Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Little Peace

Charcoal Pencil on Paper
Here's how I used to draw. They're simple pictures. Pleasant pieces done quite a few years ago. They aren't things that delve into the challenges of the human condition. There's nothing wrong with doing that, of course, but it's not what these drawings are for. At some point I'd like to deal with more challenging subjects, but when I do I hope I can deal with difficult things in positive ways. In the mean time, one of the qualities of these drawings, and something that I think works it's way into most of my finished pieces, is a sense of peace.

It encourages me when others describe my paintings and drawings as peaceful. Installing peace in my artwork isn't something I consciously set out to do, but I think it just happens. Perhaps deep inside I feel a personal need for greater peace, and that attitude finds its way into my work.

There are some deemed “artists” who create extremely obnoxious and even repulsive works which, they say, “push the envelope” and “open dialogues.” Such
 sensationalized works usually tend to polarize dialogues rather than open them. They wallow in the kind of misery that damages lives and degrades communities. We see sensationalized misery in the entertainment industry and in news reports. We might witness it's effects firsthand. Sometimes we might even feel it's toxic effects in our own lives.

Graphite pencil on Paper
It's been a quite a while since I moved out west. The last few years I lived in Pennsylvania, my parents allowed me to set up an easel in the corner of the family room where I could work on graphite, charcoal and color pencil portraits and drawings. These drawings were my only source of income during a time of economic hardship in an economically depressed town. While at the easel I was able to tune out everything else and focus on commissions that came in from people throughout northwest Pennsylvania. At least, I could tune out most things...

My mother knew a woman in town whose family was very poor. Her husband was disabled, and they and their children struggled with health issues and a lot of other problems. They didn't practice good hygiene and the resulting smell made them hard to be around. As far as I can remember, any conversations I ever tried to have with the woman's husband were unsuccessful because he seemed to live in a world of his own. Mom was one of the poor woman's only friends. Sometimes, it seemed, the only friend she had.

During this time my Dad took a few of my smaller drawings to work and showed them to his co-workers. One man he showed the drawings to commissioned a 22” x 30” graphite drawing of his three children sitting at the beach.

Graphite Pencil on Paper
It was one day when my nearly finished drawing of the three children was on the easel that my mother's friend came to our back door and was invited in by Mom. Something was terribly wrong. The woman was crying hysterically. Her husband had just been arrested for molesting her daughters. Authorities had placed her two children into protective custody. She paced around between the kitchen and family room, inconsolable, as Mom tried to comfort her. This unsettling scene of pacing and crying went on, it seemed, for several minutes. I knew nothing to do but stay out of the way.

Then, as the distraught woman continued to cry and pace around the family room, she came to the easel with the drawing of the three children. She suddenly stopped and quieted. She gazed at the drawing of the three children – children she didn't know – for several seconds. To my surprise, a slight smile came to her tear streaked face. For the first time since coming to our door that morning, a small measure of peace seemed to come to her. Mom continued trying to help her poor friend as best she could. The remainder of her visit the woman continued to pace and cry at times, but returned a few more times to look at the drawing, and momentarily quiet herself.

My drawing wasn't going to fix this poor woman's terrible problems. It couldn't rebuild family ties that had been undermined so terribly and collapsed so catastrophically. But it had eased her misery, even if only a little.

This story might be an extreme example of what kinds of trouble people experience, but everyone struggles with whatever kinds and levels of problems in their lives. Works that deal with serious issues in positive ways can positively enable people. That's something I hope to do in the future with some of my own works. In the mean time, to whatever degree it might help, I'm happy to spread a little peace.


Marie's Art said...

Very touching story. ...thx for sharing. .

Marie's Art said...

Very touching story. ...thx for sharing. .

James Gunter said...

You're welcome Marie. Thanks for reading!