Crossing the First Threshold

Welcome back to the continuing saga of “The Artist’s Journey”.

In the previous post “Supernatural Aid”, I talked about coming to a crossroads where I was at the point of giving up art altogether.  By this time, I had spent about 5 years running around in circles trying to figure out what ‘sells’ in the fine art world pursued closely by the wolf at the door.  My simple goal of making ‘a living’ out of my efforts seemed ridiculously impossible and I started measuring money in terms of “badges” or “postcards” and cringing at how hard it was to make enough for a coffee let alone groceries or mortgage payments. I spent my days experimenting with different styles, subject matter and mediums and I spent my nights researching the elusive popular sale.  I Googled, I Instagramed, I Facebooked, I read white papers and listened to podcasts on art trends, I looked at online galleries and offline galleries.  I was like a hamster in a wheel, going nowhere. Eventually it beat me. I could go no further.  We had moved to Tasmania not long after the end of my career in video games and had been living on one income since.  During this time my family was faced with some major financial difficulties. I lost my job and my entire career because of the Global Financial Crisis and now I was having a debt crisis of my own and was utterly powerless to help us out of it despite my former glittering career.  It was as if everything I had achieved had been simply written off and the world turned its back on me.

At the lowest point of my desperate struggle I decided that there must be a disconnect between my perception of what was artistically ‘good’ and the reality of the world.  It was like I had woken up in the Matrix and realised that my previous life had all been a lie and that I was really a novice who needed to start again from the beginning.  I tried to tell myself that it was good for the soul to undergo some humility but in actual fact I felt the most intense sense of betrayal and bitterness followed by a deep emptiness.  I also had a number of other factors at the time contributing to a ‘perfect storm’ of unpleasant events.  It reached a critical point where I had exhausted any kind of will to continue.  I sat unmoving in a chair and I couldn’t form one positive thought.  This frightened me because never in my life had that ever happened to me.  I had always been able to push back against adversity and win and I had faced adversity more times than I care to say.

I was prescribed anti-depressants.  Sad but true.  I would not have been able to continue without it.

In my Matrix-like state of awakening where I believed I was a shit artist and had to start all over again, I decided to make one more last-ditch monumental effort to improve my art skills from the beginning.  It didn’t matter what I did, I would just start anywhere and build up some painting and drawing hours.  I started going to life drawing sessions and when that got too expensive I created my own sessions at home using internet pictures displayed on my TV and I did about an hour or two every day without fail.  I read a pile of books from the library on painting and drawing techniques, artist’s anatomy, drapery and art theory, I watched YouTube videos on artists’ techniques.  I gave up my spacious rented art studio and shared a small space with another artist on a wall facing away from the public.  The lower rent meant I could relax a little and pay the rent just from my card sales.  I forced myself to forget about selling and debt and concentrate on learning and doing.  I worked and I blocked out everything else as best I could.  It wasn’t easy being in a co-operative space with a dozen other artists all focussed on selling so I went dark and stopped talking.

After a few months of doing small pieces, tests and quick studies, the first major piece I committed to doing was a drawing 2.4 metres long by 1.2 metres high.  I thought if I needed practice, I would tackle something large and challenging and lose myself in its creation.  I picked a subject matter that interested me and didn’t care if I was the only person on the planet who liked that.  I love pencil drawing (even though it was resoundingly clear the art world considered it passé) and I love fantasy (same thing – dead in the water) and I love trees.  I chose to do a tree-woman who had weathered the worst that life could throw at her and fallen to the ground in her suffering.  Perhaps a bit of a self-portrait in hindsight.  The drawing filled my entire studio.  I bought the largest piece of MDF board I could find and supported it across two easels so I could clip the paper onto it.  Consequently, the drawing became the exact size of a piece of MDF.  I didn’t even think about what I would do with it once it was finished.  It was ridiculously large and would be impossible to frame.  But it was large because I wanted it to have impact.  I wanted to make a statement about suffering and what it felt like to be on the receiving end of it.  I wanted to make a tribute to all living things that had suffered at the hands of selfish, careless people and a blind, unthinking society, to all those who had been ignored, bullied and abused.  But more than that I wanted to pour all of my hollowed-out resentment, outrage and sadness into it and show that at the end of all that, there was still beauty.  I wanted so much to prove that beauty would prevail despite every bit of crap that life could throw at you and that the scars of suffering could tell an honest tale for all to see.

