Friday, April 20, 2012

"The Gift" Drawing

An hour after I finished this drawing I broke down crying.  I just didn't know what to make of it.  Was it good or was it bad?  I had been so obsessed during its creation, and when it was over I felt lost and directionless.  From start to finish it took a little under a month to create.

The colors were added with oil pastels, underneath is the preliminary pencil drawing.  When I drew with the pencil  I thought that I had left room for it to be eventually matted but unfortunately when it came time to add the colors I added detail right up to the edges of the paper.  So when I get it framed I can't use a mat.  Am going to frame this one because it is a gift.  I am sending it to someone I don't know well and I figured if I framed it there would be less of a chance of it getting lost or torn or simply discarded.  It is an ego thing getting it framed - I value it so I want to take good care of it.  Maybe this will help someone else take good care of it too.

I had no visions in my head of what this picture would look like when I began except for one seed element.  I knew I wanted to start with the drawing of a bound bird.  The image of a bird with straps across its wings, preventing it from flight, is an old image that I've used in two other works of art made years ago.  However, never before have I put quite so many straps of bondage on the bird, nor have I ever included a lock and key.

Once the bird was drawn I thought to put behind it a stone wall and a girl sitting on the stone wall.  I pictured her in a pretty dress printed with cherries, and in her hands she held a heart.  As I drew this girl I thought that she was an evil creature who had torn the heart out of the chest of a man below her.  I imagined the man wiggling and flailing in agony on grass.  But when I drew him he had a languid, gracious pose.  Suddenly the meaning of the picture changed, the woman was no longer evil, and the man was no longer in pain.  There was a transfer of the heart taking place, but whether the horse headed man was offering it up to the woman or whether the woman was giving to the horse headed man something vital that he lacked was unclear.  However, in either interpretation, whether or not the heart is coming out of a body or going into a body it is most certainly a precious gift.  That is where the title comes from.  It just is coincidence that "The gift" is actually a gift.

The last element to draw was the cat holding the gun.  Guns in my art are reoccurring objects. Usually I find that the person or animal holding the gun is pointing it at something beautiful and good, like a unicorn or mermaid or angel.  I suppose I feel that it adds an element of threat.  That a good thing has hanging over it the means of its termination and destruction.  Probably the cat won't shoot.  But he's demonic.

After I finished the drawing, had my cry, and was left with doubt and uncertainty I went for a walk with my husband and our dog.  I was feeling a little crazy and kept thinking about Degas pastel drawings of ballerinas.  All those colors.  I kept thinking to myself, why can't I draw like Degas?  And while I wanted to be Degas, my head traveled even further and thought, why can't I draw like Michelangelo?  Or Leonardo Di Vinci?  I wanted to be big, bigger than life, huge, on top of a mountain.  But what I really felt was small and insignificant. Why so much dissatisfaction in the very hour when I should feel accomplished?   I said to my husband that the pain was very old, going back to high school, going back to elementary school.  I simply have a hard time accepting what is me, and this drawing is very much in my own, idiosyncratic style.  I am a primitive, outsider artist.  And schizophrenic.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Karen,

    I just wanted to add for your readers and those who look at this work that they really must click on the image to enlarge it and set it off with a black background--that way you can really see it, though I find it works small and at a distance as much as it works larger and close up. I think that is often true for your work in general. I'm guessing that you step back a lot when you're in the process of making a piece of art, you really have to to get a balance in the work. It's part of the fun too, get really close up and intense, then take a break and step back and see your work start to transform into something unexpected.

    You've done a great job and congratulations on claiming the right to call yourself a primitive, outsider artist. This gives you a focus and a niche which is very important if you want people in the art world to take you seriously. More importantly, you take yourself seriously and you put your heart and soul into it. I can see that in your work. I hope your cry was at least somewhat cathartic and let you relax from the intensity of your focus on this painting this month. I guess it also stirred up old wounds.

    I think the painting is fascinating and the bird you must have done in part as homage to Max Ernst! The first thing I noticed was the horseman's gaping wound, then the girl with the heart, then the cat with the gun and then the locked up bird with the lock and key and the blue stripes of the background certainly stand out during this first scan of the work. In fact, it is the background that flattens the image and makes it look almost like the climax of a stage play. The girl seems to be being very careful with the heart. To me, she is giving the heart back to the horseman. The green eyed cat is very devilish, though I'm not sure of his or her motivation in pointing the gun. Is the cat trying to keep the girl from giving the horseman the heart back or is the cat threatening to just destroy the heart entirely? My favorite character in this scene is the onlooking, helpless bird(woman?). I so want her in all her feathered finery to be set free.
    And I wonder about her relationship to the deeply (mortally?) wounded horseman.

    I'm really glad that you are going to have the artwork framed. I just wish it wasn't such an expense for you...or me either. I have several paintings that I'd like framed, but I can't afford it right now. You work so hard and do such great work, you deserve to have it framed nicely, even if you are giving it away as a gift. And I do agree with your logic that whoever is fortunate enough to receive an original piece of artwork from you will treat it with more care if it is framed. Be sure to take several good photographs of it with its frame. Choosing a frame is pretty exciting too. It can really make the work stand out the way it should.

    I think it's natural that you should have a cry after finishing this work. You've been so intimate with it for a whole month and now you'll have to let it go and that is always hard. But don't let that stop you from beginning a new artistic challenge. Each work is unique. Some you will respond to strongly, maybe to the point of holding onto it in your own collection, and others you will feel ambivalent about, but with all of them you'll have a connection.

    Love you Karen.

    Kate : )


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