Saturday, June 9, 2012

New Drawing: Pregnant Woman and Peacock

This is a drawing I just finished today.  It measures 12"x16".  Click on the image and you can see it enlarged.  I like the color, but I'm a little baffled as to what it all means.  I suppose its just meant to be decorative.  Would prefer that it told a story.

I know that when I started drawing it I was going through an intense, stressful series of days.  The painting I had been working on had a lot of repetitive detail and I was horribly bored of doing the same colors in the same pattern again and again.  I know that in the long run the detail is good for the overall look of the painting, (swirls in the sky, think Van Gogh's Starry Night on overdrive, during the daytime, a hundred light blue, purple and yellow swirls) so I was dying to be creative (instead of a craftsperson), and then wham, my home life seemed to head off in a new direction.  I stopped for about a week making art of any sort.  I was stunned.  Events smoothed out, but I hoped that starting a new drawing would be a means to combat stress.  The idea was that I find a new thing to obsess about and throw myself into.  The drawing was a challenge that was personal and private to contradict the feeling that my life was big and fast moving and tumbling out of control.  Control what you can.  At the precise moment you feel powerless.

I was pretty lost for subject matter after I decided I would do an oil pastel drawing.  My mind was giving me images of people with blown off heads, a lot of blood.  Basic scenes of death and carnage.  In fact, in a discarded drawing, I thought I was on the right path making a picture of two monsters tearing off a woman's dress.  Monsters raping a woman.  I felt really tormented and I wanted the characters in my drawing to be tormented as well.

So after a false start, I decided to go with practically all human.  I knew I wanted the bodies stacked, compressed, charred, with contorted limbs.  As it turned out the only figure that really looks upset is the middle male, he has the sort of "woe is me" look to him.  My husband thinks the figure on top is sinister, he calls it a vampire ready to pounce and suck blood.  In no way do I interpret that figure the way my husband does.  The color and the pose were done for artistic purposes.  Don't know where the peacock came from, but it does add something pretty in terms of pattern and I know it also functions as an arc that pulls the picture away from the stack of horizontal bodies.

Added last the pregnancy of the bottom woman.  She had a small stomach in the initial drawing, and I guess as a happy sign of hope, I enlarged the stomach and added the baby.  I find pictures of pregnant women particularly warming.  Life was hard, but it was wonderful as well.  Toyed with the idea that the fetus would be a monster, but rejected this notion. Done that before in early artwork.

On the first layer of color all the figures had nude flesh.  I decided this was too boring.  The hardest part of the artwork to correct from the underdrawing was the man in the middle.  I had settled in my mind that the top person would be the darkest, but it took me a bit to reason out that orange and green would be the main theme on the man in the middle.  At that point I also lightened up the pregnant woman with simple white, while leaving a lot of the color in her contour.

In my present state of mind I absolutely hate doing a background that is simple, without repeating pattern.  I like layering pattern on top of pattern.  What was weird about this drawing is the the flaw of its simplicity was present from the beginning.  The night before I started the drawing I had been crying (from stress) and my husband had strongly suggested that my despair seemed disproportionate, or out of control, and that I take a trilifon.  Trilifon in 2mg tablets is the old fashioned anti-psychotic medication I can take that hits me like a hammer over the head.  I only take them in crisis, and they start to work after about 30 minutes.  Haven't had to take a trilifon in well over two years, just been doing really well.

So I take the Trilifon and my tears dry up.  The next morning I feel drugged.  But it was the morning I've planned to start the drawing!  And the entire composition was created in a two hour time period at one go!  This rarely happens.  Drawings take days to compose, the elements creep out my unconscious mind bit by bit and I don't see where things are headed until the whole is almost done.  So I don't trust the quality of a drawing that is composed so swiftly.  Instead of thinking, "my, how I've grown as an artist" instead I think, "oooh, the drugs stifled my creativity and if it came out fast, it came out diluted and boring".

My negative attitude about an artwork being weak because it happened too easily brings to mind another artwork by an artist I can't name that I saw in an art magazine at the library.  Been going out in the afternoons, after an isolated morning of doing artwork, wanting to be around people, and trying to enhance my art education.  I think you can learn by looking, looking, looking at art.  Our library subscribes to three art magazines.  Galleries take out ads for their current exhibitions, and guess what, they usually buy a full page reproduction of the best piece of their featured artist.  I simply flip the pages and go from one contemporary art work to the next.  Occasionally I read the articles. But most of the education comes from looking at images and thinking about them.  The thinking doesn't go anywhere, its mostly just absorption. And the occasional "shit, he's so fantastic. Out of my league."