It took me 5 months to complete this drawing.  During its creation I shared with no one what I was going through.  I was medicated, numb and utterly beaten but I began this task with a silent determination. Soon I found a natural rhythm in the routine of the familiar pencil strokes.  There was a sort of bittersweet sadness in the labour of bringing the scars of lifelong weathering and hardship into being as meticulously and reverently as I could.  It was a long project and at times I would find myself wanting to take coffee breaks a little too often when the enormity of the task threatened to overwhelm me.  I pushed through this by wearing headphones so I could further block out the world, drown out my thoughts and focus single-mindedly on sculpting this form from my imagination into reality. The task was arduous but I enjoyed that.  I needed some time to ‘just do’ and not think.  The result was “The Fallen” and as it turned out, it marked the end of my ‘commercially-minded’ artistic life and the beginning of a new and more serious chapter.  I crossed a threshold into the unknown.

Incidentally, ‘The Fallen’ became so popular that I had to auction it.  It came as a complete surprise to me that others would like my twisted, weird torturous creation regardless of its ungainly size and unpopular medium and it is still my best-selling piece today.  It also was the catalyst for my current series of work.  More about that in future posts.


Next up: “The Belly of the Whale”.

Supernatural Aid

Welcome to Part 3 of “The Artist’s Journey“.

According to the essence of Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth, after the Refusal of the Call, a guide appears providing you with some words of wisdom, some practical tips, gentle persuasion and points you in the right direction of your journey.  WHERE WAS HE/SHE!!!?  Gandalf, Dumbledore or Obi-Wan never turned up in the guise of a senior artist, mentor, guru or teacher.  Not even during my entire career in graphic design did I ever receive any guidance or advice from a living experienced mentor.  I even became an art director without ever having worked under one myself.  Everything I learned, I had to learn by trial and error, my own individual research, making mistakes and learning on-the-fly.

I was very lucky when I was 12, 13, 14 to have access to the Famous Artists correspondence course.  This was founded by Norman Rockwell and was a collaboration of content developed by some of the most influential artists and illustrators of the 50’s.  It was full of useful exercises in how to draw the human figure, head, hands, perspective, colour theory, composition etc.  My father, who was a film animator, had these lying around the house and I would look through them and do the exercises as a kid.  It was probably one of the only remaining sources of academic art material available in that form before modernism rendered academic art tutelage an evil sin and it died out in art schools.  In hindsight, it was just what I needed when I needed it.  So, thanks Norman Rockwell, Bernie Fuchs, Robert Fawcett, Albert Dorne and all the other 50’s artists of the New York Society of Illustrators!  You are my proxy Gandalf. My odd version of ‘mentor’ also took the form of a very limited selection of art books at my local library and then many years later, the Internet.  So thanks, the Internet, for teaching me “Everything I Know”.

After the Refusal and the Giant Foot, one of my first forays back into traditional art was a portrait of Merlin done in graphite pencil.  Perhaps I was subconsciously yearning for the archetypal “Wise Man” to appear and teach me something useful (as opposed to me fumbling around in the dark learning things by mistake).  It’s a bit sad really, that I had to invent my own mentor but there he is, ZZ-Top beard and all.  I can hear him even now preaching to me about not drawing every single hair on his beard.  I ignored him, of course.  I once had an art agent look at “Merlin” and a few other of my pieces right at the beginning of my uncertain journey back into traditional art and the advice I got at that very sensitive time was to give up doing ‘portraits’ of people that nobody knows – they don’t sell, they said.  Great advice, thanks.  I ignored this too.

