Saturday, April 28, 2012


When this image was created I felt compelled to write the accompanying verse:

"When past fulfillments meet future expectations in the realm of possibility.
Hidden from the Eye of Mass things are formed, never born. Crippled monuments, fossilized achievements, eroded wonders unseen, unexpected. Cry for the loss, you child of Mass, weep for the wonders long destroyed. No vestige left unvandalized, no creation left unburied. From the vantage of their handiwork they watch, waiting for the time of stifling."
Overlooked: 13 November 2005 
This piece and the accompanying verse lament the loss of potential. When creating something new many forces work against it's existence, any birth tends to be difficult, but with creative work it is almost impossible to do something unique and original in the commercial industry. Mass simply means the mass audience, and the vandals are the non-creative executives who intercept the creative process, and in the process their ego and inability to get out of the way kills the project. Beyond this, there seems to be forces at work in the world to limit people and dumb them down, for someone like me who hopes to uplift and inspire my fellow humans. I hope to encourage a young person to draw and discover their own creativity, many others would rather see them pick up a gun and shoot another young person. I swim against the tide and I almost drowned. I stopped fighting and gave in to depression.

In 2010 while packing to leave America this piece took hold of me. It captured exactly how I felt about my experiences in Hollywood and summarized the reason I was struggling through a years of depression after I drew it. I realized that, in my later career, I had been consistently shunted aside. I gave my all and put production companies on the map, I won them Emmys, they made millions of dollars, only to be pushed out of the way when things were doing well. The overwhelming sense of being unappreciated, and relentlessly limited by non-artists, yet having endless creativity to express was at the root of my depression. I had to face the reality that I would never be able to show an audience what I could do without restraints, I had been passed over and overlooked. I realized that the world would miss out.

The meaning of this Subtoon is mostly clear thanks to the verse. However I needed to understand why my Hollywood career was a constant process of being shunting aside for others to take the glory. Through much meditation it was revealed that I was simply being kept safe and out of harms way. If I seem to be of no value the savagers will ignore me and look for more lucrative prey. I was to skulk quietly through the back exit and hide out in exile on the island nation of Australia. Here, in the sidelines out of harms way, I can refocus on my true artistic expression.

Overlooked contains recurring themes, birth themes are common in my Subtoons sometimes with a developing fetus. Petrified versions of the same fetuses lie embedded in the blue rocks. Another recurring motif is the flame peacock feathers on the lower part of the orange figure have appeared before. Mysteries yet to be solved.

As with all Subtoons this image has been perpetually instructive to me as layers of understanding are revealed throughout the years. It holds a reminder that what I perceive to be happening around me is playing out my inner state of being. What I had neglected to do in my analysis of this piece was remember that this all me. The maternal creature, it's fetus and the five slaughterers waiting to dissect the offspring like whalers on a butcher boat are all aspects of my own make up.

I then realized that this image has two halves, a masculine blue right side and an orange maternal left side. Illustrating my male and female internal struggle. The wall on the right side looks like it is grasping, closing in on the feminine. I counted the red arrows around the "mother's" halo I got eleven, it reminded me of a clock face so I wondered if the missing 12th position on the clock was where the mother sits. She is facing to the left, so maybe she is progressing through the cycle, clockwise. I figured that "1" would begin with the bigger arrows so I started at the top, which places her at the position of "6" on the wheel. I considered that the smaller arrows have yet to be experienced. If we were talking months it would be June. Nothing rings any bells there. So I looked at the Zodiac it's in the position of Virgo, the virgin, bingo! The accepted key phrase for Virgo is "I analyze" and that's just what I intend to do. I'm not Catholic, and don't identify with their iconography or care about the cultural obsession the world has with womens' virginity, but the Madonna and Child does come to mind when looking at the image. So why is the "mother" a pregnant virgin? Perhaps because this isn't about anything physical, this is about the male and female principals within me, so the conception and birth (should it occur) will be an internal process. What this birth signifies is still unknown to me.

In a recent meditation I saw this image and was reminded of my tendency to be overly critical, ripping the world apart from the safe vantage of my self inflated egotistical superiority. Just like the savagers in the image. I am well aware that these hard opinions calcify and form a rigid outlook, a habit I picked up from my father, it's not his fault, it's something I was obviously prone to do. Would it surprise you to discover that my father and I both have kidney stones? And yes the image alludes to that as well. Without being too visceral, notice that the maternal and very wrinkly creature has a strangely flat snubbed looking head, possibly penile. There seems to be two "pregnancies", the open one, that looks like an eye and a closed one. The left bulge, as expected, is lower than the right. Testicles?  Are those flames of pain underneath? On the blue side, see that strange pale path flowing horizontally half way up the wave wall, it has little spikes along it. Anyone who has had the pleasure of passing a stone will understand you feel every point at which the spiky stone gets stuck. And look! More stone babies are on the way! Yay!

