I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist
who can take projects start to finish in a variety of styles.
Good designs sell – mine sell out!

http://www.artbyhensley.com/index.html

Friday, August 19, 2011

"Influence"

I want the days back when artists were valued as magicians. We had status through the millennia, but our collective energy has been sucked into making endless ads for erectile dysfunction pills on sale today at Walmart. Not to say that keeping men happy doesn’t have its value to society, but it’s hardly ever a spiritual pursuit, and our magical potency in the world has been lost.

When cavemen painted prayers on rocks, their people respected them. The shaman’s contribution mattered to the hunt. Their spiraling calendars of light would determine when the corn was planted or when the winter camp set up or torn down. The pictograms translated across languages and eras. When Michelangelo was painting biblical stories on ceilings, he was illustrating the path to heaven for the illiterate masses. In other words, artists have been the spokespeople for God. It’s kind of a rough downgrade to selling antidepressants. In fact we’re probably taking antidepressants to get over our collective loss of influence.

I’m not going to make any value judgments about whether the caveman or the Pope was more right about what God wanted from people. What I’m saying is that the artist had a pivotal role in the religions. If you wanted a Christian or pagan amulet, the artist would be the one to make it. If the pharaoh wanted everlasting life, the artists were the ones who designed the pyramid and sculpted the sarcophagus. Even the tattoos on head hunters were visual prayers. Monk artists copied the Bible and illuminated its pages. Really, the more you start thinking about it, has anyone gotten to the other side without the help of an artist magician?

It makes sense to me. Artists by their nature are observant and meditative. They would be the ones to notice the length of days and phases of the moon. They notice the signs of the coming hurricane. They pay attention to their dreams. They understand which images speak most strongly to their people. They’re open to magic.

Artists used to be the scientists, engineers, and architects too. There was a time when we weren’t smashed into a single function of My Little Pony accessories. We were the ones who sculpted the fountains and built the cathedrals. We were the ones who truly understood alchemy as we made paint and stained glass from stone, and then we practiced the greater alchemy of taking colored mud and turning it into art.

The Illustration Friday word for the week is “influence”. I have been influenced by thousands of years of artists before me. I am also influenced by the artists who come after me. This piece is the result of a conversation with my 9-year-old niece about pictograms, and her purple crayon drawing of a turtle while we discussed the associations we have with turtles: wisdom, longevity, patience. I love drawing with kids. They seem to have an innate understanding that art is magic :)

20 comments:

  1. I agree that art has lost a great deal of its influence, but I don't think even today art as a whole can be reduced to its commercial element. The problem is that the art that has emotional/spiritual/political power now is very rarely the art that gets paid for.

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  2. Good point. We still make it. We just need to find someone to pay us for it.

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  3. Neat turtle motif!
    Yes, Linda, there are many people out there with demanding expectations of magic, but seem to have lost touch with the way it happens. Thank goodness for those who still appreciate the creative journey!
    :o)

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  4. Oh, very well said, my dear! Artists (and the tribes they were meant to serve) are indeed experiencing a very dark age. Some days it's hard to find the inspiration to carry on...

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  5. Indeed well said Linda, keep fighting the fight but keep also creating your beautiful work. I love your take on "influence",
    Enjoy your weekend,
    Jane x

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  6. Help help! I'm being influenced! Great post Linda.

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  7. Thanks everybody! Let's all spread some happy influences today :)

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  8. Lovely turtle and a very interesting post!

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  9. interesting post as always. I wonder what it would have been like to be able to spend time contemplating. It feels like things move so quickly now and time is a rare treasured nugget.

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  10. Heisann!

    Reading your text, I remembered a colleague of mine from another department saying that drawing has no influence any more. Soon after we had this trouble with the Muhammed portrait in Denmark among other places. Artists still have power in some ways.
    You 'put your finger' on something important as we say in Norwegian. Don't know if this phrase is able to be translated in English!
    An turtle is the perfect illustration;:OD)

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  11. I second that the art that has emotional/spiritual/political power now is very rarely the art that gets paid for. Art that is paid for is largely commercialized with very clever marketing tools. The same counts for writing and music. If an artist or musician wants to get paid for his art he has to have knowledge of art and marketing. Instead of thinking this is a sad truth (true!), we can embrace it as a nice challenge too.
    Interesting turtle illustration!

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  12. "Putting your finger on something" definitely translates to English. We say that in the US too.

    I've found that my life works better when I do have time to contemplate. Sometimes the thoughts that don't seem connected to anything turn out to be the most useful for me in real life in ways I couldn't have anticipated.

    Thanks for the comments everybody! I just love reading what people have to say :)

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  13. I love the turtle. It looks ancient and magical. Not viagra-like at all!

    And thanks for the shoutout for artists here. Artwork is truly very spiritual. I've always felt that way. And in my professional life as an engineer, I strongly felt the "influence" of my artist self. Uh... talking about original and inspired artwork here of course, not antidepressent clipart.

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  14. I say neighhhhh and stomp my hoof at being a my little pony artist.

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  15. LOL Sharon. I'll probably remember that next time I see a My Little Pony :)

    For the record, I've never actually made Viagra or antidepressant art. I'm just down because those are the kinds of job postings I see lately. I probably should've followed Dad's advice and been an engineer too Abby.

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  16. Your wee turtle has great design.. he does look magical!
    Three cheers to art and authenticity!!!

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  17. I think I'd quit if all I could do was make pictures for ads like that, though I have enormous respect for many many illustrators. I think of artists as channeling much of what is important in the universe. Thanks for your post!

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  18. Wonderful post - and the turtle/mandala really invites contemplation.
    As a kid, anyone who could really draw was magical, mystical - holding on to that truth and speaking that through our work is not always easy, but worth returning to whenever we can.

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  19. Heh Linda strikes again! Hah, I love how you start off with the erectile thingy's for making men happy :) You know they can make you go blind as well ... see what men have to do for women? (just kidding: men are small silly creatures with tottering egos that need constant buttressing - well I know that describes me at least :) )

    Beautiful serene and zenlike the image is. The colour chord is soothing, and yes the design is magical. The patterning in the background adds resonance.

    And boy, are you a good writer !:)

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  20. Thanks everybody! Maybe everybody has an ego that needs buttressing Andrew? I just love comments :)

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