Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: An Exploration of the Dark and the Light inside All of Us.

"But then I sigh, and, with a piece of scripture, 
Tell them that God bids us do good for evil: 
And thus I clothe my naked villainy With odd old ends, stol'n out of holy writ; 
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil."
-William Shakespeare (Richard III)

     What's in a Villain? What makes one a Villain? Do Villains really know they are one?

How do they get to that point?

     I have been thinking a good deal about this subject lately.  I have been thinking that I may perhaps have 
been one in my own story as of late.  Though, I have felt vindicated in my actions, I hadn't considered that 
perhaps, (though considering the circumstances that one might have reacted as I have done) I hadn't 
noticed how I have hurt others in my path until I have stopped to look at what wake I have left behind 
myself.  And though I will not apologize for how I have felt nor how I have dealt with the hand I had been 
given this year. I do stop to reflect that I honestly feel bad for others I may have hurt along this way.
It's made me feel like a bit of a villain as of late and marvel at the somewhat poetic nature of the 
destruction I have also caused.  I am by no means innocent and my thoughts have bent around this for 
many days now.  

     I have not been a space where creativity has come easy as of late, but I decided that I would make myself try to complete a project this week and be happy about it.  So I decided to participate in Illustration Friday.  This week's topic was "SHARP" and at first I thought of teeth (My JAWS nerd showing through candidly) However, I did not want to do another shark piece as I did one about a year or so ago and it was JAWS related and I was not in the mood to repeat myself or feel like I was just doing nothing but repeating 
myself artistically. This week I wanted a challenge, and that is exactly what I got.

     With teeth, my second thoughts drift from the shark to another rouged animal that seems to get the bad 
reputation all of the time, the Wolf.  The Wolf has been a standard Villain in many classic as well as 
modern folk tales.  The Three Little Pigs, Red Riding Hood, Chicken Little, Peter and the Wolf and so on 
and so on don't make the Wolf out to be much more than a most horrible and feared creature.  The Wolf is 
usually and more than likely playing the villain all the time in any story.

     Villainy has always been an interesting subject to explore.  That very exploration has become quite 
popular in modern day literature, film and even theatrical plays. Gregory MaGuire's enchanting novel, 
Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, has sparked an interest and even following 
for this sort of subject matter. The idea of the humanization and development of a very-usually flat 
archetype and the understanding of the journey of how one gets to the point being a villain.  MaGuire's 
story was made even more famous by its adaptation to the hit Broadway musical, telling the powerful and 
sad story of how the Witch from the West became so terribly Wicked.

     I've also enjoyed the exploration into one of my favorite Disney animated films, Sleeping Beauty, and it's 
iconic Villain, Maleficent.  The Angelina Jolie film is so fascinating.  Maleficent was always my favorite 
Disney film villain because she seemed so incorruptibly evil and delved out her terror with precise un-recklessness abandon. She is somewhat of an iconic character and the 2014 live action adaptation of the story enriched the development of her character so much.
 I love how it shows not just the soft side of what a villain is but also the human side of one. It also attempts to explain how one gets to such a terrible and dark place.  In both stories that journey of bitterness, callousness and aloof mean spirit always begins with an open heart and love. But like most love stories it is plagued with betrayal, pride, misunderstanding and heartbreak.  I can't help but reflect on this and not think that perhaps I played the villain for other characters in their story, even though I may not have played a villain in my own.  Perception is a tricky thing and I enjoy how it was crafted in both those stories, Wicked and Maleficent.  But, as I said, I reflected on how I might have been a villain to others around me and I wanted to bring these thoughts to the table this week in my illustration.

     The Wolf, though the villain in many tales, is actually revered and respected in other cultures. Wolves 
figure prominently in the mythology of nearly every Native American tribe. In most Native cultures, Wolf is 
considered a medicine being associated with courage, strength, loyalty, and success at hunting. Like 
bears, wolves are considered closely related to humans by many North American tribes, and the origin 
stories of some Northwest Coast tribes, such as the Quileute and the Kwakiutl, tell of their first ancestors 
being transformed from wolves into men. In Shoshone mythology, Wolf plays the role of the noble Creator 
god, while in Anishinabe mythology a wolf character is the brother and true best friend of the culture hero. 
Among the Pueblo tribes, wolves are considered one of the six directional guardians, associated with the 
east and the color white. The Zunis carve stone wolf fetishes for protection, ascribing to them both healing 
and hunting powers.

     In Egyptian culture, there was a god with the head of a wolf (Wewawet).  Wepwawet's role was to protect and lead the deceased through the Underworld (hence his name). He also accompanied the king while hunting and while in this capacity was called "the one with the sharp arrow who is more powerful than the gods." Wepwawet was also thought of as a messenger and the champion of royalty. He was said to be 
"the one who has separated the sky from the earth."

    Villainy is completely subjective and is in the eye of the beholder and one man's hero is another man's 
villain.  Not that I in anyway feel like a hero in any story, but I am beginning to see how I could have been 
the villain in someone else's story.

     So I wanted my "SHARP" piece to be a portrait of the Wolf, misunderstood and menacing, revered and 
condemned.  I liked the idea of how we can all be both.  We are all light and we are all dark.  We are all 
heroes and yet also villains.  So this is why I chose the imagery as I have.

