Picturesque Creativity 

As a lover of the arts I’ve found that drawing, along with creative writing, is something that seems to flow endlessly out of my mind. Whether it’s striking a blank page until I’ve reached what might become my next greatest image, or spending hours trying to tear a single word from the capacious inventory of the English language, both creations reveal an unwonted amount of complexity. In a lot of ways this work has been manufactured into a piece of ruggedness that meshes together to make an enjoyable picture. Occasionally, this is how I begin the tedious process of snapping a line, some shades, and every detail into a meaningful expression. This time I also incorporated a few of Edmund Burke’s ideas like sublimity into both my poem and picture. By intentionally including puzzling vernacular, rugged naturalism, and novel terror I believe I’ve managed to create a similar feeling to Burke’s sublime throughout my artwork. However, some personal history before my discussion and dissection of both pieces may prove enlightening.

 

 

Growing up I was like any kid; bedtime was the alabaster whale of all evils. Sometimes I would stay up reading, and other times I would stare up at the effulgent star-covered ceiling till asleep. On the most restless of nights though, I would direct an award-winning story. The toy dinosaur would struggle to find its rightful place in a bed-sized world, fighting vigorously to scale the blanket-rolling hills and treacherous cliffsides of an elevated mattress. Time waned on and soon I forgot the once adventurous tales of reptilian knights; for a brief period I remained stagnant without any recall of the forlorn bedtime myths I once construed. Yet fate was fain to give me another chance.

 

 

I happened to stumble across some blank paper, and as if fortuitously laid before me, I grabbed a transparently orange pencil. An hour or so later I smiled and raised a gloriously scribbled drawing inspired by the muses of old, Jove’s thundering visage reigning down on a helpless ship. From then on that single picture’s ancestors were either sea-faring scenes filled with monstrous chaos, or an unfortunate explosion of wood against the jaws of a coral reef bent on swallowing the despondent spirits. This idea of unexpected terror became the ruling theme when I drew my watery portrait.

Now before you release a fusillade of comments about how trivial this painting looks, allow me to wind back to the initial stage of my drawing (which was so unethically appalling that I’ve decided to refrain from adding it to this essay… and perhaps because I lack the means to as well but I digress). Regardless, having previous history with sketching out sinking vessels, sometimes Kraken-entangled, I began to paste together some rough diagrams. But nothing worked.

 

I then decided to try drawing once piece at a time, you know, like the mast or the poop, or something of that nature. In the end I came very close to pressing out a squiggly caricature of what could have passed for a heap of logs drifting at sea; in a sense, the farthest thing from a picturesque shipwreck. Frustrated, fatigued, and unimaginably famished from thirty minutes of working to flesh out a portrait, I found myself eager to give up. Then a rather painfully sanguine emotion stung me like an irksome mosquito. I had no possible technique to encode my soon-to-be sublime artwork onto a virtual device. Crushed by the notion I’d wasted several minutes of a short life, I reminded myself heartily that this new obstacle was in fact an incognito blessing. I no longer had to fret over perfecting with the pencil a miraculously intriguing work of art.

 

Smiling surreptitiously, as if the moment I vouchsafed the petty sliver of pleasure it might crumble to dust with the first sign of zephyr, I clandestinely punched away at the blackened keyboard in search of an instrument for my newfangled goal; and there it lay, somnolently piled away like ancient Greek legends behind a sundry of useless or otherwise labyrinthine computer applications. I’m sure at this point many individuals will flash a condescending simper and pretend to understand the material value of painting via laptop, but the reality is that few truly understand the intensity of concentration, and the veracity of mental aptitude, that the task of drawing and coloring taxes its lugubrious victim. Perhaps a detailed interpretation of my childish artwork will enlighten your view of the toil endured and widen your grasp of what the picturesque means to me.

