulty of addiction with a friend and fellow occultist. He said to me “you just have to see it as it is. Your addiction to smoking is an elemental, and it has you.” I had never thought of addiction in those terms before, and this concept helped me grapple with, and eventually vanquish, that caustic demon. Around that time I also recalled a conversation I had with another dear friend about my issues with anxiety. She referred to it as a monster that I needed to name and conquer. I loved this idea equally, and informed her that someday I would paint my monster so that I may own it.
I stowed both of these concepts in my head, and over the years I have thought of many ways in which I could utilize them in my art. Everything from illustration series to serious apotropaic paintings. I finally decided that these are the basic concepts that would inform my thesis work here at PNCA.
My thesis will be a series of six, mixed media paintings depicting the metaphorical demons that enslave humanity. The work will utilize both traditional and digital media. The images will be tenebrous, figurative and allegorical in nature. I will take abstract concepts such as “disease” and “brutality” and personify them each within their own painting.
Here is a slide from the presentation where I pitched this idea for the first time, last week. It contains past work of mine that represent some of the ways I plan to approach the work visually, as well as some thoughts on research:
The title for the project is “The Allegories of Subjugation.” I must admit, I really like the title. Good job, me. This weekend I narrowed down the number of pieces I will have in the series and what allegories I am going to create. The current step in this whole process is to create a mood board for the basic aesthetic of the project:
So now that I’ve set this all up, I have to actually live up to the insanity of my own expectations. I will be scheduling photo shoots for photo reference in the next few weeks. For those of you in the PDX area who actually know me, let me know if you are interested in modeling for me. You could be immortalized as a demon!
I took advantage of my most recent illustration assignment to work with an idea I was kicking around in my brain for some time now.
The ram-horned serpent is a creature which has lived in my collection of personal symbols for several years. Horned serpents in ancient, Northern European art are thought to have been a storm symbol (snakes are shaped like lightening, ram-horns clap like thunder.) At least according to the speculation of art historians. Some Celtic scholars, like Miranda Green, suggest that they were a regenerative symbol as well.
I’ve always appreciated this interpretation, looking at what happens after lightening or a fire obliterates a chunk of forest. The nutrients in the ground get recycled, the sun reaches stuff that was beneath the canopy, plant growth increases and spreads providing more food for animals, etc. As someone who has dealt with more than one trial by fire, I know the rush of creativity that follows personal transformation. I am nothing if not resilient.
With all of that in mind, I decided that my current assignment in Advanced Illustration would be a great opportunity to finally create something with this symbolism. The assignment was to create an icon or an iconic image with a symbol or animal of your choice. I decided that there needed to be two serpents for a few reasons. Visually, I was most interested in designing beautiful shapes with the subject matter. This is easy enough with one snake, but I think that snakes make some of the most impressive shapes in their mating rituals. This idea certainly fit the theme of regeneration that I wanted to capture, and I wanted an element of connection and sweetness in the image that lead the viewer away from their potential ophidiophobia.
I finally decided upon a composition I liked, spent a looooooooooong time hand drawing the line work, scanned it in, scanned in some watercolor texture, and finished it all in photoshop.
The resolution on the image that I’m posting here doesn’t do it much justice, it was created to be blown up BIG! My professor mentioned something about this piece getting displayed in a gallery show, I will definitely post details as soon as I find them out.
Endurfæða (pronounced: in-dur-fy-thuh) is the Icelandic word for “regenerate.” The image is a symbol and an affirmation. It’s appropriate that I finished this on Mabon, not only for the horned serpent – harvest connection, but for personal reasons too. If I can take anything away from the transformations that have happened to me this year, it is the overwhelming amount of raw inspiration I have garnered from my experiences. This piece is an act of thanks.
Hello, everyone! I think I’m finally warmed up and ready to face thesis year. Here are a few updates as to what I am doing myself:
Both of my literature seminars are extremely captivating. I’m currently reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy for my american gothic lit class – I’ve been listening to a lot of Nick Cave while doing so for the full Western Bloodbath effect. I just finished episode 10 of The Wire. I knew I wouldn’t escape that show emotionally unscathed. The 1st season isn’t even over!
I’m at the halfway point on my icon assignment for my Advanced Illustration class. I finished inking the line work and scanned it in so I can create some digital magic with it. Here is the line work I finished this weekend:
I’m not sure, but I think my professor mentioned something about this piece being in a gallery show once it’s finished? Stay tuned!
I somehow managed to keep up on all this work on top of rehearsing and performing in my dear friend’s wedding ceremony. Congratulations Chris and Terry Hartgrove!
I pitched my basic thesis idea yesterday, and it was approved! So I will be spending the next several months researching allegories, demonology, and the Romantic & Symbolist painters. Woot! I will reveal my thesis idea when it is a little more realized.
Last but not least, for fans of the Faerieworlds/FaerieCon events: it was announced today that a new feature has been added to the upcoming FaerieCon East, The FaerieCon Book Club! The FaerieCon Book Club will give people a chance to join a discussion with fellow FaerieCon participants, hosts, and fantasy authors at the next FaerieCon East. You can find out more details about the book club at the FaerieCon East website, and you can join the discussion early at the FaerieCon Book Club Facebook page.
That’s all I have for now. I will continue to keep you all posted as thesis and the rest of these projects unfold 🙂
Alright, I am back in school for my senior year at PNCA. So far it appears that the whole process around my senior thesis will be a harrowing experience. Having my ideas ripped apart my the department head and classmates until they are distilled into something good, two speeches in front of the school and a panel of inquisitors, and a giant research paper. Not to mention the massive project itself. Pray for me. I will definitely show some of the process here as my thesis project develops.
I have two literature seminars that I am so insanely excited for. One of them is about American Gothic literature, and the other is all about The Wire. Will I have a shred of optimism, or any trust in my culture’s institutions at the end of this semester? I’m not bothered, I feel like both are going to inform my thesis quite a bit.
In my illustration classes, thankfully we are starting with some basic, warm-up design assignments. My first was to create a collage combining my work with the work of others (max. of 10 images total), and then designing it into a composition.
ATTENTION ARTISTS: It is only appropriate to do this sort of thing for educational purposes. I will not be putting this piece on my website or selling it. Do not use other people’s art in your work!
I decided I wasn’t going to make it some sort of homage to my favorite artists because A. that would be hard to narrow down and B. how fucking tacky would that be? I looked through the pile of images that I collected of work I love and made this weird, sci-fi image:
Then I added my Cernnunos icon, scanned and collaged in some textures, threw on text, and there you have it. It was a fun assignment.
The second assignment – the process for which is stretched out over the next few weeks – is to choose an image from a list of options and create an icon. I chose the option “your choice of animal.” Here are a few of the thumbnail sketches from Friday. Are those ram-horned serpents? Maybe…
I’m still on the fence. They may end up just adders.
With my workload increasing, I’m not sure how often I will be able to post updates here, but I will do my best to stay somewhat consistant. I sleep now!