Here’s an unfinished pastel piece I did for my drawing class this semester.
From the dense, metallic middle sprouts a set of arms which marry a sense of specialized mechanical pieces with the uncanny biological precision of insect legs. It sweeps rapidly across your field of vision. There is no sound that you’re able to associate with its mechanisms. Perhaps it is only drowned out by the grand, terrible roar of the air it pulls away as it passes.
Accompanying the space about it, you notice that where you have previously perceived nothing, there is actually a sparkling field of pinpoints. There are some which leap, primary-colored or stark white, and the monochrome fuzz of the points behind them gives a sense of depth and contrast. The insectoid middle form does not disrupt them. It seems that the field is between you and the writhing form. The brightest pinpoints do not leap where its body is, only the drab backdrop of unmoving points accompany its shape.
To either side, balancing the snapshot you perceive, are two forms. One, slightly larger, pulses in time with the moving of the legs. It is difficult for you to make out. Your instinct is to ignore it, but the details manifest as you try and look. Bulbous, organic shapes obscure the center form they are joined to. Unlike the great metallic center form, which floats menacingly across your vision again and again, this form is alive with colored pops. They are so vibrant over top of this form that they seem almost to be a part of it. The bulbous shapes of the form grow and condense rhythmically. You feel almost ashamed to have not noticed this form. It is beautiful and warm. It moves in way that implies both a controlling current and autonomy at the same time.
To the other side, the smaller form. This form strikes you almost like an underdeveloped version of the previous one. The details are even harder to make out, but you push yourself. Your view of it sharpens. The bulbs of it are sharper, thorn-like, but blunted. They are not so wide that you cannot see the center. The bulbs taper to short stalk-like tendrils that end with socket joints at the base of the form’s center. This form, overall, is cooler but not unpleasant. It is a cold, mottled blue which fades to purple and green in places.
Upon closer inspection, the field of points do not pop so much here but they are present. For the first time, you notice purple and green points in the field alongside the primary colors and the white. The center of the form is stalk-like, thick and ruddy, roughly textured. It is calm and perhaps weary. Your eyes move between the forms. Both are lovely and strange to see, but there is something about them which is blurred. Your vision is being pulled back to the center, to the metal insect form, and you oblige.
It has change subtly. Now, where the legs meet it’s center, the shape of them continues in ridges along it’s underside. Perhaps it has simply turned over. This side is still metallic, but is formed of a darker, more textured metal. Perhaps pulled against a rougher surface. It is shining also with colors, bent and pulled about it’s contours like a reflection; yes, it is a reflection of the sea of pinpoints. Dark, untextured reflection that is not an ideal recreation but an impression. The colors are flatter and darker but more varied, they are blended to a gradient and arranged into a sheen rather than a buzzing ocean.
As the form sweeps by, it makes changes. In a blink, the backdrop of points is altered. The field is no longer only grey but subtly purple as well, gunmetal purple sheen. The color pops lean towards a dull reddish hue, and the yellow and blue that could be seen so brightly before are muted, they do not capture your attention unless you force yourself to look. The points leap more wildly, the waves of the pinprick sea become violent and bending. The points appear to move more uniformly, appear to leap out towards you. Are some points bigger, or closer two you? Are the center points in the various swells leaping out or growing, multiplying like cells?
The forms to either side are changed as well. They have grown slightly, but are the same size in relation to each other. The first form is stretched, expanding the matter it contains into grander, more inflated bulbs. There is tension to this form now, and the ease it first communicated has dissipated somewhat. Its bright colors seem out of place now, still shining behind sea of points but duller from your viewpoint. The second form has grown as well, but it is denser as well. It has grown longer, thicker, more sure. Its colors hum and vibrate as the points begin to match them. It is still smaller in relation to the other form. The sum of its matter has been added to.
The forms are building to a great release. They are brought to the summit of what they are, to breaking point or transfiguration. The field shivers and shakes, the points begin to warp along the center-form and caress it. How the bright middle pulses achingly, funny legs going and blurring together so that you can’t tell how many there are. The colors of this place seem to glow, they glow into the forms, so that the points and the forms and the place that you are meld into one. In the scream of the pinpoint sea, you open your eyes.