 

When I see the chocolate streaks spread out like brownie mix among a thin black pan I am reminded of the everlasting fluidness of life. I see the sails in their diaphanous skins stretched to fatigued limits much like the souls of middle-class Americans who struggle to put food on the table. The frothing waves filled with nothingness in contrast to circles of circumscribing clouds reflect the relationship between an angry husband whose empty promises are being discovered by the rounding up of a bitter wife. Silently protruding in front of the ship are rocks that resemble long-forgotten emotions cemented into a crag heart of a woman abused and abandoned. And near the bottom swims a tiny invertebrate oblivious to the lightning above threatening to ensnare it; that fish is me, and that powerful cord of electricity the pitfalls of everyday life. Moving on, a lingering inquiry might be how does this allegorical picture do justice to the work of eighteenth and nineteenth century artists? My reply: it elucidates emotions akin to a sublime picture like J.M.W. Turner’s.

 

Similar to J.M.W. Turner’s Snow Storm: Steamboat off a Harbour’s Mouth, the electronically penciled portrait catalyzes an atmosphere of danger and darkness, and that produces the sublime offspring called terror. Take for example the background of the adroitly crafted object. It neither begs to be blatantly stared at, nor does it proffer to be anything more than the tabula rasa state of being everyone enters this world with. It simply exists much like the ruin of life that, as hauntingly ubiquitous as it is, once accepted as reality brings ineffable peace to the soul. Joseph Campbell had this unwonted belief that the only heaven said to manifest itself coherently was the here and now. Interesting conclusion, but I’d like to present my own understanding of the picturesque and all its hidden beauty. Hopefully by donning the elevated habiliment of poetry an idea of sublimeness will become more transparent.

 

I think strongest aspect of both poems is the bold question they ask, and that each question causes some to realize the ultimate picturesqueness of life via brief mediation. One interpretation is that social constructs such as beauty, and debatably truth, are nothing more than what we make them, and this directly connects to the idea of Burke’s sublime because it demonstrates the free, rugged syntax that is trait of only free-verse poems. Although not as beautifully strung together like Mary Robinson’s Ode to Beauty, both writings present a dilemma that I believe was the center of what many authors and artists alike were attempting to solve. They all wanted to more clearly understand the ultimate truth, and yet in doing so, they realized that such a venture was taking them the opposite direction. In the end, one lesson derived may be that in life not everything has to be defined neatly. One day, if possible, humankind may come to understand the essence of our existence, but until then we should continue to struggle determinedly. This interpersonal battle provides a relevant transition back to my simplistic picture.

 

Concerning Burke’s sublimestate of being and my painting, the assessment of sublime traits in it is initially weak. There is no ominous terror lurking about it, no feeling of over-whelming power. Yet its sketched quality invokes an emotion of rugged naturalism; a trait that William Gilpin writes: “Should we wish to give it picturesque beauty, we must use the mallet, instead of the chisel: we must beat down one half of it, deface the other, and throw the mutilated members around in heaps” (Gilpin 7). It is this broken down or “ruined” part of the portrait that makes it picturesque, and accordingly, pleasing to the eye. The enigmatic touch that I compose both poems with also offers a palatable nugget of creativity for readers’ that prefer skimming.

That said the ambiguity of poetical form and painting is inevitably attractive because it draws its victim toward a black-hole of rumination. Both my poetry and picture are no exception; they emulate the obscurity angle of Edmund Burke’s sublime. He describes obscurity as: “To make anything very terrible, obscurity seems in general to be necessary. When we know the full extent of any danger, when we can accustom our eyes to it, a great deal of the apprehension vanishes” (Burke, 132). I purposely use archaic and lesser known words in both poems to confuse and stop readers so that they might think about each one’s meaning. Even more so with the drawing, the artwork has a bizarre outline that looks like it could ooze off the page whenever its viewers alleviate their gaze. And while at first glance it may fail to produce an emotion like terror, in time a more experienced observation may lead to an insatiable thirst to know the meaning behind its splotchy skin. This might be interpreted as psychological terror or angst at not being able to categorize everything perfectly. Below are both of my poems which I’ll try to decipher, but no don’t get too excited because I still struggle with their exact meanings.

 

 

Beauty and Lies

What is beauty? Is it found like the numerals of the ancient Achaeans, or created like the statues of forlorn Europeans?

Can it be bought? Sold? Or perhaps told until naught? Is it the existence of such remarkably pure a design that it courses the length of time?