There was an article on this artist who recently committed suicide.  I would guess his age was late 50's or mid 60's.  He was obviously really smart and his work tended toward the conceptual.  He had been collected by museums and was working really hard (and I guess drinking hard too, and struggling with depression) before his death.  With the article was a photograph of a black and white wooden birdhouse he made.  The title of his artwork was "Catholic Birdhouse".  Typical birdhouses have a hole in the middle and a peg sticking out for the bird to perch on.  This birdhouse looked typical, but it had two holes, and two pegs.  The bottom hole was large and printed underneath was the text "the easy road".  The top hole was a lot smaller than the bottom hole and was ringed by smears, as though the bird preferred it but had to really squeeze to make it through, and in the process, had lost some feathers, flesh and blood.  The text under the small hole said "the hard road".

Such a simple piece but so evocative.  It said that we wish to enter home (due to the title home can be construed as the Kingdom of God) through loss and suffering - this is "the hard road".  Of course the irony is that either hole, large or small, would have brought you to the same house, the same place of rest and safety, and there was no need for the bird to take "the hard road".  He seemed to freely choose it.  Maybe because of his Catholic upbringing.

Simple art that makes you think.  I said to my husband when my drawing neared completion "is it creative, is it different?"  And he said to me, "have you ever seen anything like it?"  And I thought and then said no.  The drawing of the figures was easy, but over the course of several weeks I have really struggled with the colors.  So by the end, there was some tough finagling to bring this drawing to its conclusion.  I despaired because I thought the road was too easy, thus mistrusting it, but it turned out to have its challenges.  And having some challenges, I was satisfied.

Now I return to painting my God damn sky with one hundred swirls. I anticipate that when I finish just the sky I'll be so sick of painting that I'll do another drawing.

Long live the creative challenge.


  1. Dear Karen,

    This painting is certainly creative and different because it is unique to you. The figures are very interesting. The peacock seems to be yelling in the top figures ear. All the characters appear to be listening, the top figure most intently. It is hard to understand exactly what is going on, but the mystery of that makes me look harder. The top figure doesn't seem to be devilish to me, his expression is too open, almost startled and his line of vision goes out to the fetus below. I see him as protective rather than attacking. The middle figure in his body language take a pose of surrender and the pregnant woman at the bottom looks stepped on as if she's bearing the weight of all the other figures. She looks like she's listening through her discomfort. In some ways, because there is one obviously female figure and one obviously male figure, there seems to be an echo of Adam and Eve here only with a different slant, a kind of magical, totemic slant. Again I like the bird figure which is pleasingly decorative yet serves a key role in the possible meaning behind the composition. Is the bird talking, singing, yelling? There's no way to know. This image is not violent, just intense. There's some discomfort, but it is not unbearable. Everyone seems delicately balanced. You may have drawn this quickly, but the quality stands out. It's neither slipshod or haphazard. There is meaning here, as with all your paintings, but it is in your own somewhat secret visual language. Well done! It's interesting to me that you started out with the concept of trying to express torment, but wound up with something more subtle.

    Love, Kate : )

  2. Dear Karen,
    Your art work is extremely beautiful and your story is touching as well. While reading your description of self I couldnt help but think that you may have been misdiagnosed. The number of stories that are out there about Medical institutions falsely Prescribing medicine to patients for the sake of money is near innumerable. Have you ever taken a Myers-Briggs test? If not maybe you should do so. Studying psychology for ones self is important because It will teach you that there are many people with different personalities that types that behave fundamentally different. A suggestion would be to search the INFJ personality type(what I am) as well as looking into your zodiac sign for information. If Pluto rules your sign (Such as with Scorpios) then it would encourage you to have a vivid internal world that others are not aware about. This would cause a great misunderstanding with you and others. While they think that you are displaying the character traits of someone that they do not recognize, it may be a part of you that is hidden and developing. Anyway I hope you got some information. Best of Luck!

    Love is the Instruction,


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