"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.
The fearful are caught as often as the bold."
Nothing to FEAR today, though, because it's Friday!... But not just any Friday, it's Illustration Friday! However, FEAR is the topic of this week for I.F.Friday, and my mind, of course, gets bent around that topic and guides some of the week's thoughts. ALSO, it's getting very close to Halloween and it makes me want to start drawing all sorts of Halloween-y kinds of things. #AutumnHasThisAffectOnMe ;0)
Still from "Hyde and Hare" Copyright Warner Bros. Animation 1955
I find myself finding this topic rather relevant to what is going on in my life right now; not that I'm being chased by Monsters, per say... At least, not physical ones. No, fear has all been rolling around chasing me down in my conscious and unconscious thoughts for months. As many of you know, I am at the precipice of both an ending and brand new beginning in my life. In my middle age, I have decided to up root (as much as I, myself, can really have) and move across the country, start a new life and pursue a new career path. ( I've been jokingly referring to it as my own personal mid-life crisis. lol) Some guys buy a fancy and fast car. Some guys divorce their wives and find a new partner half their age. Me, I decide to move across the country and start a life from ground zero, because, you know, I'm just weird like that. ;0) This is a scary prospect when I slow down long enough to look at what I'm really doing (not that I've had much time to slow down at all this past year. lol.) I've never done anything like this before on my own. I've done a lot of things on my own, but nothing quite like this; nothing so life changing. I know other people who have done this before. Some have done it many many times, but I haven't before now. So, to me, it's a bit scary, and I'm OK with being a bit scared. I think it's healthy and kinda expected. Which brings me back to the topic at hand: fear.
Fear is a basic human emotion that all of us experience on a pretty regular basis, some more than others and to some extent with more intensity than others. It's an instinctual reaction hard-wired into our system to help us stay alive as it triggers all the right signals when we are in danger and it helps us to be prepared for situations that could threaten our very survival... So it's not something we could surgically remove from our Psyche, if that were even possible. Nor should we remove it.
However, in these modern times, fear has become an external commodity used as a tool to manipulate and control us. Our media uses it to increase their ratings, corporations use it to sell us products, religious leaders wield it to control their flocks, politicians employ it to gain votes... and on and on and on, whilst everyone else is left to sort out the psychological effects of such inundated bombardment. To be honest, sometimes it surprises me how any of us are able to get up out of bed,let alone not huddled in a padded party cell somewhere/nowhere.
I theorize that we all turn this excessive inundation of fear internal. I'd dare say there is no force more self destructive than when we internalize our sense of fear in the world. It will keep you from accomplishing anything you want to in you own life. I recently read an article (because I am a total geek like that) on how to identify signs that your own fear is the greatest obstacle anyone faces in their endeavours to accomplish whatever it is that they are trying to accomplish. It has some very relevant and enlightening points. I found myself in some of them.
Promotional Poster for Hereditary, Copyright PalmStar Media 2018
A quick, but somewhat relevant aside:
Have you ever scared yourself before?... I mean really really really scared yourself before to the point that you find yourself, as a grown adult, sleeping with your lights on that night? I will admit that I find myself in this predicament from time to time, and, just so you all know, I'm not above sleeping with the lights on. It keeps the Eebbie Jeebbies at bay, and I'm OK with that. Lol. I have, off and on, been reading the books that Ed and Loraine Warren wrote about their investigations into the paranormal (made most recently famous by the Conjuring film franchise.) The writing style of their books can be odd at times, however, it is the content of their writings that puts the little hairs on the back of my neck at full attention. I end up being so creeped out that I can't fall asleep with out some lamps on around me... I must be FULLY protected lol. Also, most recently, I saw the film Hereditary in the theater and I must say that it lives up to is reputation as being "The Exorcist" of our generation. I was SO unbelievably disturbed after watching it (at night of course... when will I learn lol) that, again, as a grown man, I slept with all the lights turned on. All this conjecture brings me to what Scaredy Cat is about at its core, conceptually.
Through the Looking Glass by John Tenniel, 1871
The upside to all of this is that, of course, the first step in solving a problem is being able to see/identify it for what it is. If you can see what it is your are afraid of, what it is that keeps you from your own personal successes, then you can begin to figure out a solution around it. You can't eliminate fear, but I think it is possible to re-chanel it, shift that negative energy into something that can propel you instead of it being something that is working against you. It's not really going with the flow more so than learning how to manipulate the flow into the direction you wish to go in. This really is more a "Through The Looking Glass" version of visualizing what it is you want in order to be able to achieve what you want. We all know you will never be able to do what you can't imagine yourself doing. Re-Chaneling the energy your fear manifests within you is almost the mirrored brother of that.
