The dome was about the size of a football field. It was filled with hazy red water. I stood in the center with others like me. We were in what seemed to be old-timey scuba suits.
We couldn’t hear one another, but it was obvious we were all frightened. What was happening? Where were we?
Then, one of spotted the monsters and their face changed to a whole new level of terror. All around the outside of us there were these faceless black forms running circuits – as if on a track. Where their face should have been there was just a gaping maw filled with teeth.
We cowered together. Weighted down by our scuba gear we couldn’t swim and it didn’t matter anyway. Somehow new this dome had no exit.
We waited, always terrified. Over time people’s scuba suits failed and they drowned. Sometimes the monsters circling us would indescribably grab a person and devour them in front of us. Whenever anyone died I always felt the awful emotion of relief, thankful it wasn’t me.
New people appeared, so the tank was never empty, and sometimes they lasted minutes, other days, and still other years. The most horrifying thing about this place is that you never knew how long you had. You didn’t know how you’d go. The only thing you could be certain of, is that you would fall eventually.
I had this dream more than ten years ago and it’s never faded. As I reflect on it today (as I write this) I don’t think it was a biblical hell I was dreaming about, but rather all of humanity’s existence.
Our scuba suits represent out bodies, we don’t know how long they’ll last us. In the grand scheme of things, they could go any moment. The monsters are the perils that could befall us – accidents or to be murdered. We know the dangers exist and are literally all around us as we drive in cars or engage in online dating.
The fact that we can’t communicate with each other, in the suits in the tank, I think represents how lonely we all feel knowing we’re all going to die someday, and are powerless to help save each other from that ultimate fate.
“E.T. Is NOT a bad guy.” my husband says when he arrives home to see me scribbling furiously on the iPad.
“Depends on your politics. For some people all aliens are bad guys.” I reply
“That’s a stretch.” He says.
At the very core of this art series I’m asking ‘what is the nature of villainy?’ Yes, it’s a cheeky style, but there are deep thoughts to be thunk if you dig down enough.
We live in a divisive time and illegal immigrants (or aliens) are, for many folks of the republican persuasion, unwanted and their hardships evoke zero sympathy. But every person is someone’s baby. We all want a better life for our children.
This photo above depicts two humans who died tragically and their illegal “alien“ status does not make, them, or their tragedy less profound.
Not convinced? Consider how we treat the aliens among us? As I drew E.T. I marveled at how his wrinkly skin was so much like an elephant’s.
In most places in the world we no longer have to hunt for food… but now we do it for sport.
Elephants are intelligent animals who mourn their dead, but because we can’t communicate with them they are considered lesser beings.
Most Christian religions claim animals do not have souls. They exist only for our use.
What if the day arrived and we were able to communicate with some of the more intelligent species on our planet? Would they be given rights? How do you imagine they’d feel about humanity?
My first foray into this medium I would say is about 50% successful.
I love how it turned out because the story is personal to me. I was, and remain, a “Daisy Darkling” – a little dark, sometimes misunderstood, but definitely not a villain.
That said, I don’t think this one has a wide ranging appeal that I can sell to publishers. For me to make those kind of efforts I’ll have to come up with something different… a genius tale with tighter illustrations.
When it comes to illustrating books, I didn’t love every moment of it… but I liked well enough to keep working at it for other stories I have simmering.
I’m going to print a copy for my kids, and perhaps one for the Raven Cafe. I’d love for folks to take a look and let me know if I missed any glaring typos before I do…
This story began in 2017 when I happened upon the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale. I, like most of the world, sat spellbound watching this brutal dystopian society’s chilling story delivered, as if through a lens of a Johannes Vermeer’s painting.
I went on to listen to the Audible recording of the book, narrated by Clare Danes. I wondered if I would be disappointed. Ticking off things the series already covered. Perhaps frustrated with the differences. But I was moved by the language the author Margaret Atwood used. It would be elegant almost poetic words smashed against harsh realities of this dystopic society.
Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.
Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaids Tale”
I was enthralled, so I set out to consume all forms. I watched the 1990 movie by the same name. I found it pretty 80s-rific, but I appreciated that they gave it a happy ending.
Somewhere in all this, I was given an old paperback copy by my friend, and co-worker, Carol Mason. Before it was put up safely up on a shelf, my then one-year old teething daughter gnawed on the edge of the book and tore out some pages.
Books are sacred to me, and destroying them is blasphemous. In its current unfortunate condition, I decided to use it in a new art piece that I had percolating in my brain.
