Inspiration: The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis

Today I finished the book, The Abolition of Man, which includes three essays by C.S. Lewis. As always, I am delighted and enlightened with Lewis, for his words speak to the human core, and to every man under the sun. He speaks with wit and clarity, and always reaches the heart of the matter in such a way that, to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, their souls are left touched with a great, unspeakable weight and ache, and all the better for it.

Below are some quotes from all three essays, in their order as appears in the short book, and to which encourage you to read them in full, or to, at the very least, take as much away from them as I have. If nothing else, this is a record book to remember what inspired me and enlightened me as I read this book, and, moreover, a reminder of what I already knew, deep within.

“For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defense against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature we will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.” pg. 27, “Men without Chests”

“Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism. I had sooner play cards against a man who was quite skeptical about ethics, but bred to believe that “a gentleman does not cheat,” than against an irreproachable moral philosopher who had been brought up among sharpers.” pg. 35, “Men without Chests”

“The Chest–Magnanimity–Sentiment–these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect his is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal. The operation of The Green Book and its kind is to produce what may be called Men without Chests.” pg. 36, “Men without Chests”

“And all the time–such is the tragi-comedy of our situation–we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more “drive,” or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or “creativity.” In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” pg. 36-37, “Men without Chests”

“Telling us to obey instinct is like telling us to obey “people.” People say different things: so do instincts. […] Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of all the rest.” pg. 49, “The Way”

“The rebellion of new ideologies against the Tao is a rebellion of the branches against the tree: if the rebels could succeed they would find they had destroyed themselves. The human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than of imagining a new primary colour, or, indeed, of creating a new sun and a new sky for it to move in.” pg. 56, “The Way”

“From this point of view, what we call Man’s power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.” pg. 67, “The Abolition of Man”

“For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please.” pg. 70, “The Abolition of Man”

“It is not that they are bad men. They are not men at all. Stepping outside the Tao, they have stepped into the void. Nor are their subjects necessarily unhappy men. They are not men at all: they are artefacts. Man’s final conquest has proved to be the abolition of Man.” pg. 74, “The Abolition of Man”

“My point is that those who stand outside all judgements of value cannot have any ground for preferring one of their own impulses to another except the emotional strength of that impulse.” pg. 75, “The Abolition of Man”

“I am very doubtful whether history shows us one example of a man who, having stepped outside traditional morality and attained power, has used that power benevolently. I am inclined to think that the Conditioners will hate the conditioned.” pg. 75, “The Abolition of Man”

“Their extreme rationalism by “seeing through” all “rational” motives, leaves them creatures of wholly irrational behaviour.” pg. 76, “The Abolition of Man”

“Man’s conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature’s conquest of man.” pg. 76, “The Abolition of Man”

“We reduce things to mere Nature in order that we may “conquer” them. […] The price of conquest is to treat a thing as mere Nature. […] The stars do not become Nature till we can weigh and measure them: the soul does not become Nature till we can psycho-analyse her. The wresting of powers from Nature is also the surrendering of things to Nature. […] But as soon as we take the final step of reducing our own species to the level of mere Nature, the whole process is stultified.” pg. 79, “The Abolition of Man”

“It is the magician’s bargain: give up our soul, get power in return. But once our souls, that is, our selves, have been given up, the power thus conferred will not belong to us. We shall in fact be the slaves and puppets of that to which we have given our souls.” pg. 80, “The Abolition of Man”

“We have been trying, like Lear, to have it both ways: to lay down our human prerogative and yet, at the same time to retain it. It is impossible. Either we are rational spirit obliged for ever to obey the absolute values of the Tao, or else we are mere nature to be kneaded and cut into new shapes for the pleasures of masters who must, by hypothesis, have no motive but their own “natural” impulses. […] A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.” pg. 80-81, “The Abolition of Man”

“There are progressions in which the last step is sui generis–in commensurable with the others–and in which to go the whole way is to undo all the labour of your previous journey.” pg. 86, “The Abolition of Man”

“But you cannot go on “explaining away” for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on “seeing through” things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to “see through” first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To “see through” all things is the same as not to see.” pg. 86-87, “The Abolition of Man.”

