One of the many truths that they often neglect to tell anyone in art school is that being an illustrator or sculptor or comic artist or painter is largely a solitary career.
Naturally we have friends and family; of course we enjoy being with others. But no one—not our closest confidants, not even our fellow artists—knows what it takes for us personally to wrestle with a blank sketchbook page or piece of illustration board or canvas or an empty computer screen and fill them with the wonders dancing around in our heads. Even when we seek advice or help, even when we send out frustrated (or exultant) tweets or make discouraged posts on Facebook, at the end of the day the fight is still ours alone to win. Or lose.
And because no one can ever know exactly what it takes for us to see things as we do, to create things as we create them, in a sense we’re all outsiders, we’re all rebels and loners. But being loners doesn’t mean we’re hermits; it’s obvious that we’re some of the most sociable outsiders anyone will ever meet. We appreciate each others’ quirks and idiosyncrasies (usually). We like to “belong,” to be a part of a movement or run with a pack—just as long as we don’t have to follow someone else’s rules. As long as we don’t have to think the same way someone else thinks or create art the way others think we should in order to be respected.
We live in fractious, incredibly contentious, occasionally frightening times—which is why we should take every opportunity, as the rebels we are, to recognize and embrace our diversity as a strength while simultaneously celebrating our sense of unity and community.
|Above: Painting by James C. Christensen.|
And one of the things we can do—should do—as a community is honor the lives of our friends that have left us in the past year. About artists Longfellow wrote, “Dead he is not, but departed, for the artist never dies.” Comforting, if true. I certainly hope it is, anyway—but I worry that in this lightning-paced, technologically-driven, social media-addicted world…memory is fleeting. It’s easy to get distracted by the crush of the new, painfully easy for creators and their works to get lost in the cacophony of the crowd. It’s easy to forget and gets easier every day.
The saying is that there are three stages of death. The first, of course, is when we draw our last breath. The second is when our body is put in the earth or turned to ash and someone says some—hopefully—nice things about us. But the third…it is the third that is the most absolute, the most heartbreaking, the most…infinitely final…
The third stage is when someone speaks our name for the last time.
We have no say over Death, over when it comes and who it takes, but today on Muddy Colors we can use the opportunity to join together as a community and deny that third stage. And it’s extremely simple to do: let’s take a few moments to think of our colleagues, our friends, our mentors, of our family who left us in 2017. To speak their names and keep them alive, in our hearts and minds, for just a little while longer.
Alfonso Azpiri (Mejia) [b 1947] comic artist
Magdalena A. Bakanowicz [b 1930] sculptor
He curated the very first “Outsider Art” exhibition at the Laguna Art Museum in 1993.
but he is best remembered as the designer of Bugs Bunny for Warner Bros.
fourth issue of the Swamp Thing comic.
This list will be included in the 25th anniversary volume of Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art in the Fall. If I’ve missed anyone (as I’m sure I have, particularly in mentioning overseas Fantastic Artists) please let me know in the comments section and I’ll add them.