Over the course of a year I tore apart the book and dyed pages. Though I hadn’t completely flushed out the composition I knew I needed the various shades of the following colors:
Red: cherry juice, ink and clothing dye
Skin Tones: coffee, marker, clothing dye and bleach
Black: ash, charcoal, ink and marker
It was a process with a learning curve. Once dyed, I had to dry them and keep the flat. Cookie drying racks worked well but they also left lines. As I worked with the various materials, I felt like a witch making magic.
Once the dying was complete the pages did sit around for a bit. As a mom of two little people, the stars had to align for me to make what I lovingly call “messy art”, because I know once I begin I’ll be consumed.
I began in earnest in August of 2018.
As it is with art-making, I was singularly focused once I began, but this particular medium takes time and patience since there are layers of paint, paper and modge-podge. Altogether, I estimate that it took a month to come together.
The dyed pages from the book were especially important to the overall message. It’s a protest piece. Women in Gilead were not allowed to read or write.
It’s composition is deliberately reminiscent of the iconic “Wicked” poster. I wanted to highlight the idea that the words women’s use with each other a double-edged blade. They have the capacity cut deeply, as with gossip, but also have the power to lift women up.
Support from honorable women have made all the difference in my life. My girlfriend JillIan Harmer helped me get out of an abusive relationship. Her friendship made me feel worthy of love and kindness. Another friend, Tara Russel’s influence helped me choose a path of honor when I could have easily chose not to. I wanted to know I deserved her friendship and respect. I wanted to be a better human like her.
I got lucky that these women came into my life when I desperately needed them. They were the voice in my ear, “Nolite Bastardes Carborundum.” Translation: “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
Today, I’m blessed with a wonderful husband, amazing children, a livelihood I love and girlfriends that bring lightness and laughter to my life. I’ve come very far from the broken girl I once was.
The finished piece hangs at the Raven Café and I sell prints of it.
The Book Keeper, in Sarnia, ON, owned by my friend Susan Chamberlain (daughter of my other dear friend, Carol Henry) also stocks prints of “The Handmaids”.
Fast forward to summer 2019 when I see that The Book Keeper is hosting a Margaret Atwood author event. I reserved a ticket post haste and twenty-four hours later it was sold out.
There was discussion that they might sell prints of “The Handmaids” at the event, but ultimately the decision was made that only books should be sold at an “author” event.
Five months later the day of the event arrives, and my Facebook messenger pops up. It’s Susan telling me that she’s going to gift a framed print of my piece to Margaret Atwood after the event and she’s wondering if I would get up and say a few words about it…
I am one of the 75% of the population that has a fear of speaking in public. I am content to sit in the audience and don’t aspire to perform. I appreciate those who can and do. They’re a magical breed. My husband is one those people.
I ask Susan via messenger “How many people will be there?”
Despite my terror, I didn’t take long to agree to do it. It was such an incredible honor to be asked and what an opportunity to share my art with people.
While I’m sure Susan felt like her offer was last minute, it was actually perfect timing. Afterall, it was just going to be a short speech – so I had time to prepare, but not too much time to be nervous and over-think it.
I practiced the speech out loud by myself. I felt ridiculous.
It was at this point I recalled that my husband (one of those magical performing humans) had told me on more than one occasion that he thinks I’d be great on NPR’s “The Moth”. High praise from him. He thinks I can do this.
My girlfriend Gwyn Atkinson-Lewis and I drove over to Sarnia together. On the way, she assured me that I’d do great and said “You deserve this. What an affirmation of your talent.” To which I replied, “Mostly I feel like I’m incredibly fortunate to know Susan and Carol (on so many levels).”
We met up for dinner with our friend Carol. I let them read what I’d prepared and they said it looked good.
Sitting in the front row I thought for sure my mind would be lost in mental preparation, but Margaret Atwood’s wit and sense of humor were such, that I was completely engaged right up until I was called up on stage.
I prefaced my speech with the fact that public speaking was not my thing and that I’d been asked only that morning to speak AFTER Margaret Atwood, so I’d be doing my best…
“I’m from Port Huron (across the river) and as a female citizen of the United States my hope is to inspire women to support each other in these uncertain times that we live in. Women’s rights, much like American democracy as a whole, are at risk of being undermined by the current Trump administration.