Prince Eun-Jung

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The King of the East flicked his eyes to Eun-Jung.

“You know what you must do.”

Eun-Jung stood, flustered, confused, and unsure of what to do or say to such words.

“Brother,” he repeated once more, his voice lower, more desperate, as though repeating it would remind his own brother of his promise, of his duty as the eldest of their family.

The King of the East closed his eyes and sighed deeply but said nothing.

“Brother, you do not mean this. You cannot give me this order! He is our blood! He is our brother!”

The King of the East whipped around, the first time Eun-Jung had seen his brother so outwardly aggressive.

“Do you think I have not weighed this! He has forced my hand—he has given me no choice. Would you rather that I let my people die or become enslaved to his misguided will!” The King of the East’s chest heaved from the power at which his words were delivered, each word filled with pain, but he spoke no further, and his anger was fleeting indeed.

Eun-Jung stepped back, taken aback once more.

“But…brother…what you ask of me…I, I know I am not the wisest at your disposal, nor the strongest, but certainly, you know where my loyalties lie. But this order, how am I to give this to my men, to deliver it before our people? What will they say of this?”

The King of the East had composed himself once more, his out-lash a desperate man who had been within his own council for far too long, hiding from those he wished he could trust but they were not kin—they would not know the true pain of his decision that must be made. He was haggard from the restless nights of constant battles between his head and his heart. If it were just between brothers, his choice would have been different—rather, could have been different, but it was not just his life he had to weigh, not just his concerns and it was this thought that brought the final nail in the coffin.

He saw the look in Eun-Jung’s eyes and knew that within was the same debate, though his words belied a different stance; no, it was a plea; one last desperate effort to keep things as they were, bad as it was, but they both knew that because of their youngest brother’s decision—this was impossible.

He knew Eun-Jung was the most compassionate out of all of them, the most outwardly affected by the arguments that went on between his youngest brother and he, the King of the East. He knew Eun-Jung suffered the most, for if he could not even make peace between his two brothers, how could he, then, make peace with anyone else? But the King of the East knew also, that out of the three of them, it was Eun-Jung that their youngest brother would listen to most, find no fault in his person, for it was not from his shadow he hid within, and because of this, he saw their middle brother as a man—not an ideal. Not a legend.

It was why he ordered this, not as a brother, but as a King. If his youngest brother was to hate anyone—it should be him; if he was to continue this war—it would be with the King of the East—not with his brothers.

He sighed once more and began slowly stepping down each step that kept the two of them from even ground.

“They will say outwardly—‘Our King is wise still, he has done what is right.’ What they say in their hearts, I know not, but it is for them that I do this, regardless of what rumors, scorn, or praise I will get from my choice. You must understand, brother, that I cannot think only of my family—for are my people not my family as well? Do I not protect them, and do they not, in return, protect me? What my youngest brother lashes out at is me, as a King, and thus, my response must be as a King. Do you not see this? He does not see me as his kin—no more than you consider him your enemy. I mourn for you, my brother, for here you stand—in the middle, as you have always been, have always had to be. I hope one day I cannot use you this way, but this is the King’s order—it is my decree and I shall say it again—banish our brother from my lands.

He has hurt my people, and has tried to make a mockery of my rule for his petty reasons that if he had but kept them between us, could have been treated as they were—of a young boy lashing out at shadows. But he is a boy no longer, and he has played with things he does not yet realize the full consequences of—and for this, he must take responsibility, as an adult, and as a man.”

At last they stood face-to-face, his middle brother taller than him by a few inches, but still they stood eye-to-eye: brother-to-brother.

“You must understand this. What malice I have is not for my brother, but for those that have continued to corrupt him, weakening what little he thought of me as his brother, as a companion, not as an enemy. He has suffocated under my shadow, and if this is the way I can free him, to protect him, even if it is to the wolves he goes, then this is it. This is all I can do as brother, the rest must be as King.”