For about 6 years I blundered around experimenting with different media, styles, subject matter etc.  I painted with acrylic, oil, watercolour, colour pencil, pastel.  I even painted with coffee, much to the scoffing derision of friendly art critics.  I had no direction.  After so many years of working as a commercial artist, I approached making art from the perspective of the customer, the audience, the buyer.  Understandably in commercial art, you think about the client, the product and the brief. The integrity of what you do can easily be measured against what is required from the paying entity. However, let me tell you, it can send you around the twist trying to figure out what ‘sells’ when it comes to fine art.  The process is not the same.  It took an unusually long time for me to figure this out without a mentor. All this happened right when we were experiencing some financial hardship at home and I faced the pressure every day to earn an income or quit. It seriously brought me to the edge of despair trying to ‘please’ an unknown entity, a shifting, faceless ghost.  I was trying to please art critics when submitting an entry to an art competition, I was trying to please a small-town tourist market at the same time trying to make my work more serious and contemporary, I became reactionary, responding to what I thought was important ‘feedback’ and all the while I was trying to please perceived ‘markets’ I had no idea existed.  It didn’t occur to me that I had things back to front!  The more I tried to please, the more my efforts ended in rejection, disappointment and failure. During this agonising time of mindlessly bouncing from one contradiction to another, I learned one important thing – humility (…or humiliation, not sure which one!).  It certainly had the effect of stripping down all the confidence I had ever possessed in my own abilities.  It cracked open any professional self-assurance I had built up over the years and got right down to the bitter gibbering core!  I came to the end of the road of my endurance one day as I was selling socks and jam to customers of an art gallery.  I was done with the humiliation, the working for free, the endless hours of hand-making tourist trinkets to stay competitive with items made in China, the torturous quest for a style or subject matter or X factor that might bridge the gap between artistic integrity and the opposing need to create an income.  I was utterly defeated.  I started looking into becoming a hairdresser.  No kidding!  What came next was truly a crossroad, a threshold – Part 4 “Crossing the First Threshold”.

Stay tuned to find out what happened.

Refusal of the Call

Welcome to Part 2 in the series of “The Artist’s Journey” where I am applying Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth formula to my individual journey as an artist. For an outline of the Monomyth see The Artist’s Journey.

At the beginning of “The Hobbit”, Bilbo Baggins is invited to go on an adventure and initially refuses, preferring to stay safely in his hole in the ground with his creature comforts and easy familiarity.  He later changes his mind, facing a fear of the unknown and runs down the road “without his pocket handkerchief”.  This initial refusal is one born of fear and doubt. Becoming an artist is plagued with fear and doubt.  Historically the myth of the artist is wildly illustrated with stories of struggle, starvation, madness, substance abuse and even death.  Creating art is a very personal and challenging thing. You may need to go down the rabbit hole, as it were, to do some serious internal work. The thought of this is unpleasant and I can tell you it is not an unfounded fear!  There are also practical fears like how you are going to earn an income, doubts about how your work will be received, “stage” fright and artist’s block. These are all major deterrents for pursuing the life of an artist and if you are facing this, in addition to the prospect of giving up something valuable, like a comfortable career or lifestyle, it can be quite an agonising decision.

I’m going to talk about my decision to pursue fine art because, even though I have been working as a professional artist for nearly 30 years, commercial art is quite different to what I do now.

So back to the Monty Python foot.  As I mentioned in my previous post The Call to Adventure, it came down in 2008 as a result of the Global Financial Crisis.  The video games industry was rapidly expanding in Brisbane, and I was there for 10+ years with it as it grew.  Companies I worked for started out as garage outfits and expanded to 100+ specialist staff from all over the world.  With the almighty crash on the stock market and the Australian dollar reaching parity with the US,  it was all over for several major games companies (US owned public companies) overnight.

The day I left was a pivotal moment in my life.  I had experienced all manner of uncertainty and volatility in the various art industries I’d worked in over the years and I was no stranger to abrupt massive staff cuts, funding cuts, project terminations and even retrenchment, but nothing prepared me for this day.  I knew it was coming but the experience will live with me forever as one of the most appalling moments of my life. We were called one by one into an office and handed a folder.  Depending on which folder you got, you were either selected for a small team of developers attempting a last-ditch pitch for a project and a very uncertain possibility of future work, or you were given the redundancy folder.  We had to wait for “the call” to go up the stairs to a room where your future fate was decided.  I waited all day late into the afternoon to be called in, silently watching the humiliation of my fellow workmates as they came down the stairs to collect their things.  During my 7 years at this company, I had risen to the position of art director and had been instrumental in creating some great successes for the company watching it grow from about 15 to 100 staff.  As a female in a male dominated industry, it wasn’t the easiest thing to have achieved.

I was given the redundancy folder because I was part-time at the time, looking after a baby at home.  I remember walking down the stairs with everyone watching to see what the verdict was and then packing up my things to leave that afternoon.  Driving home I knew without a doubt my career was over. The A team they had selected ended up not succeeding at pitching a project and disbanded soon after, while not long after that the US parent company failed and shut down as well.  About 300 staff altogether lost their jobs.  One by one all the major game studios in Brisbane shut down as well.  A once thriving “Silicon Valley” was now completely gone along with my prospects for future work in that industry.

