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Having spent the past fifteen years as a freelance illustrator I’ve never felt the need to write any kind of artist’s statement, or try to explain what it was I was trying to accomplish with my work, because I was simply creating work based on ideas that other people had given me, which needed to be completed by a certain time, and in a certain format.
Now that I am concentrating on working from the singular desire of cultivating my artistic expression and creativity, I feel that I want to put into words that which I am trying to accomplish, for myself, and for those who are interested in the development of these pieces.
This is also for those who think that artists don’t have a “job.” There is an overall presumption by the public, especially in the US, that artists just screw around most of the time and when the inspiration hits they do some drawing or painting. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Almost every artist I know has a very regimented work schedule, which we stick to six or seven days a week. Part of this is due to the fact that we have to work a large number of hours in order to make a living as artists, but the other is deeply rooted in an internal force which compels us to work such long hours. This force is derived from different sources in every artist. I will try to explain where my drive comes from below.
Like almost every artist, my path began when I was very young. I spent much of my adolescence imagining gruesome beasts and bleak, foreboding landscapes. Unfortunately, I faced the problem of not having the technical skill to execute those images on paper or canvas.
In 2010 I set myself to the ardent task of achieving this kind of imagery confidently. With over a decade of freelance work and training under my belt, I felt I could begin to bring these horrible visions to life. To do so I would have to step outside of the industry that I had called home for so long, but I knew this move would allow me to free myself of many of the constraints and pitfalls that are inherent within that industry.
I built up a body of work, at first consisting mainly of twisted figures that I simply called demons. I needed to call them something familiar as a jumping off point for the viewer. I wanted them to be iconic; modern day visions of godlike beings that existed in my imagination. I pushed myself to incorporate jagged structures and impossible atmospheres which these demons would call home, thus fleshing out the world that had been in the recesses of my mind since my youth.
An important milestone of clarity came after reading the transcript of a seminar given by Carl Jung in 1939 to the Guild for Pastoral Psychology in London. Jung said the following.
“You see, man is in need of a symbolic life – badly in need. We only live banal, ordinary, rational, or irrational things . . . but we have no symbolic life. Where do we live symbolically? Nowhere except where we participate in the ritual of life. . . .
Have you got a corner somewhere in your house where you perform the rites, as you can see in India? Even the very simple houses there have at least a curtained corner where the members of the household can perform the symbolic life, where they can make their new vows or their meditation. We don’t have it; we have no such corner. We have our own room, of course, – but there is a telephone that can ring us up at any time, and we always must be ready. We have no time, no place.
We have no symbolic life, and we are all badly in need of the symbolic life. Only the symbolic life can express the need of the soul – the daily need of the soul, mind you! And because people have no such thing, they can never step out of this mill – this awful, banal, grinding life in which they are “nothing but.” Everything is banal; everything is “nothing but,” and that is the reason why people are neurotic. They are simply sick of the whole thing, sick of that banal life, and therefore they want sensation. They even want a war; they all want a war; they are all glad when there is a war; they say, “Thank heaven, now something is going to happen – something bigger than ourselves!”
The relevance of this passage had a profound impact on me. Although a staunch atheist, I still feel the need for ritual. Not for spiritual gratification, for I believe there is no such thing as a soul, but for mental gratification. In a time of constant technological distraction, we are desperately in need of a symbolic life.
Almost every single day I spend countless hours trying to push deeper into my favorite part of the human potential, the imagination. It is the act of drawing, of sitting down in front of a board and creating my own symbols, that I have found my ritual. I am fulfilling the need that Jung described above. It is how I, “step out of this mill – this awful, banal, grinding life…” Through the work I am doing now I mean to create new symbols for others to cherish. I hope that people will take what I have given them and use them, as the word says, symbolically. In other words, use them as a spring board for independent thought. Use them as a marker for their frustrations with the status quo. Use them to strip the meaning and power from the old symbols.
For this reason I am defining myself artistically as a Ritualist.