The original piece was made from the actual pages of the book “The Handmaid’s Tale”. They were dyed with cherry juice, coffee, charcoal, ash, ink and marker. I considered how the written word had become illegal in Gilead and used it as an ironic medium. I then collaged the pieces together in a composition that, to me, is reminiscent of the iconic promotional poster for the Broadway musical “Wicked”.
My thought is that the words women use with one another are a double-edged blade- they have the ability to cut deeply (such as with gossip) or to lift each other up. When women are oppressed in societies or their freedom threatened, I can see only one way forward for us. We must stand together. Lift each other up. Nolite bastardes carborundurum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
The audience of 700 cheered.
Women stopped me to take pictures with me.
Americans commiserated about the Trump administration.
People told me that I did well up there.
Amidst all that, I asked Margaret Atwood if she’d sign the original for me. She graciously obliged.
It was an incredible night two years in the making.
As if that wasn’t amazing enough, two days later Margaret Atwood shared this photo on her Instagram account.
My recent Bitty Baddy “Rose the Hat” is a return to an old practice of mine. As a kid my favorite people to draw were the ones I read about in my books. The author’s words would paint a picture in my mind and I would go on to draw their characters as I imagined them.
I recently read Doctor Sleep by Stephen King and I was moved by his description of Rose the Hat.
– A cloud of black hair
– A top hat precariously perched on her head in an angle that defies gravity
– Slanted blue eyes
– Pale skin
– Incredible beauty
So here she is as a Bitty Baddy, because even she wasn’t born bad.
Do you know this bad bawd? Back up, do you know what a “bawd” is? It’s a woman in charge of a brothel. A female pimp.
Lydia Quigley is one bad bawd in the Hulu series “Harlots” and the depravities she facilitates are nothing short of monstrous, but before you judge her, consider the following quote from season three…
“My father took my innocence when I was 7 years old. The procession of men began with him. I became what those men made me. A vessel of pain and in response I wrought that pain on everyone who crossed my path.”
Lydia Quigley, Harlots
So here’s my question… Is villainy born of trauma, somehow less evil? Or are bad beginnings no excuse for bad behavior?
I’ve done art shows, and I’ve done craft shows, but comic cons are my favorite because parents get to be kids with their kids!
Side by side, you’ll see offerings that appeal to 5 year olds and 50 year olds. You see parent/kid cosplays. They frolic about with glee as they pass a stall with Pokémon and then one featuring Freddy and Jason. They share stories of their youth as they come across playthings they had when they were a kid.
Tinker Bell has become one of Disney’s most important branding icons for over half a century, and is generally known as “a symbol of ‘the magic of Disney'”.
This is ironic because she’s technically is an attempted murderer. In the beginning of Disney’s Peter Pan she orchestrated a plot to kill a child! Specifically she told the Lost Boys to shoot Wendy out of the sky. Yikes!
Yes, yes, I know she came correct by the end of the movie… sacrificing herself to save a Peter Pan. Does that equate to redemption, I think not.
You see, in modern society, attempted murder carries the same punishment as a completed murder (without the possibility of the death penalty).
This qualifies Tinker Bell as a Bitty Baddy in my book.
Fret not, Tinker Bell lovers, she could probably plead insanity. J.M. Barrie describes the extremes in her personality are due to the fairy’s small size which prevents her from holding more than one feeling at a time, so when she is angry she has no counterbalancing compassion.
I think I started making art as a way of generating a more ideal reality. My childhood was amazing in some ways, traumatic in others.
To me, art is magic.
Recently my aunt sent letters my dad had written her when I was a kid. He died when I was seven, so reading them was more precious than gold.
This part brought tears to my eyes, because I remember these nights.
I keep a journal of my memories of my parents, and other people’s memories of them. My husband thinks I’m super sentimental. I suppose I am, but I think it comes from losing a parent so young – because my sister Sarah is the same way.
This illustration is for us. I know we both wish this memory had been captured.
As an awkward mousy teenager in high school, I was curious about the shiny happy popular girls who always seem to have it together. They had perfect hair, perfect clothes, the perfect boyfriend to go along with their perfect lives.
It was the goth kids I really admired though. I respected their audacity to stand out in high school. To me, who did her best to blend in and disappear, those kids had guts.
My husband, who I did not meet until after high school said he imagined I was a goth girl in high school, and I was, but without the clothes, black makeup or good taste in music.
Horror Hailey is a goth fashion guru. I’m a follower of her Instagram feed. Here she is as a Bitty Baddy.