I had spent a great deal of my time invested in this industry – over 10 years of long hours crunching for deadlines, working all-nighters, building specialist skills in 3D modelling software, digital illustration, concept art, animation, art direction etc, etc and pretty much all of it was useless to any other industry.  I also missed the very good salary.  Although I had been considering leaving the industry prior to this crash because of its impact on family life, it seemed far too comfortable a career to leave of my own accord and I think I would still be there had I not been forced out. This was a pretty clear Refusal.  The Refusal of the Call was a very real thing for me and it actually took the Giant Foot to give me the “motivation” to move on.

Certainly, it was not as subtle as Gandalf arriving, smoking his pipe and singing songs with a bunch of dwarves about going on an adventure.  This was not a gentle nudge or an invitation to something better.  And unless Gandalf was attached to the other end of that foot, he never turned up a all to point me in the right direction.  I was pretty devastated about being unemployed for the first time in my life. I tried a few projects here and there but all of them were dead ends in one way or another.  I was a full-time mum with two young kids as well and my former identity of career woman seemed to shrink every day to be replaced with Stay-at-Home-Mom and General Dogsbody.  I wasn’t entirely comfortable with that and I grieved a LOT for the loss of my former Self.  In fact, it taught me quite painfully how much of myself I had given over to my work role and how much it defined me, a lesson which can only be learned the hard way.

To console myself and keep busy, I baked a lot of cakes and made a lot of costumes and props for school plays and events.  I started painting for something to do because I wasn’t used to having so much spare time without deadlines and not having any creative outlet was starting to drive me slightly mad!

I never considered “fine” art as a serious pursuit.  I looked at what was going on in that field with a kind of dismay.  It seemed to me that art had become a sort of sensationalist sport where artists competed with each other to create the most offensive, shocking, vulgar, self-absorbed content where bodily functions and fringe topics like pornography, violence and mental illness featured most prominently.  Pushing the boundaries of “what is art” was big in the Dada era, but while contemporary art still obsesses over this question decades later, the role of art has deteriorated significantly in my view.

Art, like science, used to be at the forefront of human innovation, expanding higher thought and pursuing noble truths at the edge of human endeavor.  Now it seems to have regressed into an unhealthy preoccupation with the ignoble impulses of Man.  The idea of entering this realm filled me with a sort of revulsion and standing at the edge of the highway trying to go in the opposite direction seemed even less appealing.  So, you can say, this was also part of my Refusal of the Call.  That and the fact that after spending 25 years earning a decent income from commercial art, the thought of starving at the edge of a highway was even more discouraging.

I was also suffering from an identity crisis. When people ask you what you do and you say “I’m an artist”, people usually reply with “Oh that’s nice, I have a niece that’s an artist, she does some great drawings of kittens”.  Oh God!  In my former industry, if you didn’t measure up as an artist – not good enough, fast enough, technical enough or versatile enough – you were fired.  Simple as that. I knew things were very different in the “fine” art industry.  There are no rules and no obvious path for success.

I entered the foreign realm of “fine” art almost under duress and with much trepidation.

Stay tuned for Part 3 “Supernatural Aid”.





The Call to Adventure

Welcome to my series of “The Artist’s Journey” where I am applying Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth formula to my individual journey as an artist as explained in my previous post The Artist’s Journey.

For me, Gandalf never knocked on the door and invited a horde of dwarves around to talk me into going on the art journey.  I was already on the art journey.  My first word as a baby was “picture” – no kidding!  Since I could first hold a pencil as a toddler, I was off down the main road of Hobbiton with art streaming out behind me.  I could never understand why other people couldn’t decide what to do – for me it was easy, I was an artist and was always going to be an artist.  And besides, I was really crap at sport!  By the time I was about 12 I could paint photo-realistically using my student acrylics and I took out all the art awards at school. I drew caricatures of all my teachers and got into trouble for doing them on the blackboard more than once.

