Make Your Wonderland
graphite, ink, digital
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“Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.”
– Austin Kleon
When I was younger I used to collect insects in old jars and candy tins. I’d sit alone somewhere and would make up all sorts of fictional plots, outwardly narrating the happenings and dialogues. It seems like I had no sense of anything back then – I’d talk to myself in public, in crowds, in classrooms, just because it made me happy to use whatever I could find in real life to fuel my stories. I can remember believing in my stories more than I believed in what I could see.
Nowadays I have to be wary of my impulses. Unsavoury experiences, and finding the vocabulary to learn truths I was better off not knowing, have taught me to swallow my spontaneity, because it wasn’t the kind that was necessarily welcomed in the outside world, aka Reality. So I developed a shell, and walls, pushing things into the corners of my mind and installing coping mechanisms to deal with having to sedate the frenzy of impulses caused by the flickers of my imagination.
I dove into books – lined, blank, gridded – for both words and images that would never stop frolicking and floating around the internal mind airs. I started to pick parts of the narratives that would take root in my mind and convert them into drawings, paintings, comics, and what I called Wordy Bits. I became too quiet as a person, and have probably lost a great deal of my personality as I diverted it all into my work, leaving little of it for the public or Reality.
Through Art I was able to deal with everything – to the point where if I wasn’t drawing, I was in trouble. By immersing myself in the creation of images and the collection of words, arranged into shadows of poetry, I was able to play with insects again. And lizards and birds and imaginary beings, to battle with fire, and freeze the world if I wanted to. I could dissect things and put them back together in ways that made sense to me, that made me happy, or that provided satisfactory substitutes for the ‘odd’ impulsive actions and what I kept being told was strange/bad behaviour. I became more myself in and through my drawings than with anything else.
That’s what this comic is about – the Wonderlands you create for yourself so as not to lose yourself and remain lost.
I still don’t know what I’m made of – I have theories, but they fluctuate depending on what drawing or painting medium I’m currently using. I still don’t know who I really am, I guess, apart from my name. And I’ve never learnt how to behave. It didn’t matter, though, that I had to shut a lot of myself up, because now I can spend as long as I need building and discovering myself through each work I make.
Growing up, a lot of people gave me advice that started out with “In the real world…” So here is my advice, to anyone who may find it useful –
In the real world, you may not be lucky enough to find a talking white rabbit in a waistcoat with a pocket watch and still be sober at the same time. In the real world, inspirations and epiphanies aren’t going to boggle your mind with life-changing riddles; they’re the ideas that remain hidden in dusty forgotten corners until you coax them out. You already have them, they’re in you, waiting to be used, so use them. Because in the real world, Wonderlands exist in what you do, and with each work that you make, and the more you make – the closer you’ll get to realising that you’ve been whole all along.
So keep making things.