Hey beauty rising, hey pretty day
This is what I wished for as I passed the night awake
Hope the lord to guide me on my way
Bright on the dashboard, cold in the shade
Amber leaf impressions in the day the lord has made
Drifting on the paths that he has laid
Oh the pretty opus, full of life and mirth
Watch the winding trees create an ode to pearly earth
And joy is even present in the dirt
We be things rewritten, we be wheeling song
Father, guide my harmonies and help my chords resolve
And help me when the interludes are long
Amber leaf impression, fall like casted crown
Father, help me see the cloud-shapes hanging when I’m down
And help me keep the joy that I have found
The Lion approaches me, swimming the sea
Bobbing his maw on the top of the waves
to cut up my brain
to dance his gold body through the dark in me
and force me to breathe
Watch me silently
i look out at the sea churning violently
Propped up and lifeless
Limp-lunged and looking to sand for a hyacinth
where bright violet vibrant will never be seen
The Lion’s back brightens the horizon line
fighting the tide while his breath stays calm
i trace my own palm
and wish for my breath to obscure my whine
and make me alright
Hopeless and dry
My dead eyes alight on the faraway Lion
Rhythmic and lithe
Tracing the shore for a mind to unwind
i sit on the dark bank and watch him in silence
He lays his pads on the jagged rock face
Strides on the bank that my body has sank in
i see myself then
A hollow, all cold air, my body erased
And lo, he is tracing
He brightens the place
and i can feel color come back to my face
and breath stutter in
It carves out a path in trespasses and sins
He moves himself, turns to my heart with his gaze
In shining bright highland, the lion aligns me
Washed in the tide, he steps in my head
His form touches every fold as it spreads
And finally, i can feel my thinking breathe
i can move my lips to say what i mean
and all at once, that being is gone from the shore
The force of his body contorts me no more
but the Lion has raised me and left me pristine
Hello, all. I want to talk a little about the current state of Shanty Town and about the future. Some realizations have hit me recently about the content I’ve posted here, and I think it’s important that I address them for anyone looking at this blog for the first time. Sorry if you’re here for whacky art or poetry, I promise I’ll be back to that soon. I just feel like I have to get this out.
For me, Shanty Town functions as a sort of time capsule that shows what I’ve been interested in, both in terms of style and in terms of content. In the course of looking back at the posts on this blog, I’ve traditionally seen the periods my art has taken in terms of the art’s form. How I’ve experimented, improved, and iterated over the years. I like seeing my progress as a writer and an artist, and that’s been my main takeaway in the past when I’ve looked through my backlog.
Recently, however, I’ve been struck by the content of the blog itself. For some reason, the way my art is perceived from an outside view has recently been more apparent to me than ever. It may seem strange for an artist to have a limited understanding of his own work, but sometimes subconscious thoughts come into play in ways that even the author (or especially the author) can’t see outright.
The root of my realization is this: the content on this blog is extremely, unflinchingly bleak. It’s no shock to anyone who’s read it, but it’s struck me that the stories I tell here consistently end abruptly, on sour notes that give no sense of redemption or resolution to the narrative. The subject matter I depict is mined from the worst sides of human experiences; deceit, hatred, murder, suffering, pain.
Most of the art here seems written from a place of exhaustion with these truths, uncertainty about the future, and a desire to jolt readers out of a positive mindset. You could argue, as I have before, that storytelling like this reflects reality. And admittedly, there is some truth to that. Looking back, I think my choices in subject matter reflect a desire to understand and cope with the darkness inherent in our reality here on earth, and sometimes that’s an important thing. But it’s not the entire picture.
I wouldn’t say I regret writing any of the content here. It’s an honest expression of what I was feeling when I wrote it, and I still think many of the ideas I’ve presented here are well-realized and interesting. It’s largely still art I’m extremely proud of, and I believe there is worth to portraying the darker shades of human nature. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying these works, and there’s nothing wrong with exploring these places in art once in a while.
However, going forward, I feel that I need to drift from Shanty Town’s typically macabre subject matter somewhat. I want to learn how to portray brighter emotions like joy and fulfillment without them feeling disingenuous or forced. I want to break from grotesquery as a constant and try to portray the depth of human experience more accurately.
Ultimately, I guess I just feel ready to turn the page on extreme, unflinching negative thought like this. The writing I do here, for better or worse, is a reflection of me and my thought process. And, as the content here would imply, my thought process has returned to depressive places again and again in the past few years.
Frankly, I feel worn down. In looking over my previous posts these last few days, they’ve made me feel nothing but jaded and sad. I don’t want that to be the only feeling my work incites. I want to make art that explores brighter emotions. I want to recognize all sides of life, the ups as well as the downs. I want to move forward.
You may be wondering why I’m leaving all the old posts up, or why I’m not just making a new blog. First off, as I said, I still enjoy the content I’ve presented here over the years. It’s neat to me to watch my writing and drawing blossom as you scroll up from the bottom, and some of these stories and art pieces represent huge steps forward for me as I’ve strived to be a more effective artist.
Second, my work reflects me as a person and it will naturally change as I do. If it seems like this shift in tone is a big one, that’s only because the shift I’ve taken in real life is pretty significant, too. In a world filled with false, surface-level positivity, it’s taken me up until now to realize that I’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater in trying to “see things as they really are”.
Sometimes, reality really is filled with peace and joy. I’m realizing more and more that it’s not dishonest or intellectually bankrupt to portray these things in art. I hope that by writing to define what is good and pure in my experiences, I can learn to let these emotions flow better as well.
I can’t promise I’ll never write anything dark again, because I surely will at some point. I can’t promise I’ll start out making art that’s emotionally effective as I try to find balance in the way I perceive things. All I can really promise the readers of this blog is that it will keep going, for better or worse, in good frames of mind and in bad, as long as I have fingers to type with. Thank you to everybody who read this whole thing.
Note: Apologies for the image quality, I don’t have a good way to take pictures of physical art (which is one reason why most of the art on this blog is digital). I did this series for my final project in Drawing I during my second year of college. I wanted to depict the way an idea is translated from an initial point of inspiration to an art piece. Each piece is one continuous line.