Little Red Riding Hood
Jessie Wilcox Smith

     When I think of Sharp, I think of knives and teeth but also I think of a very well dressed individual.  A blade can be sharp, yet also someone can be sharply dressed and I wanted to include both interpretations in 
my illustration.  I have always enjoyed the phase,"A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing."  It describes whoever it is 
put to as both innocent yet dangerous, a conflicting duality. It's a very image provoking saying; very 
illustrated.  So I had a vision of a very dapperly dressed attractive Wolf character in a fine suit made of 
wool (sheep's clothing.)  I envisioned him "framed" by the full moon so often associated with him and 
illuminated around the moon would be a "haloed' Native American influenced pattern to allude to the other 
cultures that revere this animal that others more commonly villainize.  To send this message in an image 
as a reminder that we are all capable of being simultaneously both terrible and heroic.  I find the concept 
so rich and powerful that I just had to draw it.

     I embarrassingly admit that my attempts at the earlier part of this week were dauntingly underwhelming.  I have pages in my sketchbook full of deformed wolf heads as I sketched and sketched to get what I was 
seeing in my mind onto the paper. It looked like I was more a Dr. Frankenstein than an artist of any sort. It 
looked I was readying myself for an experiment that you would read about in a horror novel. lol.
Then midweek, everything just "clicked." I was just connecting to what ever it is we artists connect to out 
there in the universe and he came right out of my head and onto the page.  I was so excited, I was beside 
myself and glad that the good drawing was coming back. I'll be candidly honest here and say that for 
some weeks, I have not drawn a single thing that I would say was worth residing anywhere except my 
drafting table's side trash can. It reminds me of something one of my favorite college professors said to 
all of us students,"You have to get through all the Bad Drawing before you Can get to the Good Drawing."  
And that has stuck with me ever since.  That is why it is so important to draw daily for any artist.  Most of 
the time we want to but there are times we have to push ourselves when we really aren't "feeling it." This 
has been one of those times for me. Ultimately I think it turned out quite well.  
Immediately after I finished the sketch, I set up my light box and prepared to ink the illustration same night.  I was on a roll and really didn't want to disconnect from the Creative Ether.

Illustration by Sandra Diekman

     There is a wonderful artist that I follow on Facebook. Her name is Sandra Deickman and I really fell in love with her art and aesthetic. You can view her work and follow her blog  I highly recommend you check her out. She's amazing! She draws the most beautiful animals and I just find myself lost in her color, texture and linework.  I was really in the mood to experiment and have been wanting to imbue some of the things that I saw that I liked in her work, into my own. So I experimented with using line in a way that I usually do not to create shape and form.

     After I inked my drawing I took to the illustrations as I normally do, half traditional media half digital media. I scanned in the inked piece and did the color collage work digitally as I normally do.  I had some very specific ideas about the color choices. I wanted his fur to be soft and warm in color and have an intriguing texture. I tried a few different scanned resources form my scrap library. I tried a few different hand made papers and some fabric scans but nothing really was reading "wolf fur" to me.  I then came across an 
actual fur coat that i had bought at a flea market with the sole purpose to scan for texture use in 
illustration work. It had some very rich and beautiful textures to the scans when the scanner would bend 
the hairs flat. SO that is what I used to manipulate into the layers of the Wolf's fur.

     My next challenge was to create the Wool suit. I toyed with some actual photos of sheep's wool, but 
ultimately ended up manipulating a scan in of a blue fleece blanket I had. Yes the white/grey wool in the 
illustration started out Blue. Cool huh? lol ;0)  I wanted his tie and garment accessories to be red to 
represent blood.  His vest I made blue and purple as those were the original colors I was going to use for 
the Moon.  In the end I ended up with pale yellow. Very local color, I know, but the blue and purple just 
were not working and not helping the "frame" read as a Moon. I wanted to use only primary colors for the 
Native American pattern as primary colors are the origin of colors and I wanted to remind the viewer that 
a villain may be terrible in a small frame of time, but they began as something quite different. And lastly 
the eye color choice was self-portrait-like as I was feeling like this illustration and project is a reflection of 
my own feelings of how I have hurt some people recently in my journey this year.

     Before I wrap this post up, I want to give a big shout out to my good writer friend, Tracy.  She gave to me an excellent idea when I was showing her the sketch of the illustration as I was working on it.  She felt that the wolf needed a Sheep Lapel Pin very much like how politicians wear an American Flag Lapel Pin 
when they campaign.
I Love Love Loved the idea. It was brilliant, Tracy! So the Wolf is wearing his Sheep 
Lapel Pin in his campaign to try and change his bad boy image. It makes me giggle to think of a wolf 
trying to politically campaign to sheep. It sounds like a good idea for an animated short or short story.  
So thank you once again, Tracy for the capital idea.

     Well this pretty much sums up everything I wanted to say about this piece.  I will continue my exploration of the dark as well as the light and understanding of the balance between the two. I invite you all to do the same.

     I leave you with two songs that are Post-Related: ENJOY! :0)

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