When it came to tertiary education I really wanted to train to be an illustrator so I went along to the art school to check out the 3rd year Illustration exhibition.  I was truly shocked. This was 1987, and I had yet to understand how things were in the art world.  What I saw was not what I expected.  In my sheltered existence, I had thought that illustration was a commercial exchange where an artist provides artwork for things like books, advertising, packaging etc for payment.  What I saw there changed my carefully laid plans forever!  A raw steak nailed to the wall and dripping blood onto the floor, pieces of broken glass hanging from a coat-hanger, naked Barbie dolls covered in red paint glued to a plinth, a giant clumsily slapped-together Papier Mache head. I had no idea how they would fit any of it into a book let alone who would commission it.  I was utterly bewildered and obviously grossly misled about what illustration actually was.  I never got to see what the fine art people were doing – I couldn’t imagine!  I quickly changed my major to Graphic Design and as simple as that, I became a Graphic Designer.

Thinking I had side-stepped a disaster, I began 1st year Graphic Design with a fresh new vision of what I would be doing.  Graphic design wasn’t so bad, it was still a form of art. Perhaps it would be more practical from an employment perspective.  My first subject was “Materials and Composition”.  I thought, yes! this is just what I need to learn. I arrived at the class and there was a long table with a huge pile of rubbish on it – chip packets, cardboard packaging, straws etc. I thought, that’s embarrassing, the last class must have been pigs!  But it was actually our first practical assignment. To create a piece of art with rubbish.  I quickly learned that I was not in Kansas anymore.  Looking back, we had some cracker assignments – “Create a Rose and a Piece of Shit on the Same Canvas”, “Painting with Mud”, “Life Drawing with Tissue Paper and Glue”.  I was like the straight man in a comedy show.  The image below left is my first-year response to an assignment about the qualities of glass.  I had never airbrushed before and I taught myself for this piece – I was 17 and I thought I was being pretty experimental… Ultimately, I was way off and I actually failed for the first time ever in an art project.  What was expected was something along the lines of this…  How could I have got it all so wrong!

I was handed the joint and I had to smoke it to get my degree.  So, I did… figuratively.  My first ever fail was the catalyst for me to either sink or swim.  I did spend a good bit of time planning a quick exit, but in the end, I donned the batik caftan accessorised with beads and sandals (well it was the 80’s!) and said “you know” and “like” a lot in a nasal voice.  It resulted in a degree in Graphic Design.

Although I never really learnt any practical skills in my degree, I did learn quite a lot about conceptualising.  I was forced to rely entirely on ideas and concepts.  In a way it was good for me to be stripped of my handy crutch of refined art skills and think more outside of the box.  I had many wild ideas and still have them to this day.  I also learnt Art Speak.  Art Speak is a language that you use to justify anything visual by using highly emotive words and terms thrown together in a way that sounds convincingly philosophical and high-brow.  We used to spend our lunch hours practicing by taking turns at “critiquing” the leftover trash on the table.

 “The empty beverage receptacles represent a pervading sense of Nihilism in the way they open out onto the fragile underlying glad wrap. There is an otherness about the muesli bar wrapper left of centre creating a deliberate tension in the composition. The straws point inward toward a single isolated bottle cap, indicating a solipsistic narrative, while the bold juxtaposition of coke cans and banana skins suggests an unresolved sense of place.”

 Incidentally, I never really used my dazzling Art Speak skills until many years later. Come to think of it, I was never called upon to produce my degree either in my 25-year career except for when I worked at a university (go figure!).

Fast forwarding through my graphic design career, I worked in television doing news graphics and weather, I worked as a book illustrator, I worked at universities producing multi-media content for their computer-based education programs which then led me to move into video games where I remained for more than 10 years, designing and building characters and game worlds for some great AAA titles at some really cool games companies. 

Fast forward again to 2008 GFC when the video games industry in Brisbane collapsed and I was suddenly out of a job and a career.

So here it is Ladies and Gentlemen.  If there ever was a Call to Adventure it was this.  It wasn’t very romantic like the hand of God coming down to inspire me, it was more like the giant foot from Monty Python.  The career I’d built up over a decade was flattened overnight and with it the very nice income to which I was accustomed.  It was more like a shove over the cliff!  Video games was such a cutting-edge, demanding, exciting, well-paid, all-consuming career, I could no longer go back to designing boring corporate logos – it just didn’t compare.  So, I started painting until I could come up with a better idea.

Christmas in February

Better late than never. I finished my Christmas piece a couple of months late or 10 months early whichever way you look at it.  She is called Christmas Angel and the art statement follows.

