Ever since I was old enough to really understand the concept of failure, two truths I’ve always had to accept about myself, is that with the exception of some minor singing ability in my youth that has long since disappeared, I have never been possessed of either musical, or artistic talent. The really terrible aspect of both these truths is that I have instead been possessed with an absolutely incredible desire, and almost unbearable longing to engage in, and excel at, either or both of these arts. There has never been a time in my life when music and art haven’t been two of the most important things in my entire life, right up there with writing and spirituality, the only difference being that with spirituality and writing, I at least have some degree of successful lifetime experience. With music and art, on the other hand, it seems that no amount of diligent effort, or practice, or prayer, can ever overcome the absolute inability with which I am completely suffused in both of these areas. That all changed at a certain level when I, and the rest of the world with me, were introduced to a rather new concept and invention called “The Personal Computer”.
“The pain in one’s soul brought on by this excruciating inability to express oneself in a form that others might be able to apprehend, and appreciate.”
Having been a faithful user of the humble computer since it’s originally innocuous inception all those many fleeting years ago, I have been fortunate to be in the front row so-to-speak to witness the arrival and continued development of the various computer art programs. As first the simpler versions, and then their more complex descendants arrived, each one touting more bells and whistles than the version previous, and with each one being accompanied by better, and more complete help files, I started to see a glimmer of hope for even a non-artist such as myself, to yet find a way to partake in the creation of a beautiful piece of art. And I can’t even explain to you how my heart soared. Unless you have shared with myself, and so many others, the desire to create a thing of lasting beauty, a piece of your heart, or your mind, made visible and solid, for others to share, possibly to admire, perhaps only to critique, but mostly just to witness, and unless you have had the ability to do this taken away from you, or never had such an ability in the first place, you can never know, and I could never explain, the sheer, relentless agony that this can cause an individual. The pain in one’s soul brought on by this excruciating inability to express oneself in a form that others might be able to apprehend, and appreciate.
In the end I used very few tools from the art program that I finally settled on as my mechanism of choice. Any one of countless other art programs would just as easily have provided me with the equipment I needed, and for that matter, there’s even a small possibility that now having the methodology down pat, I might be able to pull a picture off without using the computer at all, but I haven’t tried it, so I certainly can’t guarantee that. For the record, the program I did use for the picture I’m going to be showing you was Paint.net, which is a free program that you can download from the Internet. I got my copy from CNet Downloads, which is where I get most of my free downloads because I don’t have too much trouble with the programs I get there ever having problems with viruses, which is a huge plus.
Remembering that I really have no ability to draw whatsoever, and keeping in mind that everything I have ever drawn has had to be done in some bizarre fashion, I do want to assure you it is never traced; in the end, good, bad, or terrible, I do draw it. So for this particular drawing, I wanted to try an old method I had seen of teaching a person to draw who like myself, had little or no talent. The idea was to take a photograph, and to initially draw a grid of small squares across the face of the photograph. The size of the squares was determined by the person who was going to attempt the drawing and how comfortable they were with squares of various sizes. Next, a grid was drawn on a piece of paper equivalent to the size that the would-be artist wished to reproduce the photographic image at. If they wished to draw a picture smaller than the original, than the second grid would be made up of the same number of squares as those that covered the photograph, but the squares would be correspondingly smaller, and the squares would be larger if the person drawing the picture wished to draw an image larger than the original. I always made it a point not to make the image the same size as the original, since I discovered on the only occasion that I did do that, that too many people thought I had traced it. So once I had the method down pat, I had only to find a suitable subject, and for that I looked no further than the cover of an old National Geographic Magazine that I had lying around which itself was to become a very famous piece of art in later years, although it had not yet reached that icon-type status when I first decided to copy it.
