Thursday, March 12, 2015

The PATH Unwinds on Illustration Friday


"Two roads diverged in a wood, 
and I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
-Robert Frost 1920

     Yay! It's Illustration Friday and I know we are all probably ready for the adventures the weekend may hold.  This is why the week's topic, PATH, is so appropriate. The decisions we make, both small and large, affect our lives and the paths that we take.  


     I think we have all sat back and wondered, "What would have happened if I had done THIS instead of THAT."   It's a curious wonder and not one of regret, but just of simple and plain curiosity.  We all fantasize about one moment on one day in our past. We think about if we had done one slight thing different, would it have changed the outcome of our lives as we know it.  There is a favorite film of mine that I watch from time to time that explores the possibilities of this very curiosity. If you haven't seen Sliding Doors yet, I recommend you do sometime in your near future.  It explores the 2 different outcomes of the life of one woman who, in one story line catches a train home early after losing her job and the other story line is from the point of view of what would have happened if she had missed that train.  


   Catching a train, missing a train; it is a powerful metaphor, trains. It's used time and time again in Literature and Visual Art.  Sometimes it means a transition (or as I like to call it, TRAINsition.)  Sometimes it's just a symbol for the passing of one's life.  Another of my favorite films that uses the same metaphor is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  I love the scene where Harry is killed by Voldemort and he meets the deceased Dumbledore at the Kings Cross Train Station.  It's a symbol of adventurous and mysterious far off destinations.  I find it's symbolism very beautiful and poetic and it is for that reason I used it in my illustration this week.

     This is the first Illustration I have completed in several weeks.  I have been on a very strange and rough path as of late and it's been a difficult reality to manage.  When I looked up the topic for this week's Illustration Friday and saw that it was PATH, I knew that I just had to participate, come what may to accomplish that.  And though one illustration is not a career, this illustration is the breaking of the ice for a new path I am on.  I have discussed in previous posts my intentions and plans to move to NYC at the end of this year to follow my passion for illustration.  I have up until now enjoyed a long and good career in Graphic Design, but it was time for a change.  I started the path of Illustration so long ago and it is time to board that 
train and see where it leads, scary as it may seem, the unknown.  However, the unknown can also be exhilarating in the sense that it is a completely new adventure you've never been on.  

     So the character in this week's illustration is meant to represent myself.  I am on a Journey, a Path.  And this journey has cost a great deal of personal sacrifice.  It has cost me a long standing relationship with my partner and lover of 6 years.  He was unable to move with me and, unfortunately, he was also unable to compromise or sacrifice anything to allow me to pursue this part of my career, which is very important to me.   Though I would have liked to make things work, since this decision was meant to be temporary for a year or two and then I would have come back to where I currently live, I understand the challenges of a long distance relationship are tough and not everyone is strong enough to meet those challenges.  I personally feel a tad resentful about their decision as I, personally, would never take the easy way out if something very important was at stake. I have to accept that I cannot change others or what they decide to do. They are on their own path and they just now prefer to not have me on that path with them.  I just have to accept that.

     The relevance of this is that the path I am on obviously has been very rough and challenging terrain and I have to be ready to meet what lies ahead, this next year and what is to come in NYC.  So far my new path has seemed very dark and bleak, hence nightfall in my illustration, but I have to believe that the daylight is on its way. So I am carrying a lantern to light my path through the dark times, now and ahead.  This illustration marks the beginning of pulling myself out of this rutt, emotionally, artistically, professionally and personally.  


     You may notice that the lantern is lit by little lightning bugs.  This is kind of an inside joke I have with myself.  In college, I wrote an essay on the turn of the children's illustrator, Jessie Wilcox Smith.  She had taken a commission to illustrate a calendar for the student association for Bryn Mawr college in Pennsylvania (all women school.)  She used the commission to illustrate and promote the "New Woman" and the equality of women, a very controversial subject in 1901.  
In one of the calendar illustrations, Smith depicts that lantern lighting tradition of the graduating students to the new incoming students.  A graduate would take her lit lantern and then light the lantern of the new incoming student. This symbolized the passing of knowledge, courage and strength.  I loved the image so much that I used the same concept for an illustration that I send out with all the thank you notes from my graduation from SCAD.  I illustrated myself in my graduate robes and I am holding a lantern that is lit by bumble bees, SCAD's college mascot (Art the Bee.)   I find myself from time to time adding the lantern into my work.  I love the symbolism of it and I find the image of the lightening bugs as the light source within the lamp very charming.  I also find it very Southern. Since my journey begins here in the South and will lead me to the North Eastern United States, I wanted to represent a memento, all the wonderful things and memories of those I have met in my time here in the South.  Though I have never really felt particularly "Southern"  I do acknowledge and appreciate this part of my life's history.


     The backpack has traditionally been a symbol used in visual art to represent the nomad or the traveler.  Some of you may recall images of a long branch with a handkerchief tied to the end, full of the personal belongings of that traveler.  I know I've seen it in many a comic strip and they are often depicted walking the train tracks.  The backpack I am carrying is kind of an updated modern version of that iconic symbol.  I am the traveler. I am on a path to a new an unknown place. I'm not fleeing my homeland or running away, but I am leaving it behind me for a new adventure. The unknown wilderness, illustrated here by the cavernous trees.  


     Something my Americus peeps may find interesting is that I based my railroad track on the one here.  I was on my daily walk and just stopped on the bridge over Lee Street to view the train tracks.  It was that very moment that I realized what I was going to illustrate this week and I took out my phone and snapped a few reference photos immediately of the tracks there.  I loved how there was a valley and it was kind of surrounded by trees it created a kind of tunnel in a way.

     This pretty much sums up this weeks illustration.  I hope you all enjoy it and perhaps are inspired to do something adventurous on the Path of this Weekend.

until next time, friends,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, keep making art.  
Cheers,
LEWIS