You want to know what I hear all the time when someone who is familiar with my art meets me for the first time? "Wow, I thought you'd be much weirder in person." Yes it's true. I'm a fairly normal-ish dude….other than my obsession with vampire movies and transforming dollies into various monstrosities. So it seemed to me I should write a little post on why I think that is…why is my art weird and why does an everyday guy like myself lean toward a darker aesthetic? Well I'll give you a few reasons that I think this is the case
1. Simulates Danger…Without Being Dangerous.
We have all had or experiences where you feel out of control, where something dark and looming threatens us or someone we love. This could be anything from a home intruder to big ol' nasty black widow crawling across your face. Playing with dark themes gives you control of those frightening forces. A good example of this is how I started messing around with monsters in my art. When I was a kid I had nightmares about monsters….like most kids. My solutions was to draw them in ways that I could conquer them. A big ol cyclops would haunt me in my sleep….solution: I'd draw the big ol' cyclops being zapped by me with a ray-gun. Voila, I have conquered my monster. A funny thing though…over the years the monsters I created eventually became my friends…protectors if you will. The truth is that there are a lot scarier things in the world that cyclopses and vampires.
2. We All Need Make Offerings to Our Dark Side.
I am a firm believer that we are all filled with light and dark. I also believe we need both. But the question is how to feed the dark without becoming an "evil-doer". From my personal experience, I know that if I didn't have art I would probably be a lost soul. As a kid I was shy and afraid…but I had my art. Sure my creations were a bit sinister, but better to make your piece with your dark side using Crayolas than allowing the darkness to consume you. In many cases I believe that fear and depression, and sometimes violence can be thwarted by creative thought.
3. It's Fun Being Something We are Not
Most of my grimly inspired art friends (though not all) are actually very kind and gently people. I'm sure they get the same response from folks that I do about my art…ooooh it's so dark. But, you know, it's fun to play a part for a while. I am really not dark in the way I live my life but I can still experience devilishious things without become devilish. It's similar to the value of holidays like Halloween, where we be have fun playing a fiend.
4. Tom Foolery Can Be Incredibly Inspiring
I see it in workshops I teach all the time…folks who are in creative ruts, but get an incredible surge of creativity when they can be a bit subversive. Recently I was teaching my "Baba Yaga BirdHouse" class, which is based on the slavic witch who live in a house that was perched on a giant chicken leg. I watched as an entire room of everyday folks did the most devilishly bizarre things. There were houses with big monster mouths, crazy periscopes popping out of the roof (each with glass eyes peering out), or with bat wings that flap. This group of mothers and wives,and grandmothers and husbands were having a blast making crazy creepy things. It seems to me that when dealing with an eerie subject matter, you can have a lot more freedom. This is because there is not the constraint of trying to be "pretty". Creepy can be almost anything and everything….to make something look beautiful, however can be much more limiting…mostly because when trying to create something of beauty there is often more reverence given to the viewers approval.
So next time you pull out a pencil or pen…or perhaps a dismantled crusty dolly head…don't be afraid to take a step on the dark side. Ironically you may be a better person for it.