Yin and yang represent not only positive and negative charges, but also the visible and invisible (represented here as material and spiritual worlds), formed and unformed (wood and stone versus wind and water), closed and open space (temple versus ocean), illumination and darkness, the masculine and the feminine (fisherman and spirits), the dry and the wet, and the warm and the cool (red versus black linework).
To provide some sense of order, the quadrants in the artwork follow the direction of entropy starting from the temple. Moving clockwise, objects depicted are coming to rest more quickly as they release their motion and light (or resistance to them) into the environment. At the heart of the image is the primordial source around which states of movement become states of stillness before starting over as movement again.
Animism, which attributes an essence or life force not only to plants and animals but also stone, water, landforms, weather, deities, and human creations, informs most indigenous cultures’ understanding of the world and considers it impossible to draw pure lines between the sentient, spiritual, and material. The “Starting Point” essays by Miyazaki, the Japanese animation director and founder of Studio Ghibli, led me to conceptually re-explore his film Spirited Away and its emphasis on animistic wonder and respect for one’s surroundings. “Tipping Point” is based off the falling action scene in which Lin looks over her shoulder before rowing back to the bathhouse and it incorporates both compositional and detail references from the film:
○ structural forms of bathhouse and stone shrines
○ choice of flora
○ terraced layout of footpaths and garden
○ varying and supernatural light sources
○ wind as storytelling device
○ natural spring erupting from the bathhouse
○ gateway to Zeniba’s cottage
○ visual reference from Jiufen, Taiwan (landscape)
○ visual reference from Kasuga Shinto Shrine in Japan (architecture)
In Chinese internal alchemy (neidan) “內丹,” a person is seen as a combination of Three Treasures encompassing the body (jing 精), the mind/consciousness (qi 氣), and the spirit (shen 神). Each of them must simultaneously be cultivated and refined in order to access the Tao. Jing focuses on keeping the body nurtured and at ease. Qi has to do with a pure, thoughtless mind and the uninterrupted flow of vitality through the nurtured body. Lastly, Shen, the soul, can recover empty wholeness only once the body and mind have merged.
Brun the fisherman began his journey with a basket of rations, his father’s woven hat, and his cormorant bird, each of which he will have to part with in exchange for his change of heart and awakening of his empathy that characterize the first stage of enlightenment. It happens as an irreversible realization, not a decision, and with it comes the beginning of the erosion of self, despite the structure still wielding some influence. Original motivations, having been altered or removed, are replaced with a loss of direction.
I thought at first that only something extreme would be able to fully convey the entropy, animism, and spiritual sacrifice in this story. Before I began the pencil sketch, I had a dark, compositionally violent concept in mind with a storm and waves tearing through everything with sharp, jarring angles. It was collaborating closely with Louis Jarrold and his song “Last Flight to Beijing'' during my sketching stage that helped me to throw that out and instead focus on better balancing the story. I focused on mirroring his method of building atmosphere from loose narrative ends and intrigue from contrasting emotional tones.
Lastly and most importantly, this story is a concept on gratitude for the family, friends, teachers, students, professionals, and creators who have taught me everything I know about being human through being, not doing. I let this artwork incubate for almost six months on the gratitude I wanted to convey.
Brun is looking back over his shoulder, pulling into the cove at last. He’s trying to get past the current that keeps pulling him backward to sea but his reserves are not enough to get him the last of the way there. Once he has completely depleted himself, the wind comes to pull him in and it’s these last few feet of completely being and giving into someone else’s mercy that teach him more than all the leagues he’s already travelled.
For excerpts, behind-the-scenes videos, and regular sneak peeks from the illustrated parables, visit my Patreon blog at patreon.com/LiannShannon !
Full parables will be available in the published book to be released in 2022!
Pencil: Pilot Multifunction Pen Dr. Grip 4+1, 0.5mm Acro Ink Ballpoint Pen, 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil, Ice Blue (BKHDF1SEF-IL)
iPad: iPad Pro 11-inch 2nd Generation (2017)
Art Glove: dokiwear.com/shop/mazo-black-v1elite
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