Eun-Jung’s shoulders sagged, the clear devastated understanding welling up in his eyes before he closed them, hiding his emotions. When at last he opened them, his eyes were no longer the brother concerned for brother, but rather the eyes of the General of the Special Ops, whom he, the King of the East, trusted to be his greatest protection and eyes in his lands.

His brother knelt in front of him and bowed his head.

“As the King commands, thus shall I answer.” He whispered, “For brother.”

The King of the East looked down at his brother and smiled sadly, his eyes full of the emotions he could not voice as King.

“Go then, with all that you have within you as brother and as my General—go and do what must be done.”

Without another moment, his brother disappeared from his sight. Eun-Jung had said that he was not the strongest of his men, but this was untrue, yet, as always, his brother denied any glory for himself. Sometimes the King of the East wondered if things would have been different had Eun-Jung been King rather than he. He wondered if this would have even happened, if this pain would have been avoided.

But the King of the East banished those thoughts quickly, what could have been was not his to dwell.

The King of the East stood staring where his brother had once been and mourned that he could not be brother only—that he was, in some respects, what his youngest brother believed—a cold ideal.

Full image. Tools: Faber Castell Colored pencil

Writing Schedule

Due to mourning the loss of regular updates here, I am creating a schedule to post once a week on my blog, be it regarding my thoughts, art, or what have you. The exact day and time is still to be determined as I must figure out the best time given my work schedule.

Anything extra I post will not be considered part of the weekly, regular installment, but rather, an addition to that week’s usual posting. Thus, I hope to bring content here consistently, and regularly.

I will update everyone with more information when I have planned out my schedule (I hope to eventually switch it up weekly from writing, art, inspirations, and to poetry). Also, I will be making some new pages (and editing old ones) soon. More on that to come.

Until next time, I wish everyone a fond farewell.

How to Develop “Style” (Q&A)

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At Instagram I was asked a lovely question on one of my sketches which went like this: “Odd question, but how did you develop your style? I’d love to see the comparison of some of your old works to current style.” (via shelbyanna16 @Instagram)

As always, I am amazed when anyone finds anything I do interesting enough to even ask questions of it, about it, or of its development into its current state. It is a humbling experience and one which brings me great joy.

I was asked a similar question via my, of which some I will incorporate here, as my feelings are no different, though I will go in a bit more detail here than there.

With that, let’s get talking about style! *wiggles fingers dramatically*

First off, your question is not odd Shelby. All questions are welcome in this very broad and often strange, place that is the art community. From professionals to amateurs, art develops differently for different people. Even people with similar styles do not come to them the same way, nor have gone through the exact same experiences to bring them to their current state. This is important to remember.

Style, in its loosest sense, is as diverse as the people under heaven. We are each unique even in our sameness, and for each man or woman who speaks with a similar voice, there comes a slightly different cadence, a change in key, or a new perspective. Style is the art version of voice for writers. How you write, how you speak on paper, is just as much an indication of your personality, or goals, as is your style.

Style is a broad subject to which few know how to define, or seek to define it. Some consider it but an expression of self, others something taught with time, some even consider it a non-existent. But these, too, are broad expressions of a term few have ever defined clearly, but to which every artist, or non-artist, uses on a regular basis. For something so basic you would think we would know what it truly means, but that is the thing with common vernacular–it at times get so generalized we all use it because other people use it without truly figuring out why we would use it personally.

Though I will not solve this dilemma now and but add a new voice to the cacophony, to me, style is a mixture of multitudes–it is apart of you, but outside of you. Your style changes as you do, or, I believe, it should. My artwork of yesteryear is not the same as today, in this moment–and that is good, for this is growth. As we develop as people–so too should our art–and this includes style. Many claim that style should set you apart, make you distinct, a brand, if you will. And while this is a good thing to consider, it is this advice that often makes new artists feel bogged down. How can one “make” a style that is distinct if they don’t even know where to begin? Or better yet, should we really focus on style at all?

I believe we shouldn’t. And here’s why–style should come to you from practice, study, and observation. If you do not like how you draw noses, you should be allowed to change it–not be stuck to one style because somehow it is “distinctive.” And what does that mean? Does that mean we make weird stick people? Do we shade in strange ways? Do we somehow go so realistic it is “distinct?” Is it mark-making? Is it something more simple, broad?

