Our fearful selves

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has inspired countless plays, films, tv programs, plays, video games, cartoons, comics, toys and related works. This monster is one of the most persistent horror icons within popular culture.

At the very moment that Victor Frankenstein succeeds in bringing his creation to life he turns away from it in horror. All else that follows in the story can be seen as a result of this abandonment.

Perhaps our fascination with Frankenstein’s monster represents a willingness to take responsibility for this wretched creature, or at least recognize and engage with it. Our humanity is tested when we encounter monsters––they remind us of our responsibility towards our most fearful selves.

The darkness revisited

A number of years ago I drew a series of darkened faces in relation to a death within my family.

A new series uses a similar working method to respond to images of Boris Karloff as the monster, within James Whale’s Frankenstein films from the 1930s. Karloff’s iconic representation has come to stand for the very idea of a monster.

creature

Dark creature (series), brush and Ink on rice paper, approx. 8 x 6″

Repetition and repetition

Once again I return to drawing multiple faces on rice paper with brush and ink.

The differences between the repeating faces, the anomalies from one to the next, are what is important to me. The practice of drawing a single face over and over again expands the field of interpretation and moves the individual face (in this case, Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s creature) away from the idea of singularity (and portraiture) towards a consideration of the image as an archetype or symbol.

Creature Faces

Looking with drawing

Drawing allows me look carefully at what’s in front of me; an opportunity to meditate with my eyes open.

I just got back from a road trip through the American Southwest. I spent a few days in Joshua Tree National Park––so took some time to draw those peculiar trees as a way to understand them better.

The drawings I like best are the ones where I’m not trying to document the tree, but where I’m responding to its form in relation the capabilities of my materials. In this case, I’m using a pencil with several colours marbled though the lead, which appear randomly as I draw.

Struggling against mastery

I continue to experiment with drawing the creature’s face using watercolour graphite on stone resin paper. The process I’ve developed incorporates both wet and dry drawing techniques. I’m irritated by a tendency towards mastery—when my gestures dominate and subdue the materials. The drawings I prefer are those which represent a tension between control and relinquishment of that control; a circumstance that enables discovery of the materials’ own tendencies.

creature