About to post 57 of the 105 Personal Demons at Saatchi Online over the weekend. This was a six month project in 2011 – 2012. It started with my writing workshops, teaching a technique I call mindless writing. The idea with mindless writing is to clear your head of all rational thought and let stuff pour out of your subconscious in any way it wants. It works great for breaking through writer’s block, finding your writing voice and a plethora of other things. (Gee willys, I got to use the word plethora today. Brings back memories of Three Amigos). (Unfortunately, I used the term Gee Willys.)
One typical Saturday evening, I was at home watching water boil and feeling sorry for myself when it suddenly occurred to me that mindless writing didn’t have to be just a writer’s tool. Maybe it could be applied to visual arts. I immediately grabbed my camera. No…first…I turned the stove off, being safety conscious and all. On my way out the door, it occurred to me that maybe the camera wasn’t the most original way to express mindlessness. Like, I’ve seen so many pictures on Facebook that distinctly show little or no presence of rational thought.
I put my camera back in my case and decided to spend the rest of the evening under my bed with a bottle of wine (one of my all-time favorite pastimes, especially on Saturday nights when the feeling sorry for yourself juices are really running). But on my way to the bedroom I passed a drawing on my hall wall that I’d done years ago. It was a black ink drawing with a lot of fancy swirls and stuff. I used to do them all the time and almost had an exhibition of them in the late 70s (but the gallery went bankrupt just before the opening of the exhibit).
In a moment of ecstatic revelation, I thought, “The drawings! The drawings!” (Notice how I’m punctuating differently here than in previous posts. Go ahead Strunk and White. Strike me down for inconsistency.)
The only paper I had on hand in my home office was the long business-size paper that causes so much confusion for shared printers in offices when someone uses it and print jobs for the rest of the day are sent to the wrong tray and producing cryptic error messages and nobody understands.
I grabbed a piece of the paper and one of the new pens I’d just bought an entire box of because I like the way the ink flows through them and onto the paper. They have a really cyber name: SONiX Gel.
I placed the pen onto the paper and waited. And waited. Nothing was happening. Not a damn thing.
Now, some people might argue that, if you’re set on doing something mindless and nothing happens, you’re probably doing the right thing. But that’s not the point of mindless writing. All you’re doing is turning of the judge and letting the thoughts flow randomly. The same thing should happen with mindless drawing. So, I did the unthinkable…I started thinking. Oddly, the first thing that came into my mind was a dream I used to have about going back to school (I dropped out in Grade 10, but went back later and even went on to college) in which I’m in the hall but have no idea where my locker is and I don’t recognize any of the people as they rush past on their way to classes. Suddenly, I’m the only one in the hall, but I’ve found my locker. It’s open and there are books and scribblers in it, but I have no idea what class I’m supposed to be in or where it is. A cold horror washes over my dream self for about a hundred dream years before I’m suddenly at my desk in French class and realize that I haven’t been in class for ages and final exams are in a few days. Somewhere around the height of horror if occurs to me that I have a university degree and don’t need to finish high school (which I didn’t in real life, being one credit short, but I passed the college entrance exams). At this point I wake up.
I thought I’d resolved this personal demon a few years earlier by writing a short story about it for one of the Twisted Tails anthologies (School Dayzed). But, obviously, it was still in there, deep in my subconscious, waiting to pounce…somewhere. And that’s when the pen started to move across the paper. It started off with a long arc and then began drawing intricate patterns, all within the confines of the paper. It took about an hour before a switch in my head clicked off, and the drawing was done. It was a weird-looking shape with a definite organic-life form. It was a personal demon. I grabbed another piece of paper and thought about another bad moment in my life. Another organic thing spread over the surface of the paper, directing its own lines, shaping its own manifestation.
This went on for six months, at home, during lunch at work, in coffee shops, in the park, at the studio and once when I was waiting for doctor’s appointment. In each instance, I thought for a few minutes about some regret, mistake, nightmare, wrong-doing or other nasty experience in my life and then released it through the pen and onto the paper. At first, I tried to keep them all in order and even considered giving them titles, but I decided against this. Some of those demons were pretty damn person and, though I didn’t mind people knowing about them, I figured knowing what they looked like was going a little beyond my comfort zone. So they’re all scrambled to the extent that even I don’t know which is which (except, of course, for the back to school nightmare).
Here’re a few of them…
The project ended when I tried for demon 106 and nothing came after days of trying. Seemed I had exactly 105 personal demons. Time, now, to get out there and work up some more demons.
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