heroism as opiate for the teenage masses

Just finished reading “The Eye of the World” by Robert Jordan, published in 1990 as the first of a 14-novel 23-year epic – “The Wheel of Time.” Oddly enough, it tied in with some recent thoughts about undead stories, how they pander to self-importance.

A lot of the early sci-fi movies are supposedly about the fear of communism – “they’ve secretly taken over!” – or nuclear bombs – “they’re unstoppable!” Likewise there are lots of theories about the “meaning” of zombies and vampires. A good one I read was that the burst of vampire movies in the 90s was in response to AIDS, where the ultimate risky transgression would be to drink blood. The accepted wisdom about zombies movies is that they’re some sort of response to the collapse of society or community, seemingly always in connection with consumerism and rampant capitalism, whether in the 60s or now. Whatever the reason, there’s a drought of vampires but a horde of zombies in the new millenium. Pun vaguely intended.

More than any metaphor, I find it interesting how undead stories tend towards exaggerated individualism, a teenage need to be unique and powerful. I am a vampire, I function outside the rules of society and know things normal humans can’t even guess at. I am a normal human, the rules of society have broken down and I function above the sub-human majority who are clueless zombies. The difference seems to be that vampires tend to be the bad guy (or at least anti-heroes) because they have to kill “normal” people to live. The zombie apocalypse seems to give you free reign to attack any individual or social group, to destroy any institution.

So what does this have to do with a high fantasy novel?!

“The Eye of the World” seems to me like the quintessential post-Tolkien Dungeons & Dragons plot, enjoyable but pre-digested. A boy living in a village who is secretly the heir to a long lost something and is the key to everything, living in a lesser modern era after a nostalgic long lost age where everything was better. A girl who he fights with initially, but secretly loves, who turns out to be a princess or a sorceress or something other than a damsel in distress. A dark and evil god who is awakening / escaping his prison / returning, generally from the frozen north or the volcanic south. With or without a white bearded mentor, elves and dragons.

The thing that annoys me now, but I used to buy into wholeheartedly in my youthful readings, is the idea of the preordained hero. A young man who doesn’t really have to do anything but accept who is he to excel and save the day, like all of the TV talent shows where the intrinsic skills of the contestant allow them to skip all those boring years of practice and hard work.

Now I like the hard-bitten warders and rangers in the stories, who have survived the pain of losing their kingdoms and families, who have worked selflessly and anonymously for the greater good, and then end up wiping the arse of the self-indulgent teen hero.

Give me self-determination over fate any day.

“second generation avatar”

second generation avatar

No resolutions this year, just this as a statement of intent, an underline to the end of last year.

Started during the week off between jobs, and a conclusion to the accidental blue series. It began with the resistance of “hammer’n’tongs”, continued with the risk of “ballast”, and ends with this, the reemergence from the belly of the beast.

More consciously it was a follow on to a drawing from twenty years ago, which started a new metaphor for isolation, an avatar born from a brain too prone to over-analysis and self-protection.

This reversal and rebirth, from the gut after a year and a half of clenching against ego bruising and stress, is resolute enough.

Coincidentally, the first drawing was just before I finished a stint in the public service, this is just as I begin a new one!

birth of the new avatar

“ballast”

ballast

What I write sometimes seems a little circular… “been a while / been busy / self referential”. This one could be more so.

Been an insane 6 weeks or so, working on my agency’s two biggest projects for the year, at the same time. Then doubling down by burning some extra curricular midnight oil. Before it sounds too whingey, that oil bought us an awesome family holiday, and printed the ticket for the next stage of my journey. To mangle two metaphors in one paragraph.

Wasn’t until I started thinking about the blue, that I realised it was an accidental follow on to “hammer’n’tongs”, the landing of the fall. The ball and chain has been mangled as a metaphor too, not a dead weight but a weapon, not an inescapable negative but a calculated risk.

And that central plunge was the most fun I’ve had with the markers so far!

ballast - stages

“misfit”

misfit

The idea of exhibiting my work has come up again.

Back in the day, when I was either dropping out of art school (or trying to get back in), I drew a couple of versions of the idea of being a throwback. Against the high water mark of installations and the like, super old school personal metaphors got tagged negatively as illustration.

The irony is, that after a 15 or so year journey into illustration and graphic design, my work (which is still personal metaphors) is more likely to be tagged as art, now that illustration has broken the barrier into credibility!

Anyway, this abbreviated version is less whiney.

sketchbook #20

the positive side

1992 was an interesting year, burning through sketchbooks (this one in a month) and too much weed, manic highs and lows. This picture sums it up in one.

Went and saw the awesome Robert Hannaford exhibition today. Lots of great work, but some absolutely mind blowing figure studies on grey paper – if you like that sort of thing! Really inspired me to work bigger again, and definitely get to some life drawing. Most of all, it reaffirmed monochrome as something worth following.

Churning it out

Churning it out

This one's for you cuz!

This one’s for you cuz!

“hammer ‘n’ tongs”

hammer'n'tongs

Been a while between posts, for all the right reasons. Well, we did all have a virus that made us vomit, but mostly it was because I’ve been spending my nights working on a freelance project.

Which links into the the idea of the picture, along with getting some big jobs over the line for my day job, of the feeling of smashing it! Of just sucking it up and getting through.

I don’t draw much in the way of beefcake, and my aim was to draw a massive dude. Unfortunately the only wrestling jump pictures I could find for reference were more modestly muscled! Would have been great to do it as some sort of animated loop: smashing down through layers of masonry, through tag teams of dismayed wrestlers…

On the technical side, I coloured the marker base in Photoshop and was pretty happy with the result for a moderate extra layer of work. Have to try a whole scene with background, which I don’t generally do in colour or mono!

hammer'n'tongs - mono