At times, it seems that life is composed of activities that you undertake because they are productive, and activities you do to keep yourself from being productive. But the second group seems to be where all the meaningful stuff happens: the stuff that seems frivolous, but end up sticking with you; the great ideas that later turn into something productive.
I spend so much time avoiding the things that intimidate me. Like art. That’s right. Art intimidates me. Well, mostly painting.
There comes a time in *every* watercolor when panic creeps in. I become convinced that this piece is heading for disaster. The last brushstroke – or the next one – will irrevocably ruin the painting. On good days, I can manage to just plow through the crippling doubt. And usually the finished product is satisfactory.
Drawing is not like this for me.
Drawing is pure pleasure. Doubt doesn’t stand a chance when there’s a pencil in my hand (or pen or stylus). I want someday for painting to be like that. So I keep trying, and keep inventing newer ways to avoid trying.
Top five ways to kill a couple hours instead of working or painting:
- Start a blog. Waste hours on a daily basis ‘connecting’ with people, showing off your ‘talents’, and generally pouring your heart out. At least it’s cheaper than actual therapy.
- Queue up three albums-worth of Beatles songs and start singing. If using the White album, you only need to add one other album to the list. Contemplate the juxtaposition of the mystical sound with the prosaic prose of “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”.
- Was the dishes, vacuum, or re-sort a pile of magazine. This feels productive, but it isn’t. Don’t lie to yourself. You are avoiding the real work.
- Fall down the rabbit hole of wonders that is the Illustration Friday website. This is a site based on a simple premise: every week, a new topic is posted, and then anyone can make an illustration connected to that topic, submit it, and see others’ work. It’s brilliant; especially for a person like me who needs *an assignment* – some kind of external stimulus to get the muse moving.
- Watch a movie like, say, “Norwegian Wood”.
Here’s where the lines start to blur. First, I watched Norwegian Wood while working, but it did have the effect of slowing that down. The movie I’m referring to is a Japanese film based on a novel by Haruki Murakami. It also sports an excellent soundtrack by Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead and selected songs by Can. The drama is moody, gorgeously shot, and emotionally taxing. Or so it seemed to be.
This copy was *missing* half of the English subtitles.
Be that as it may, when I finally mustered the chutzpah to give Illustration Friday a try, this movie was still rattling around in my head. The topic this week is “Haunt”. A spooky Halloween-y scene seemed too obvious. A ‘haunted’ look seemed more appealing, but not much of use was turning up on a Google images search except a magnificent still-shot of Tommy Lee Jones from a recent movie. I started to use this photo as a general reference for my own character’s pose and facial expression.
Then Norwegian Wood came knocking. I adapted the picture that was already begun with the relationships of the movie in mind. It’s not a direct interpretation, but it is inspired by the source material.
The picture started off as just a solid purple background. To that was added the black line-drawing of the boy.
Then came the darker purple shade for the hair and the lighter tint for the breath. Finally, the girl. She was not part of the initial plan. Originally, the boy was positioned in the center of page, but he had to move to make room for her.
The monochromatic version showcases more subtle contrasts between the various picture components. The girl all but fades into the background, suggestively. The golden background was added more-or-less by accident, but it instantly seemed like the right direction to go. A couple of final shadows were added in a darker gold, and it seemed done.
And here’s just the two figure line-drawings:
I once had a girl
or should say,
she once had me”