Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Axe Murderers

Ok, if you need to get this out of your system first, here's a link to the Monty Python Lumberjack Song
This is a post about a digital image--not a window.  It may become a window someday in some form, but for now, it is an idea for wallpaper.

I had this idea a while back  (do I begin a lot of posts with that line? There's a reason for that...) The idea was to do a chopped down tree--possibly with the person chopping it down.  They could look concerned...a look, perhaps that could say, "why yes, I did read Jared Diamond's book Collapse regarding how civilizations and societies which collapse often do so as the result of ecological pressure, you know, like climate change?? And I did take note of the part which stressed that deforestation is, well, a huge effing problem!"

I did some rudimentary sketches.  Crappy stuff.  Now (endless Covid summer) is a time when I am gathering and consolidating threads to see what going to be a project and what isn't.  So I have this ephemeral "idea-thing", more like an urge, and I have a crappy sketch!  Now what? Urges and crappy sketches do not a project make.
 I commenced to try to figure out how to draw a fallen tree.  Not so easy. I mean, what does a fallen tree even look like?  A pile of chaos! I feel a lot more must happen before I touch glass, if that's what's going to happen.
It took a while, but knowing I wanted to be influenced by my own fine self, I worked with an old drawing and customized it into a facsimile of an oak tree.  That took a long time--like maybe a few days working all day, trying to force/coax tree-ness out of an old sketch and magic fairy dust.  I find that getting negative reinforcement on a project can feel dire and devastating.  And at the same time, its kind of a tempest in a teapot, by which I mean, my own skull.  I mean, why on earth do I expect to get a decent image the first few times around? When all my so-called best ideas are not clicking, I hear the siren's call.  Time to rearrange the basement! Or clean the cat box. Or some such. Most of all, I want to change mymind and abandon ship.  Sometimes this feeling is has an incredible gravitational pull.  I know from teaching that this is a real moment for less experienced artists.  It can be really awful.
This is when art making really becomes an act of faith.  Not faith that I will succeed, whatever that means. That's a little too goal oriented. But faith that something interesting will happen if I persist enough.  In fact, one thing that does happen a lot is that I find I create a lot of material I can't use in this project but can be tabled for anther day. And I also find that there are amazing things to be discovered if one persists and resists the urge to change their idea.
what?  I can't even see what it is I would have to render here.

This is the tree for me.
Maybe something like this?  Or maybe NOT!
As for the lumberjack character, I have a whole file of lumberjack images. I am into the romance of lumberjacks with what I would describe a  de riguer superficiality.  I mean, what do I know of lumberjacks?  I've lived in cities my whole life! I guess I mean I like old woodcuts of Aesop's "The Trees and the Axe". 
But yeah, I read Collapse too.
Sad, romantic, and totally remorseful lumberjack
As it happens, I am descended from people, man-people, who chopped down pretty much all of mid-Pennsylvania in the mid-1800's.  Then they moved west, presumably to find more trees to chop, and they chopped all them down too, then, lucky for them, they struck oil in Titusville PA and they all converted to oil men.  My grandfather was a geologist for Phillips 66 which is how my mom came to be from Bartlesville OK.  You see the thread here?  Trees used to be an energy source.  Then they found oil. It was no biggie to just tear down a forest and move along to the next one and tear it down too. But there was no sense that this was leading to wanton self destruction, at the time. No sense whatsoever that the energy industry might be "fueling" an unsustainable mess. Deep sigh....
Kinzua PA, my ancestral homeland, now under water.  Thanks Allegheny River!
As for the drawing, I took a bunch of my axe man sources and put them in Photoshop. I never work from life. First of all, I hate life.  Just kidding. I love life!  Life drawing, not so much. When it comes to models, I like action poses, which no model could ever maintain for more than a second.  Interesting art fact: The reason some art is so boring is because when you draw from life, the model has to stay put so all paintings are of people sitting or lying or stuff sitting or lying there...oh my gawd wake me up when its over!  Who draws action poses?  Cartoonists and illustrators.  So the content of Fine Art vs illustration is very much influenced by that fact.  How weird is that? Think about it and submit your 500 word essays in the discussion module.

So, I have developed what I call the "Henry Darger Drawing Method". Which was developed actually by Henry Darger.  This link has a paragraph about it. I, too, use source images. Sadly, despite the vast infinity of the world wide web, most images of human bodies can be put into three lame categories; selfies, porn and icky stock photos.  NONE of that is useful to me. Again, its cartoons and illustrations to the rescue.

So, with the lumberjacks, I found about 7 good sources--good poses--and I gave all the source images heads drawn by me. Then!  I switched their legs!  Then I draw them over in pencil   No one will ever find my source images. Except I am kinda showing you here.  But they are now entirely original. And I never once had to get someone to pose in historic costume with an axe.  Yay!
BUT I HAD TOO MANY LUMBERJACKS! What to do?  It became obvious that apropos of obviousness that to put a lumberjack with a fallen tree was too obvious!  And I had seven nice pencil drawings of lumberjacks looking pretty good together, so why not make them their own piece?

Seven lumberjacks
Can I just say? I really enjoyed drawing lumberjacks.
And then I thought, because I often do, how about making it a repeat tile?  Because its one thing to have seven lumberjacks in  a row or whatever, and its quite another to have seven million, which could happen with a repeat tile. Yes, sometimes utilitarian design concerns inform concept.  Chew on that, friends.
Beyond that, my, isn't this looking a lot like a statement about deforestation and about the sociopolitical systems we have that depend on such unsustainable practices? (Please forgive me, ancestors!) And doesn't it also seem to be making a statement about (toxic) masculinity at the same time? 

Oh yes, apropos masculinity,  I also drew a stump.  But....I had to chop off the roots in order to make the design work.  Who's destroying the metaphorical environment NOW??  Oh the irony.
emo tree stump

This is not the final--but a reasonable approximation.  Gonna go for the ketchup color background to symbolize, ya know, blood and french fries.

1 comment:

Matt said...

I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you for taking the time. I read the blog because I like the image, but the story really gives it a new dimension. I liked reading about your process and the boys about your family history. It really helps to grasp the evolution of the piece.