If there was an Angel that embodied the festive season of Christmas in Tasmania, what would she look like? I imagined her to be exquisitely clothed in the treasures of the natural environment, a homage to the wilderness often forgotten during the materialistic binge of the holiday season.  Her headdress and gown are stylistically of the Elizabethan era but made from native Tea Tree, driftwood and moss. Her wreath-like collar is made from Tasmanian Pencil Pine needles and bejewelled with tiny cones. Native Blue Gum nuts hang from her ears and she holds a great sceptre fashioned out of a giant poppy pod.  Her eyes convey her fierceness of spirit but her hands reveal the sensitivity of compassion.  She is the Queen of the forest and sworn protector of the natural world.

The Artist’s Journey

Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell, the great American mythologist who devoted his life to studying comparative religions and mythology from around the world, appropriated the term Monomyth to describe a theory that all myths follow a similar narrative. He observed that all myths regardless of their time of creation or geographical origin follow a common pattern at the core. He called this The Hero’s Journey. This pattern can be identified in the most ancient mythologies right up through to contemporary stories such as Lord of the Rings and Star Wars (where George Lucas consciously applied the theory with the help of Joseph Campbell himself). Curiously, the narratives where this metaphoric formula is strong tend to endure, as they resonate with humanity in some deeply subconscious way. Why does it have such a profound effect on us? Fundamentally it is the story of the evolution of the soul (or the psychological growth of the human spirit) and this story transcends culture and time. The stages of the journey as outlined by Campbell are as follows….

1. The Call to Adventure
2. Refusal of the Call
3. Supernatural Aid
4. Crossing the First Threshold
5. Belly of the Whale
6. The Road of Trials
7. Meeting with the Goddess
8. Temptation
9. Atonement with the Hero’s Father
10. Apotheosis
11. The Ultimate Boon
12. Refusal of the Return
13. Magic Flight
14. Rescue from Without
15. Return
16. Master of Two Worlds
17. Freedom to Live

So why am I telling you all this? Because I believe this theory can also be applied to the journey of the artist and the evolution of their art. I sure as hell feel as if I’m Frodo lugging the ring up Mt Doom at the moment! I’m going to experiment and see if I can fit these stages into the journey of the artist. Here goes…

Call to adventure – the desire to paint, draw, hang leaves from the ceiling

Refusal of the Call – society says “get a haircut and a real job”. Hero says “I’d love to paint but I also like to eat”.

Supernatural Aid – Gandalf or Dumbledore appears in the form of an art mentor and gives the artist a push in the right direction.

Crossing the First Threshold – artist quits their grey office job/beer-slinging job to take art more seriously, i.e.: leaving the Shire.

Belly of the Whale
– the artist is plunged into the dark murky depth of real danger where he is stripped of his familiar, safe identity and thrown up on some unknown shore utterly vulnerable and experiences real fear for the first time. He’s not a bus driver, lawyer, accountant anymore – he’s chosen to do what people perceive as a retirement hobby and is unceremoniously lumped in with grannies who make toilet roll doylies and crocheted booties.

The Road of Trials – a very VERY long road for the artist, full of impending financial doom, questing for the holy grail of an as-yet-unclaimed unique style, niche and brand, going into battle with fine art competitions presided over by an aristocracy of art critics, handling a LOT of rejection, warring with your artistic truth and the desperate need for an income on a daily basis, offering up your soul at the Gallery altar, handling more rejection, working for free and accepting humiliating deals, hand-making badges and bookmarks till 3am and still trying to stay competitive with the Reject Shop, questioning your inner resolve while struggling to maintain the Herculean effort of chipping away at the monumental, never-ending task of perfecting the skills of your craft.

Meeting with the Goddess – this represents the fostering of a partnership with the divine feminine aspect, Galadriel or Princess Leia symbolizes this in contemporary literature. For the artist, perhaps it is a connection to a higher order, channelling the feminine aspects of inspiration, intuition, sensitivity and creativity into the art process. Yes, getting in touch with your feminine side!

Temptation – for an artist who is developing a style and unique subject matter, the constant pressure to compromise in some way is a daily battle. Lack of income can lead to commercial decisions taking precedence over the inherent virtue of the work and you end up painting things that are as exciting to you as washing dishes. The temptation of a proper pay check can literally drive you mad!

