Thursday, September 13, 2012

Looking Back (art heavy)

I'm starting a new artistic journey and it is sometimes enlightening to take a look back at where one has been before moving forward. I spent part of the day looking over old drawings going back to before I can remember. This creates a timeline of my artistic ability.

The first time I remember ever sitting down with the intention of drawing was in 4th grade. Our family had moved back to Riverside, California which back in the late 1970s I believed was a dust filled dive with dead eyed teachers and a growing gang problem. This was the school where I was chased by Mexican 6th graders who spoke only a tiny amount of English and whose favorite game was to pick on the pasty, short white kid from Washington. They called me many bad words plus "homo." I didn't fully understand that one. I had no idea what a homosexual was but the cap on the top of the milk jug at home had the word on it (short for homogenized). I figured it was a racist term for white people. I remember they chased me one recess with the intention of pain obvious. I was so scared I peed myself and didn't care. As long as I could keep running. A 6th grade girl came to my defense and helped me get to the office without anyone seeing my wet pants.

I was alone, in a place I was afraid of everything and everyone. I had no friends but I discovered a Big Chief Tablet of paper and began to draw. I must have seen Star Trek at some point but at the time I wasn't aware of it. The similarities are too close for coincidence though. I created a ship and crew and a fighter and ran stories over and over in my head. Their world was relatively safe. They had an accountant on board! Interesting that decades later I would marry one. Read into that what you will.

I filled books with drawings. Unfortunately they were likely tossed out when we moved back to Anacortes half way through the school year. I continued to draw, mostly cartoons and superheroes. I won a contest in 6th grade and my drawing of the superhero Atom Ant's lair was hung up on the Anacortes Post Office's wall for all the world to see. That same year my drawing of a Smurf talking to an ant was put on the regional TV show "Captain Seatac" which made me a local celebrity at Mt. Erie Elementary. They pulled me out of class to tell me the good news. I didn't draw for years after that though. I don't really know why.

My next obsession was superheroes. I wasn't interested in drawing established heroes but I created dozens of my own. It was at this point, probably early in my high school career that I realized I wasn't very good. I tried and I enjoyed the effort but my skills were very low. I recruited my few friends who could draw better than I to draw my heroes in an attempt to get them on paper the way I saw them in my head. Looking back on high school I was bullied every day. One guy teased me every time he saw me and even slammed a locker door on my head (although I don't know if he was trying to hurt me or scare me.) I was roughed up often and it was during that time I turned back to art, just like in 4th Grade.

It was the year after I graduated from high school. I had an internship with the drama/typing/civics teacher, Mr. Russell at the high school. I was given the job of running the sound station at the model United Nations. My friend Brian and I began passing notes back and forth between he and the audio desk we named "Audio Land." A bevy of heroes and villains were created in an afternoon and that night I went home and drew 17 pages of comic book goodness called the "Heroes of Audio Land." The drawing was atrocious but for the first time I felt like I had created something that was worth reading. A second, longer issue came out the following year. Then I went away to college.

At Whitworth College I gave up superheroes. For the most part I gave up on art. My junior year there I discovered drawing with a simple black pen and I began to draw animals from photo and life references. I still think they were the best things I have ever drawn. I was also falling into old patterns. I was my dorm's chaplain and I had enemies. The guys who lived next door to me that I busted for pot. My own roommate that trashed my side of the room and filled a 30 gallon trash can with beer bottles while I was home for Thanksgiving break. The person who began pulling dangerous and destructive "pranks" on me. The anonymous person who wrote me a note threatening to cut off my testicles if I didn't move out of the dorm. At the same time I was wrapping myself in the blanket of art.

After college I lost my muse. I was married and happy and no longer threatened. I tried to draw many times over the years but I couldn't regain the level of perceived quality that I had in college. It wasn't until 2009 when I found artist trading cards that some spark to create returned. I created nearly a hundred cards, some okay, some terrible. A very few with sparks of what I really want out of my drawings.

Now 3 1/2 years later I am tired of fighting to draw. I am tired of feeling that I can only draw inspiration when I am feeling threatened somehow. I am tired of drawing at the micro level. I want to create something large that I would not be ashamed to hang on my wall. I am not looking for money. I'm not foolish enough to believe people would want to buy what I am selling: at least not yet. I want to create art. So in September I will sit down and create. I will embrace my past but rise above it and finally prove to myself that I can do it. Or I will fail. I am good about driving myself to failure with my foot on the accelerator. I need to succeed though. I need to prove to a terrified 4th grade kid hiding his wet lap under a pile of sand on the playground that something good came from it all.