Peanut Butter 2018
This is exactly what my illustration this week is all about. I wanted to visually express how we each are and manifest the things that not only scare us most in life, but also the things that create the blocks and obstacles on our paths. For me, Scaredy Cat represents that quite well. The illustration is a Crossroads. We see how the cat (a kinda sorta illustrated caricature I very loosely based on my cat Peanut Butter) casts her long shadow onto the wall that is right in front of her. Peanut Butter is, in all reality, very much a scaredy cat. She is so sensitive and so cautious that she often runs to hide under the safety of the bed or the dining table when confronted with the outside world of unfamiliar things, people and experiences. She prefers to watch the world through the window as if it were a television program. She may be a real life scaredy cat but I don't love her any less for it. She is so very sweet and sensitive.
The wall (of a presumed building.) One could say that the exterior wall of the building is more of the representation of an obstacle than the cat's shadow. I completely disagree. As people we don't walk into or through buildings. That is just ludicrous. What do we do? We walk around them or navigate through predetermined openings and throughways. Buildings visually represent structures, parameters to work around and within more so than to run into. There is always exceptions to this, but, those exceptions entirely depend on concept and context. In my illustration the building is just a wall opposite another wall that would assumed be behind our cat. She is in an alley way. The buildings exterior walls represent guidelines that illuminate/create a path, more so than obscure or block it.
It is the Shadow, the looming and ominous presence of something that could be dangerous that stops our cat in her path and sweeps her gaze to the side to see what it is that is making her hair stand on it's end. A shadow that, we can assume, that she is transforming into something ominous and possibly dangerous. The more she stares at it, the more it lures over her, the more it rises, the more she feels threatened, the more tense she becomes, the more she feels she needs to prepare to defend herself... and on and on... a cycle that is obviously has now distracted her from moving forward. Where was she going? We don't know, now. That Shadow is all that she can think about. But what does she do now?
This is the key to what I really wanted to draw and express. It's not just the fact that we can scare the wits out of ourselves better than anyone else can, it's the choices we make form the precipice that our cat friend is perched upon. It's a very thin line, a crossroads. It's either Fight or Flight, our other hard-wired instinct that helps us survive in life. I can't tell you how many times I see the crossroads analogy used in books or film or television or visual art. It's a very strong and powerful metaphor: a universal truth that every human can identify with and relate to. "Would you go Left OR Right," says the small blue worm to Sara in the fantasy film The Labyrinth (Careful, my age is showing here.) It's not only the choices we make in our life that define us, but I also believe that it is our own personal fears we carry in this world that manipulate our decisions on those choices that ALSO define who we are. To put it simply, some people will always choose a car or a train or a boat to travel by because they are oh so afraid of the experience of flying. This is a very rudimentary example, but I think if we all took a long quiet look within the dusty cob-webbed closets of our minds, we may, indeed, find those skeletons that we all know are there, but are afraid to confront.
Some technical things to say about this illustration:
I admit it felt rushed. I did put it together over the course of 2 days.
I was on a tight timeline so didn't have a lot of time to devote to it, but still wanted to put something together this week for IF Friday. I think that it emotes what I want it to emote, but I may revisit this piece and this subject at a later date when I have more time to devote to it. I ended up changing the composition for this piece at the last minute partly for conceptual reasons and partly for economical time reasons. The original concept included more of the alley way and a city sky line etc. It pushed the shadow cast wall too far over in the end and, in my opinion, lost the true meaning of why I was illustrating that image in the first place. So I changed the angle of the picture to have the Shadow curve and physically "Loom" over our feline friend more so. I also had played with cool/warm color contrast on the wall and the shadow, but they just didn't seem to be working out exactly as I had imagined them to. I ended up compromising on my color choices in some ways. Honestly, I'm OK with how it turned out, but I think I could play with it more, refine it more, I think. I may just be over thinking it due to how much time I had to complete it in. Overall, I'm pleased with its outcome (for now. lol. My inner perfectionist is giving me some side-eye.)
So, what am I getting at, right? What is my point with Scaredy Cat?
I want to challenge us all with Scaredy Cat. I include myself in this challenge. I want you all to find a quiet space where you can self-reflect some and then I want you to invite a skeleton or two out of that old dusty closet you keep them in. I want you to have tea or coffee with them. I want you to go to the movies with them and then have an in depth discussion afterward. I want you to go out to lunch and have a long chat with each other... Get to know what it is inside you that scares you most. Chances are, you will find that you imposed that very fear upon yourself at some point. Give that fear a NAME. Give it a FACE. It will help you, I promise, because once you know what it is that scares you most in this life, you can figure out a way around it. You can begin to do all the things that you have wanted to do, but for some reason (your own fear), haven't begun doing. I believe that this is a great exercise that helps all of us in whatever it is we are wanting form this crazy life we are living.
The Skeleton Dance, Copyright Walt Disney Studios 1929
If you are interested in reading the Article I earlier referred to, please click the skeletal link above. It's titled 6 Signs That Fear is Holding You Back by Dr. Matthew James. It was published on Psychology Today's website and it's a very interesting read... I encourage you all to kick off your weekend with his article. (And yes, I totally ripped off that Helen Keller quote form his article... I just couldn't resist. lol) In the meantime, I hope you all have a SPOOKtacular Weekend.
Until next time, friends,