It was a normal afternoon. I was in my car, on my daily commute home, half listening to NPR, half day dreaming, trying to keep my mind off of the building traffic.
Suddenly, something caught my attention on the radio. A story was being covered about an artist who was punished for drawing a political cartoon. His punishment was beyond my comprehension. They cut off his hands.
A simple drawing, a few lines of text, being bold enough to express your opinion, and losing your livelihood as a result. Stories like this make me appreciate the country I live in. While we have our own political issues, and while the constant rantings of those with views opposed to my own wear me down, it is their right to express their thoughts and opinions. Instead of listening to their right to speak, I will exercise my right to not listen, change the channel, mute the sound, or walk away. He expressed his basic human right to share his thoughts and opinions, yet he was punished.
He lost his hands.
As an artist it is difficult for me to comprehend the position this person was forced into. I can imagine his moment of inspiration and the risk taking I admire so much in others. I bet he felt motivated to try and create change in an environment that desperately needs it. Instead, he became a passing tale, one of thousands, in one ear out the other, a continuation of a horrific true story.
I hope his action and the reaction will not be in vain. Years after the “event” it still seems as though change will never come to certain areas. However, it may take a thousand more stories like his to force equality, freedom of expression, and a new power. His story may not have directly impacted his government at this point, but it directly impacted me. It will continue to impact my world view and appreciation of my gift of art and ability to use my hands.
Perhaps I will never have the courage he had. I don’t know if I could risk my passion for the possibility of change. All I know for sure is without my hands I would be lost.
- Visual journal
- Rubber cement
- Sharpie (multiple colors)
- Book pages
While planning out this visual journal page, I first decided I wanted it to look like I was bleeding art and I wanted a stark contrast between my hands and the “blood.” I decided the best way to create that contrast was to use a combination of pencil and sharpie, realism and a pop art feel.
I began the visual journal page by sketching out my hands. Once I felt good about the outline, I began shading them in. I used a standard pencil, and a blending stump to create a smooth blended texture. As I blended the pencil lead into the highlights, I continued to go back and punch up the shadows, to prevent the hands from looking like a single shade of gray. Looking back, I could push the highlights and shadows more. If you include pencil drawings, prevent smearing by spraying the page with fixative once you are finished.
Once the hands were complete, I added the sharpie. I started at the wrists, making it look like they were splitting apart, separating my hands from my arms. I bleed the sharpie into the background using exaggerated drop designs and swirls, and filling them in with color. I went straight into the background with the sharpie with a loose plan. I wanted it to look more spontaneous than planned out.
To finish the page I wrote the words on a separate, torn out book page. I cut the words out, and placed one per finger on the page. Interested in teaching visual journals to your students? Check out my visual journal lesson plan here and bundle pack here.
Create a visual journal page using a combination of pencil and sharpie to create contrast. Try to find a balance between the two materials, you don’t want the sharpie to overpower the pencil.
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