White Paper Syndrome

Well, it happened. I lost the war with my blank slate today.

I had some ideas, but I couldn’t get them on paper to my satisfaction. My train of thought had been in the direction of trying to visually depict mental states. I didn’t seem to have problems with sleep, dreaming or thought (see my Sleep, Day Dreaming and Thought posts of the past few days). Today I wanted to tackle fear. Perhaps the Fritz Lang movie I was watching, Ministry of Fear influenced my process, perhaps I thought fear would be easy to draw. No matter.

These preliminary sketches show my thinking process:

Sketch: Elephants in Fear

Fear Practice
9×12″ Sketch Paper

The bottom figure of the elephant with the trunk uplifted and mouth agape, was supposed to be a fearful reaction to a mouse, seen below and to the left. (In the sketch above, I stole the elephant’s eye representation from one of Paul Klee’s sketches. It seemed to fit).

If I were just displaying my watercolor as artwork, I certainly wouldn’t display the study below. But, as it illustrates what I was trying to do, I suppose I have to show it.

Watercolor: Elephant in Fear

Elephant in Fear
9×12″ Watercolor

The general idea was to have cold waves of blue emanating from a mouse (that blank lump underneath the first blue stripe at the bottom of the composition).  I wanted these waves of fear to wash over the terrified elephant, which I had planned to color with warm or hot colors. It just didn’t work and I could not find a way to fix it.  I was so disgusted that I even squeezed out my teabag where the eye was supposed to be.

Why didn’t it work?

I’ve been thinking about this all day. Not the reasons for my visual failure, but problems I have in general with depicting inner states.

My history

I have tried for a long time to figure out the inner mental state of my older brother, Mike. Mike is autistic, low functioning and has never spoken.  To this day, I don’t know if he knows who I am. On only two occasions has he given me any indication that I was different than anyone else (see First Visit and Backstory – Visit to Mike’s School). Of course it could be me, there’s no denying that. But I don’t think so.

Previous attempts

Being trained as an engineer, my inquiries about expression began in the scientific arena. As far back as the 1870s Charles Darwin wrote about expressions in animals (The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals) and speculated about universal applicability of certain facial postures. The television show Lie to Me, brought that speculation up to date by dramatizing the work of Paul Ekman, who furthered Darwin’s theories. Other posts I have written with the hope of gaining some understanding expression of inner states range from exploring scientific reasons for the existence of expressions to looking at how artists translate inner expression to the outer world. They include: Neural Factors and Expression; Expressionism and Small Format; Emotion and Expression Part 1; Emotion and Expression Part 2; Micro Expressions; Expression and Space; Unintentional Expressionism; From Photograph to Abstract Expressionism; Autism Siblings and Expression.

I didn’t expect this post to be a listing of my attempts to understand my autistic brother’s inner states. I suppose it could have contributed to my painter’s block. I don’t know how much it did, but since it rose to my consciousness, I assume there must be a connection on some level.

As I mentioned above, there were only two times I remember Mike reacting to me differently than anyone else. Both times he was crying. Perhaps there were others I missed. That makes me very sad.

One thought on “White Paper Syndrome

  1. Pingback: White Paper Syndrome | animesfreedom

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