Developing “style” should never be a process to which we focus so fully on we lose the point–to connect to our viewers, to express the world through new eyes, to show the world as it is in ways that are akin to metaphor. Art is metaphor in its best self. It is something to which we see to look beyond it to something greater. It is not the sum of its parts–art should not remain stagnant. And your message should always be greater than what your style is. Because as you find what you wish to say–your style comes with it.

When you practice, you gain experience, and you garner good tools to continue to experiment, and stretch your muscles. Style should never be the thing we seek to develop but to allow it to instinctively come to us as our art tells us we should change. As we grow as people, as individuals, we should let out style change itself as easily, as powerfully.

Yes, I do believe there is a need for conscious effort to develop the “voice” we wish to develop with our art, but I also believe that the worst thing I could ever say is to focus solely on style, because in the end, if you are true to yourself, to developing, to grow, then developing a style is side-effect of such efforts.

Some artists believed that to find the image was the most important thing, to constantly work their pieces until there came a thing amidst the scribbles and circles. And there he hoped to find what he was looking for. We must find our image, and if that means practicing our shapes, our shading, our colors–then we should. Style should never be a thing forced, but a thing found. It should be an extension of yourself, a true thing, not a falsity. Do not hide behind what you believe is “liked” by others but be true to what is honestly you–to what you either wish to aspire to or to which you believe expresses the messages and meanings you believe are paramount to your work.

A horrible mistake to make is to not let your art speak for itself. If you control it too much you lose the beauty of spontaneity. You lose the honest work of finding your voice and letting your art speak to you as it may speak to others. If you are deaf to even what your work says about you then you have failed on the basic of levels.

In the simplest of terms–as I change inspirations, as I garner new experiences, methods, then I gain more information to work with, to experiment with, to play with. And as I gain more information, as I change interests, my artwork gains nuances, and as the layers cake over I gain something–new perspective, and new growth. This is style at its finest. Style is never a step by step process of point A to point B but rather as a grand adventure that you yourself embark on in this thing called life.

Walk your path, take steps forward, and grow.

The more I have come to listen–then more I have come to learn. And developing my style I feel is an act of growth and maturity. My style has come from all my past selves, and is a fulfillment of their wish, if minuscule, to be wholly myself and to never settle for stagnation.

The short answer: I studied others, sought out my own voice, dwelled on what I wished my work to become, and I sat down–and got to work. Practice might not make perfect, but it certainly comes close. And the comfort in all this: I am in the making. And to grow is the greatest achievement I can say my style has ever developed.

You are in the making, remember this. You are not fully made yet, and as you grow–you gain wisdom, you gain perspective. And if you are wise, your art will grow with you. Your personal life and your art life are woven together–do not neglect one for the other. As you draw or paint you gain perspective–find answers you never sought, hear questions you never thought you asked, and as you read, walk through life, talk to others, you find inspiration, definitions to terms you longed used but hardly knew.

I apologize if this is not the answer you sought, a step by step guide to gaining a style similar to mine, or some other thing, but this is the truth of the matter–as I have grown, changed, then my art grew with me, and as I have honed in on what I want–my art has reflected this.

That said, if you wish for a list of inspirations, pointers, or other odds and ends then I am more than happy to oblige, as these too added to my growth and “style,” no doubt. But remember–style should never be the first question, it should be the fulfillment of your pursuits and good mark-making.

Get your hands dirty, dig down deep, and find what you have found important to say, to remind, to recall. And you will find your voice, your style, within it. Let it speak back to you through the echoes of your mind, and you may find that style was never really the goal–but its treasured side-effect.

For funsies, here are some years of progress shots from 2013 to now. (Only a few–I have uploaded multiple ones for this year for more fun-times).

Snow Elf (Wip)

Snow Elf WIP01

Digital work in progress of a character profile sketch test. I wanted to change up how I painted, at least, character profiles. Might throw in some more painterly goodness but for now this is on its way to being something I may actually like that came from my tablet.