illustration friday

IF - Cracked

For the past Illustration Friday topic "cracked" I decided to create a graphite drawing. Drawing was my first love in art, and I spent hours drawing growing up - especially portraits. I feel like I have pretty good facility with pencil and shading. I still love watching a piece come "alive" - even if it's not an animate subject. When faced with a blank piece of paper and a pencil, I feel like I am carving into the surface, not drawing on top of it.

Although, I do not draw as much as I once did, and portraits really are rare in my art, I find myself returning to graphite now and then. I have turned away from portraits in favor of these abstract, shallow-spaced pieces. They have been much influenced by my mixed-media, layering work I have done in the journal.

These pieces rarely contain representational imagery, but can hardly be called non-objective. They really are representations of identity and experience. The way we experience a moment or an event is such a complex mental, physical, and emotional amalgam. Our experiences and our identities are such rich, multi-level entities that I have focused on this idea in much of my recent artwork. This particular piece explores how such a complex structure can be so very fragile and prone to cracking. So for all it's balance, rigidity, and structure, this piece is on the verge of complete disintegration as the cracks begin to show.

IF - Parade

Last Friday's Illustration Friday topic "parade" sparked this two-page spread in my large Moleskine sketchbook. I recently took a trip down memory lane as a looked through some old sketchbooks. These little 5.5x8.5 inch books were mostly from a time before I discovered the visual journal, and they were little books that I always carried around with me doodling constantly and writing the angst and love riddled poetry that only a twenty-something can write. They were truly my first visual journals, and the last two were my first foray into the world of visual journaling as I know it now.

But last week, I began flipping through them in an attempt to find some inspiration. I was immediately floored by their raw and prolific nature. I used primarily black ink and I sketched and worked fast, but I still manged to fill two or three per year. I didn't read the poetry, but I looked at page after page of doodles, sketches, and visual jottings. I was amazed to see some things - shapes, forms, and images that still reoccur in my art, but I was equally impressed with things that no longer occur in my art namely the figures. I've always loved figures and faces and people in general in art, but I've gotten away from the quick gestures that populate these little books.

So I decided to revisit them in a parade across two pages. I started with the black ink figures and then added the red-violet swirl. I then added watercolor pencil and finally watered down gesso. Despite begin grouped together, these figures are isolated from each other and do not interact. The gesso creates a fog and only bits through the rectangles are clear. It has a sombre feel, and it is most likely not finished and will evolve into something more.

IF - Theater

For last Friday's Illustration Friday prompt "theater", I automatically thought of masks and roles. This page in my current journal actually began as planning (the writing and face sketches under all the other layers) for a project for one of my classes, but fit in perfectly into the topic.

The page plays off of something I remember from my sociology class in college - the dramaturgical perspective where behavior of an individual is analyzed as if it were a theatrical performance. The basic notion is that life is a stage and we are the players (wait that sounds familiar). But we have our role and our character that we play for the audience (society) when we are onstage, but we can step out of character - be our true selves when there is no audience (backstage). I've always liked this perspective and it fits well with my recent readings by Carl Jung and idea of the persona being the "mask" we present to people.

So this page explores these notions and how the characters and roles we play are the masks that we wear and present to people. We may play different roles to different people and may wear different masks, but what about the actor behind the role - behind the mask. Who ever really sees the true identity of another individual, and why are we so willing to lock ourselves and others up in the roles they play? These questions came to me as I worked, and I wondered why we fear revealing ourselves, why we hide, and what happens when we become trapped within the roles. How many of us have felt like phonies at sometime or another? How often do we fall into the roles either we create for ourselves or are created by others?

These are all thoughts that have been going through my mind lately. The page is far from being finished, but I wanted to share.

IF - Time

This week's Illustration Friday prompt "time" had me going back to a page that I had started in December. I do not work in my journal in a linear fashion, and I often look for pages that speak to me. This page spoke to me as I pondered "time." I began this page in December on my 35th birthday with the writing reflecting on the last 35 years of my life and at some point I had added a little watercolor pencil to it. But I had written about how time passes so quickly, and it seems like only a little while ago that I was graduating from high school, going to college, and getting married. As I grow older, I become more comfortable with who I am and where my life is going. I would not go back in time for anything. The wisdom, the memories, the understanding, and the experiences that I have now are all because of the time that I have spent during my personal journey on this planet.

So, I wanted this page to be an accumulation of time, memory, experience. We may think of time in a linear fashion, but in the mind, recollections, thoughts, emotions, and time all occur simultaneously. They all layer together in a rich, vibrant vision. I wanted this page to feel that way, and it does not quite succeed in doing that, but it is far from being finished and will undoubtedly evolve over time. I simply wanted to get this early version out before I ran out of time.

IF - Flawed

This is my journal page for this week's Illustration Friday prompt "flawed". I had a strong preconceived idea of how I wanted this page to turn out, and I did not do my customary writing before hand. I wanted to convey the idea of how we as humans are so very afraid to admit that we are flawed and do almost anything to hide those flaws from the world. By denying our flaws and our mistakes we truly deny ourselves.