“…It was the first time she had ever been photographed, and the next time would be 17 years later, by the same photographer,…”
The young lady’s name is Sharbat Gula, and it was in 1984 that photographer Steve McCurry shot the picture that was to grace a 1985 issue of National Geographic. It was the first time she had ever been photographed, and the next time would be 17 years later, by the same photographer, who went back to find out what had become of her, because the world wanted to know. She has grown into a beautiful woman, and her eyes are still just as captivating as they were the day they caught me when I was looking for a subject to try out my new drawing technique on. When I say that all this happened before this cover became as famous as it has now become, just think, I drew a grid on top of that image in black felt pen. At any rate, like so many others, those eyes just grabbed me. I had close to 150 National Geographic Covers that I could have selected from, and out of all of them, I saw those eyes, and I was hooked. Sharbat Gula would be my subject.
So I have what follows available to show you simply because I had the foresight to keep intermittent records of the drawing at various stages in the process. I’m very glad that I chose at that time to do that, but I’m also very sad that I only maintained that procedure for two of the various images I’ve done since. With a certain amount of improvement showing along the way, I find it somewhat unfortunate that the only two I have these kind of records for, are the first two that I ever did. But whatever, I do have them for this one, and the only other thing I need to cover before I show you the results of my little experiment is to explain why the order of picture development may appear quite radical to some people. I think its because I can’t draw.
What I mean is that I’m not so much reproducing a picture of a person that I’m looking at, as I am copying a bunch of intricate shapes, some here, some there, as they catch my eye, just having a certain amount of faith that when there are no more empty spaces to fill in with these shapes and designs, that they will have coalesced into an image. Some of the squares, and that is what I’m looking at when I’m doing these drawings, have shapes within them that are much easier to reproduce, or even see, if the designs in the surrounding squares are already completed. It should also be remembered that I’m not drawing on paper, but on the computer screen using a mouse for a pen, and I make considerable use of the ability it provides me with, to magnify the area I’m working on even to the point of pixel-by-pixel manipulation. So if I draw an eye, there is nothing compelling me to proceed directly on into the nose, or the forehead, and as a result, the flow of the drawing stages appears to be quite broken, but I assure you, the picture developed in the order that the pictures are shown in the picture grid below. For those of you that may not be that familiar with the art programs available for computer use, who may be wondering why they’re not seeing any of the squares that I’ve been speaking about showing up in the various stages that are shown in the images below, it is because I use a feature known as “layers”, which simply means that the squares are drawn on a layer of their own, and when I want to see how the picture is progressing, I can turn off the layer with the squares, and only the picture that I have drawn so far is left visible on the screen. When I am ready to continue, I turn the correct layer back on, and I once more have my grid to work with. So with one more simple reminder that I truly have no real artistic ability at all, let’s take a look at my attempt to create something that I could at least attempt to call,
O.k., so I’m not Rembrandt, or Raphael, or even Bob from down the block, but in some crazy way, these simple drawings served to relieve at least some of those unfulfilled desires to create something of lasting beauty. Something I could point at from time to time, and say, “I drew that”. If there is anything wrong with that, then I’ll learn to live with it, but as far as I’m concerned, everybody needs to feel like they’ve added a little something to this world that in some way will help to bring a balance against all the nastiness, and difficulty, the trouble, and the downright evil that plagues this world day by day, moment by moment. So plant a flower, kiss a friend, donate a dollar, or draw a bunch of squares on a picture and try and copy it on your computer screen. You never know, it just might make you feel better (unless you misunderstood what I just said and you drew a bunch of squares on your computer screen, in which case you probably need to go find a bottle of Windex).
One final note of interest, when I mentioned that Mr. Steve McCurry hunted down Sharbat 17 years after the original photo was taken, I failed to inform you of the fact that there is a wonderful comparison picture of the young lady that you can view here. Also interesting to note is that Sharbat is Pashtun, which is the most warlike of the Afghan tribes, a girl who grew into a young woman who once said that life under the Taliban was better than without the Taliban because at least with the Taliban, there was order that was maintained. The comment affirmed my earlier belief that this woman was much more than “just a pretty face”. But at any rate, its time for me to get out of here, so I hope you enjoyed the visit, please stay safe, and healthy; we’ll be seeing you soon. Until then…