Atonement with the Hero’s Father – the father figure represents the prevailing power structure whose approval you need to gain or overthrow in order to succeed. In the artist’s case Darth Vader may well be the Almighty Gallery, or it could be an inner authority that has ultimate power over you and your work.

Apotheosis – after defeating the Balrog, the artist transcends to a higher state of being with a profound new wisdom and perspective and is transformed into Gandalf the White! Gandalf and Obi-Wan’s old selves have died and been reborn into a pure state ready for the ultimate self-sacrifice and the final showdown. The artist’s old persona, has finally carked it and he is now initiated into the Art Brotherhood. Incidentally the Art Brotherhood tend to dress in black not white and wear eye makeup and piercings and say “you know” and “like”, “sense of place” and “juxtaposition” a lot.

The Ultimate Boon – victory is gained in the form of the artist’s rise to success or incredible magnum opus. The Death Star has been destroyed and the artist and art are one and have become an invincible warrior.

Refusal of the Return – in this heightened state of bliss when we have reached enlightenment, it is very difficult to consider going back to the humdrum. An artist may have had their Ted Talk moment of fame, or their 100,000th like on Instagram or reached the exhilarating heights of finishing a series of works that have achieved an ultimate goal and now they have to go back to the beginning.

Magic Flight – Frodo and Sam fly back home on a giant eagle. The artist perhaps gets the free ride from the Ted Talk promotion or an Oprah appearance, or simply the acknowledgement that at last they have moved on from crocheted booties.

Rescue from Without – just as Darth Vader had to leap in and help Luke Skywalker defeat the Emperor, the artist cannot finalise this journey without help, often from an entity which initially rejected them.

Return – there is hesitation at the threshold as the hero considers the reintegration back into the ‘real’ world. The artist has evolved since the beginning of the journey. Now they return as a master.

Master of Two Worlds – The fully qualified Jedi artist has now conquered their own fear and overcome every hurdle and can exist in both the external and the internal world at peace. The world is rainbows, puppy dogs and sunshine.

Freedom to Live – Aragorn is crowned the rightful king which signifies the end of the struggle. The master artist will impart wisdom to others and generally lead a fulfilled life never again having to make bookmarks till 3am.

Perhaps a little sketchy in some areas, but this sums up the outline of the Hero’s Journey. In the next few posts I will write about my own personal experience with some of these stages (obviously not all the stages as I am a long way from becoming a Jedi master). It should prove to be an entertaining read. My journey to Mt Doom as an artist has been an eventful tale full of many ambushes from Orcs and for some reason, which I’m pretty miffed about, neither Gandalf nor Obi Wan ever showed up.

One Tree

My latest piece is finally finished!  I added the powdered charcoal in the background at the very end after all the detail of the tree was completed (so as not to smudge it with my hands during the lengthy rendering process).  It transformed instantly from a light, pretty, romantic image into a moody, post-apocalyptic, eerie scene (which was what I wanted).  My vision was to create a scene where the man and woman in the tree were desperately clinging together as if they had just witnessed the mass destruction of their kind and were the last to survive.  I wanted to make a strong statement about the impact that forest clearing and bushfires are having on our natural environment.  13 million hectares are being actively destroyed annually around the world, the biggest driver (70%) is clearing for livestock.  Of what is left, every year, the quality (biodiversity etc) is declining due to climate change and old growth forests being replaced with plantations.

Here is the finished drscanning contemporary pencil drawingawing in the process of being scanned. I do this in multiple scans that are later stitched together in Photoshop to create a high resolution digital file for printing.  I have an in-depth post about how I do this here: A Scan of Epic Proportions

New Gallery Renovation

The renovations are under way and already the space is looking refreshed.  Two doorways in the back wall have been filled in and a corridor made behind the wall for access to the kitchen and storage rooms.  We’re all relying on Christian and his handyman skills to make a wall space for Patrick to hang his Paper Tole.

I hand painted the sign onto marine plywood and Christian and I installed it after removing a rather ugly extractor fan from the front window space.

Steve painted the outside of the shop to our black and white colour theme and I gave the pavement outside the door a new look with a hand painted 5 design.

Wanting a novel open sign, I got some black pots and painted O P E N on them so now we have some nice English Box planters out the front.

The window display stand is re-purposed from my old studio window stage and shelving system reconnected like Mechano to form a new freestanding unit.  We recycled as much as possible and the black and white paint was used over and over for various projects.