Tidy Is an Illusion

I haven’t posted in about ten months. The bunnies are practically in charge around here these days. I may or may not be writing this from an underground bunker where we are monitoring the bunny activity remotely.

In all reality, about the time the radio silence began is roughly when I started stretching my visual art muscles again. I discovered it was another means of processing all the thoughts and emotions buzzing around my brain. The unfortunate side effect was a monumental hiatus on writing. My leave of absence from the Bunny Intelligence Agency wasn’t planned, but it has been educational.

In December 2018, I started the Semi-weekly Art Project in which I create two pieces of original art each week and offer each for sale to an e-list of subscribers. The pieces are priced according to the number they are in the series (#1 = $1, #8 = $8, etc.). It’s been a rewarding and encouraging challenge. (If anyone is interested in joining my list, contact me – kmhoman at gmail dot com – to send your preferred email address! No one is obligated to buy.)

The project has led to more conversations about what I do and how I do it. I’m totally self-taught/pretending, so my process sometimes feels like a never-ending guessing game. However, I remembered to take work-in-progress pictures of a piece I gave to a friend last fall, and I’ve been reflecting on it recently.

First off, I didn’t plan on doing this piece. This seems to be a fairly regular part of my process. I go looking for ideas, watch the world, and desperately hunt inspiration down until it gets sick of the chase. But often, when an idea does come, it still feels like a surprise and like I don’t really have any claim to it.

In this case, I happened to read a friend’s social media status. “Tidy is an illusion,” she said. A simple statement in the middle of a longer post, but her words sent me on a whole mind-bending self-and-art evaluation. That sounds like I had a deep mental experience. I wouldn’t go that far. I mean, it was riveting and extraordinary to me, but revolutionary to the world, I shouldn’t assume. Still it resonated with the pointillist style I’ve been playing with over the past year, and I wanted to send my friend something to say thanks for sharing what she did at a time when I needed to hear it.

I found a lovely photo of my friend and zoomed in on a portion of her face. I sketched an outline that I transferred to the paper I was going to use. Then I started looking more closely for the patches of color that weren’t dominant. Making a gazillion tiny dots in colored ink means I can layer in the colors for a vibrant depth. I love when peachy skin isn’t just peach. Or a gray sky can have greens and purples. Or a grassy field has reds and oranges to really punch the green to a whole new level.

tidy is an illusion progress 1

However, when putting the first few layers of color into an already very limited sketch, well, my emotions usually resemble a clogged drain, blocking up everything with the assumption that I’ve already ruined another piece of paper.

“Oh Lord,” I thought. “I’ve made my beautiful-soul of a friend into a nightmare.”

Now whenever I hit this stage in any given project, and I always do, I repeat to myself “tidy is an illusion” and carry on. I’m beginning to think I need it tattooed across my thumbs…

Next usually comes a lot of fussing with color. Dot after dot after dot after dot. It’s a very Zen process for me, though I admit that I’ll binge absorb Netflix or a podcast in the background to help me monitor the flow of time.

I use a magnifying glass with a lamp on it that clamps to my desk to make minute splodges on teeth, in the hairline, etc.

tidy is an illusion progress 2tidy is an illusion progress 3tidy is an illusion progress 4Progress is slow, and change is minimal. My favorite part comes with I’ve basically got all the color parts done and then go through with the darker black and brown ink to sharpen up the edges and shadows. Things start to pop.

Finally, I used some opaque white paint to add a few last extreme highlights, and then I was ready walk away for a while.

tidy is an illusion progress 5Once I was done fiddling with it, I removed the tape I had used to edge the paper and sprayed the whole thing with a coat or two of UV-resistant varnish.

This part of the process always includes swearing considerably as I pick pet fur out of the drying varnish. Yay working from home!

tidy is an illusion. 2018

Once everything was dry, I scanned it for my own records/files, and I mailed it off to my buddy.

The result is always as much of a surprise as the idea was in the first place. I revisit and analyze and fret, but there’s a what’s-done-is-done calm too, once the varnish is on and can’t come off.

I’m so grateful to my friend for her words that led to this piece. Tidy is, indeed, an illusion. Whether it’s my life or a semi-ordered portrait made of tiny messy splatters of ink, the reminder of that illusion helps me keep creating whenever I’m clogged in that mental drain again wondering if I’ve messed up.

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