But I feel that this page doesn't quite convey that. Instead, it turned out to convey more of a message of being consumed by our flaws. The face, which is a loose self-portrait, dissolves into the background as it is overwhelmed by the various elements. I approached this page in a very spontaneous way keeping my technique loose and "flawed".

Despite not turning out they way I had envisioned, I really like this piece, and it seems very different from my usual pages.

IF - Climbing

This week's Illustration topic "climbing" sparked one of my most conceptual responses. I began, as has become my custom, by writing about the topic, and I ending up writing about how I have spent a lot of time lately "climbing" inside of myself and doing a lot of introspection. So, I wanted to convey the notion of sifting through layers of thoughts and memories - an excavation of sorts. I wanted a shallow space that had different layers and levels - like uncovering various depths. I began with quite a few layers of watercolor pencil and finished with colored pencil.

IF - Pale

This week's Illustration Friday topic led to this page in my large journal. I began with some word association with the prompt "pale" which lead me to ghosts and apparitions and the idea of being invisible. As I went through a list of words and phrases that I associated with "pale", an idea solidified. I caught a hold of the idea how some people go go through their lives being rather invisible to others. They are afraid or uncomfortable being out front or the center of attention. They are happy in the background.

But this page has a lot of personal significance to me. At times, I feel almost like a split personality - the one that likes to be out front, center stage, and the one that likes to be in the background observing the situation. I can be rather shy and introverted under certain circumstances which is hard for some people to believe especially with my years of teaching and presenting workshops and seminars. Those are very outward, front and center tasks. But there is, like with most people, a hidden side a quiet side to me. But over the last 4 or 5 years, I have learned to shine.

And this is a call for people to stop being ghosts and barely there in their lives, and to break out, stop hiding, and to SHINE. We all have amazing things to share with the world - what a shame not to share our precious gifts.

IF - Contained

It's been a while since I had the time to focus on an Illustration Friday prompt. So here is this week's for "contained". I began this two page spread in a small collaborative journal by listing words that I associated with the word "contained". Immediately a boxed in image of a figure popped into my mind. As I worked on this piece, I allowed my mind to reflect on the notion of feeling boxed in and struggling to be free of that.
We box ourselves in. We are boxed in by other people. We build walls and are relegated to roles and identities that may or may not be true to our true identities. We struggle to break down these walls and to break free from these roles and boxes. But we can become inconvenient for other people in our lives as we break out of their definitions of who we are. Contained and not allowed to grow, to evolve, or to flourish. Strange notions, but ever so common in our lives. How do we break free from our boxes? How do we grow, yet keep those important people in our lives? How do we become more of who we are without alienating those that love and care about us?

It's a struggle.

IF - Similar

After hustling this week to get everything ready for NCCAT next week, I was able to have a relaxing day working in the journal, and I was able to begin a response to this week's topic: "similar".

This page was started with some watercolor pencil, and I then did some stream of consciousness writing about how many people want to be the same or similar to others. I mentioned how many identify with a group collective like a university, a place of work, or a sports team. For many people being a part of this collective is key to their own personal identity. I have always had trouble identifying with the group and have always preferred to identify with the individual.

For example, I am a devoted Pittsburgh Steelers fan with growing up in the Pittsburgh area during their first 4 Super Bowl wins. But I own one t-shirt, one novelty sign, and one button, and I don't say, "We won" or "We lost". I'm not on the team. I don't receive a check from the Steelers.

But many people do identify strongly with these groups. And advertisers and big business try all they can to get people to buy and consume the same things. Think about the iPods dominance on the digital music device market.

Conform and Consume became words that I was attracted to and I stenciled them in. I then built up several layers of watercolor and watercolor pencil, as well as ink and collage. The packaging tape transfer of the Dalai Lama came next, and it created a strange juxtaposition next to the words "conform" and "consume". But then I turned each into a phrase - "Consume experiences" and "Conform to your own principles". The blue ink lines were really the last big things I added. They remind me of rivers or blood vessels or even roads. But they represent the connections that we have with others.

We need to celebrate our differences and our uniquenesses while understanding that our similarities are much more general and basic - our humanity, our compassion, our desire to be happy, our resilience, and our ability to overcome our differences. We cannot break into factions and groups with an us versus them mentality.

This page is unfinished, but I wanted to post it before I left for the weekend. I'm sure it will evolve.

IF - Opinion

After a couple of busy weeks, I was able to work on an IF topic. This two-page spread began with some brainstorming on the word "opinion" which led me to reflect on beliefs. After writing about connection (a topic that has much been on my mind lately), I began working on these pages that already had some map-like imagery. Slowly I built up layers of watercolor pencil, graphite, acrylic paint, and paint marker. I even traced several of my students' hands.

Like many of my IF pages, this one bears little resemblance to the topic. But as I reflected, I wrote about how many people do not believe that we are all connected. They feel that they are truly individuals isolated from others and that actions have little bearing on others. Many people in essence are rather egocentric and find it difficult to empathize with others.

We, as a human race, at times find it much easier to fall in on ourselves rather than to reveal ourselves to others. What a sad world when we cannot feel that connection to others - when we are so scared, even when surrounded by people, that we cannot and will not reach out to others.