Then what is beauty if not ugliness? What is a hen other than a crudely feathered swan that the father of Dawn has forgotten to perfect?

Perhaps life is beautiful, or perhaps it is meaningless, nothing more than a jumbled mess. Like the circuitous globs of waxen material that consume a fallen limb, what more is there to this life then a grim,  lugubrious ending?

Some would argue there is such a thing as purpose, a driving force that compels us with a righteous impetus to drive out and cleanse this heathen world we so fondly sow into. Yet it is this very course that causes so many spirits to stray away. Serpents may slither silently and secretly shock the sauntering pedestrian, but the silence of a man’s stoical lifestyle causes more suffering than the greatest sin!

So weary not about the particulars, for whatever occurs, shall so sorrowfully suck the sap from a soul that naught matters. And with that one may proceed to journey through life in hopes of finding truth or beauty, but all in vain, for the essence of obtaining truth relies on the reflections of surreptitious lies.

 

 

Whiteness

Why does one seek to blot out whiteness? Is there something about that portent which is inevitable Fate that proffers us less? Or maybe a person simply prefers to stimulate oneself with the irascible idea that white covered up is no longer white.

So what if it is covered? Does the crescent of a scintillate moon impute that its lunar body has been severed? Of course not! It simply procreates a soporific image that never ceases to seduce us.

Why then does humankind insist on defiling the purity of any and every whiteness? Perhaps because such ambiguity starts a problematic scene within us, how then can we describe white without knowing black? Surely we cannot.

I attest then that such simpleminded mentality prohibits the viewer from understanding the breadth of its meaning. If we immediately scurry to sketch out a profitable suffix for whiteness then we are left without the sublime sentiment. And if certainly left longing for that feeling, we may find ourselves struggling along the waters of this world starving.

Maybe then the solution starts with a single, humble acquiescence. Hence the answer might be as simple as stopping and sleeping.  Not the prodigiously sluggish sort of sleep, but instead the secretly satisfying self-reflection that secretes a sundry of small wonders to us; the kind of slumber that Fate permits a slave to feel sufficiently without sacrifice.

 

Well, after reading these weeks later I realize just how severely convoluted they are. Nevertheless, I believe being given space has provided me with ample resources to analyze the sinews of both writings. The first poem “Beauty and Lies” attempts to elucidate the idea that no one can ever avow to having the true answer to every problem, and demonstrates how some objects in life have no meaning without their contrasted partner. For example, without ugliness there is nothing to judge as beautiful, or with lies there is no way to comprehend what is truth unless we know something can be proven false. This is shown in the third stanza: “Then what is beauty if not ugliness? What is a hen other than a crudely feathered swan that the father of Dawn has forgotten to perfect?”. Another idea suffused throughout the first poem is the notion that a man acting indifferent toward the world is the worst sin imaginable: “Serpents may slither silently and secretly shock the sauntering pedestrian, but the silence of a man’s stoical lifestyle causes more suffering than the greatest sin!”.  The latter poem conceals similar morals.

“Whiteness” drives at what I like to call the one-of-a-kind “human dilemma” that causes individuals at every age to pursue curious, and sometimes cruel, explanations for the unknown. The poem begins with a necessary question: “Why does one seek to blot out whiteness?”. Dropping down to the final stanza this inquiry is answered:

 

 “Maybe then the solution starts with a single, humble acquiescence. Hence the answer might be as simple as stopping and sleeping.  Not the prodigiously sluggish sort of sleep, but instead the secretly satisfying self-reflection that secretes a sundry of small wonders to us; the kind of slumber that Fate permits a slave to feel sufficiently without sacrifice.”

 

In giving ourselves time to relax and alleviate the worries of everyday life, a person can learn to find peace in the grey areas of a complex existence. I decided including a low-key meaning like this would steer my poems toward being sublime because to me sublimity means seeking out answers. The picturesque in a literary and visual sense conveys itself as being subtle, perplexing, and grandiose to me as well. Truthfully I don’t adhere to any of these seemingly ambivalent philosophies, but I do believe asking questions like these can lead someone to a greater understanding of their life. And to me that is the most reliable definition of the sublime and picturesque.