There is so much going on right now. As newly weds we are having a bit of our downs with the relentless work ,and keeping time to be together. But lately, I’ve discovered something that always seems to get my week started right: Watercolors.
Here and there I’ve started to carry a new sketchbook with thick paper around (a gift from my wonderful husband) and making sketches when I can in between grabbing a bite to eat and sitting in at meetings. Vida came to my mind the other day; she is a grey ghost I wish to never rid myself of, and I made this as a sketch.
After finishing my shit a few hours ago, I cleaned my desk clean and started to paint. Now I’m sharing her with the rest of you lovely people. She is currently my Rorschach, my meditation that this is a beautiful story to be told.
Thank you for being a part of my week everyone! I hope this brings you cheer as it did me at the end of my week. (In the case of most of you, a great way to begin yours)
I was raised to believe in God. My father was Catholic, my mother was Protestant. It was a very confusing childhood. On TV, evolution was taught to be the factual truth, while every city my family brought me to had an a occult to follow. Buddhism was soothing, while Taoism was economical, the Jewish were rich, while the Hindi were loving – so many faiths surrounded me, and it seemed we all had a problem with our parents thrusting their preferred beliefs on their children, as if we were compensating for their doubt in being in the wrong religion.
Placed in private school since kindergarten, I’ve dealt with the overzealous “I am holier than thou” Christians to the creepy bible thumpers who troll you online. But going to Village Christian High at the turn of the century, I met a completely different religion – one that didn’t need a faith. They called themselves Atheists. Much like most kids, they had problems with their parents too, but unlike us they’re parents put them through therapy. Rather than demon possession or accusations of ungodly sins, these kids were blamed for having personal problems with themselves – relieving their parents from the responsibility of actual parenting. When religious parents needed this same fix, they would turn to priests, pastors, rabbis, and monks. We would say that there was a reason for the problem, much like a Therapist, and give a verbal remedy, much like Psychologists. The only funny thing that differentiated us though were the drugs. When we were told to pray, these kids would come to class with a pill to make them happy: anti-depressants. In a way, this made me jealous. On the other hand, it made me reconsider religion. The point is, I started to think about enduring the living, rather than fearing death.
I mean, put yourself in the shoes of a Psychiatrist. Now imagine what would happen when your client was the devil himself. Can you imagine how hard it must be to tell Satan that Hell isn’t bad, and that God made a mistake? That’s how I felt about my experience with Atheists, and the Christians who then turned Agnostic after these Atheists moved into our school. I don’t know who’s bright idea it was to mix these kids in with guilt-convicting self-righteous Jesus freaks without learning or living as one, but thanks to it, I began to ask better questions than “What does God sound like?”
So then, I began to write personal sessions by myself, and would talk to everyone about believing in an invisible Deity and their purpose in life. Its incredible how many people couldn’t live with themselves, and how the practice of worship and fellowship is universal in being human. Even knowing a certain movie with a certain clique gave people a peace of mind. It felt as though anything could be a religion. And during my high school years, I felt that mine was writing. And so I wrote.
The pages of self reflection I collected in my journal turned into a script, and soon I turned it into a character. In mafia movies, they would turn to the Church for forgiveness, but in this case, I had the Black Shade turn to Dr. Gentry – an ex-exorcist turned paranormal therapist. At first, the character was just a side role for the Black Shade to develop through the story, but after a few short stories and a couple of Plays, Dr. Gentry grew into the keystone of the whole story. The more we wrote, the larger our cast of characters grew, and when each character became a complex creature, the main person to tame these beasts became the modern soothsayer: Dr. Gentry.
Once upon a time, I was young. I was in high school, and I was bored. The Matrix came out for the first time, and I was doodling, as I used to always doodle – in class, hardly hearing the teacher lecture, and hardly taking notes. I hardly believe I passed the test the week after that day, but I at least remember this: slim dark sunglasses, a long khaki trench coat, and an asymmetrical blonde haircut, swaying by the wind – standing straight towards the artist (in this case, me).
The sketch was done in a number two pencil. It was filled with wrinkles and shading, his expression was stoic, and while the rest of the page was blank white, the solemn character gave an atmosphere of anticipation. It was as if he was waiting for someone, it could’ve been God or Godot, it didn’t matter – he was waiting. And as I continue to stare at my creation, it was as if he was speaking to me somehow. It felt a little delusional and narcistic, but I wanted to use him as my self portrait, an anthropomorphic spirit of my angst. It wouldn’t have been the first time I had done this, I mean, when I was in my junior high years, I had a cartoon Shaolin Monk to be my deamon, and when I was a child, I would make Dark Wing Duck my superhero name. So it felt too natural to continue this habit.
I wish I could say he was my imaginary friend. I personally think it would’ve been awesome to have my own Chuck Norris to help me climb a rope during P.E. But alas, he was just it. So, I named it Black Shade.
I began to draw Black Shade as an Action hero, jumping buildings, doing gun ballets, and blowing things up, like a good American badass should. I began reading comic books and trying out different styles of art, attempting Miller’s Daredevil and manga toning. Without a computer, I tried it all by hand and blade – purchasing sticker tones from downtown, while inking with my 1.0 ballpoint pen. It was old school. At the time, only half of the U.S. population owned a computer, and even less had internet. I personally had a 56k modem, using a backdoor hack code through my landline phone service to connect to the web. It wasn’t the easiest thing to work with, but what I had was what I had. While my friends were gaming FPS style on their T3 modems, I was creating half my tones on MS Paint – digitizing my pages with my cousin’s scanner. God, it was tedious. I envy the children of today. An iPad could finish ten of the pages in a day that I would’ve labored over in a week or two. And without a job, my funds ran out quick, and sadly, my project dwindled into mere sketches.
It wasn’t long until I removed myself from the dream of becoming a comic book artist, and began to try my hand at writing a novel. Needless to say, I could never get past page 18, and I jumped quickly into screenwriting, thanks to the popularity of Sundance. The pages piled, and old folders got fatter with my portfolio, and soon I reserved an old backpack to be my vault. Black Shade had a better yearbook than me, when high school ended.
And since, the character has been with me for about twenty years. From surreal short stories, to the dark fantasies of Project Italy, Black Shade has been my own personal hero. The immortal of Fate Pendulum.