The instruction I take from this is that hard critical attitudes can eventually manifest in sickness, the cure to kidney stones is simply to drink more water and cut back on certain foods. The life lesson is to become more fluid, liquid, flexible. Opinions come and opinions go, being overly critical really only hurts myself, relax and let things pass. Pun intended. ;D

Sunday, June 19, 2011

ARTOPIA: the living gift

I did this image during a Subtooning session in Queensland Australia, participating were two artists who were employed by my Australian company. The artists had hit a stylistic rut. They were very good at what they did, but discovered that they were repeating themselves. Frustrated, they asked me how to break through and gain access to new artistic depths. My answer was a Subtooning session: we began with a guided meditation, the goal of which was to clear our heads of the day, and protect ourselves so that we could safely open up to higher inspiration, then an hour of working on our own drawings. My result is below. During the meditation I saw a key, as we drew I explained to them that "the key is to call upon the living art to teach you". Over the following decade, this image summed up the aspirations I had for our American company, Artopia. Pure creative outpouring and inspiration. Although this goal was never achieved to my satisfaction, I have begun to realize that the TV shows we worked on had inspired generations of kids growing up through those years. Today all that remains of Artopia is this image and the hope of continuing to inspire others through my art.

ARTOPIA:  28 June 1999
Subtoons often prompt me to write some accompanying verse...

"Shadowed in the womb of the Subconscious, the Bodytree forms itself. Growing in knotted twists as it wrestles within itself until it unfurls it's petaled leaves, saturated with the blue waters of the Lifestream, radiating fragrant inspiration, Life has expression. All the while, the Bodytree's roots lie linked under the Golden Cathedral of Consciousness, who's light of awareness illuminates the far bank. After the meticulous ages of preparation, the Cathedral's intricate structure was built, crowned with a chimney emitting the labors of it's devotion. The soil of the holy complex bridging back to join the mass of the Bodytree, both are one, encircling the Lifestream."

Interpreting a Subtoon is the same as interpreting a dream, the key is realizing that everything is an aspect of ourselves. For example should you see a dog in a dream, obviously it isn't a real dog, but a symbol of how we view dogs. One person may see loyalty, another a guide and someone else may see it as fear incarnate. It's all subjective. Likewise everything we draw in a Subtoon is an aspect of our inner workings laid out in image form. Subtoons are the study of what we are. While our consciousness preoccupies itself with comparisons to others; smarter, prettier, richer, older, our subconscious is unable to judge us and unable to lie, it is pure truth. So when studying a Subtoon we are gazing into a true reflection of our very being.

Subtoons also show us how the subconscious operates. Imagery is it's primary language. As a result, amounts of things are important, so when something catches my attention I start counting.

If you'd like to have a go at analyzing, look at the image and think about 2, go ahead, I'll wait....

Did you notice there are 2 banks facing each other across a river, one gold, one purple. The cathedral is in the light of the day, the tree is in the shadow of night. I see the two banks as representing my conscious and subconscious (awake, asleep). They almost look like they are forming into the Taijitu, the yin and yang symbol, with the cathedral spire and the tree mound representing the dots if viewed from above. A third factor is preventing them from joining, a body of water. What does the water represent? It enters the picture from a cave on the right, suggesting that it has come from somewhere else. I used the term "body of water" deliberately, the human body is mostly water, a bit of I leap I know, but consider that we are talking about the conscious and unconscious of a human being, however in the image the meatiest looking things are the cathedral and tree. The water seems to be contained by them, they are the vessel that holds this amorphous stream and in the process shape it. The thing that inhabits the vessel of our body can only be life. Which is why I called it the Lifestream. It has entered the body where the conscious and subconscious influence and mold it. Taken that way it is possible to look at the entire landscape as a sack of skin, the cave as a mouth with the head mound over it, with eyes sockets and a skull. It's arms protruding upwards, right arm the cathedral, left arm the tree waving around like a glove puppet. The Lifestream pooling around the belly of this flesh sack. The big question is, where did the stream come from?

If you'd like to keep analyzing, look at the image again and think about 3, I'll still be here when you get back....

To me the most obvious three are the 3 branches of the Bodytree. The Bodytree had made it's appearance in an earlier Subtoon which is where I coined it's name, however this time it is plumed and appears to be coming to fruition. Why 3 branches? Why do I call it the Bodytree? Simple, two arms and a head. It is me as a tree, why a tree? I have an affinity for plants having grown vegetables most of my adult life, I seek to learn from our vegetable friends and an important lesson they have shown me comes to mind. That nature and the human world are at odds, in our world we tend take more than we need and store what we treasure, but nature is the opposite, one seed planted will grow a plant that will multiply into more seeds. Giving is the normal state of the plant kingdom, whether it be oxygen, fragrance, nectar, fruit or it's flowering beauty. It will always multiply the gift of one seed into many. As an artist I see myself as an infinite resource, ideas flow through me freely and they are a gift to those who appreciate my work. However I have often find that even though I give my work as a gift, greedy people will act like they have stolen it from me and run off thinking they have the prize, never realizing that it is only one fruit and I can make more. Such is the artist's lot in our current age.

Another point to mention about the flowering petals, notice that the blue on them is the same color as Lifestream. The gift is life. As I see Art as alive perhaps the gift is living art. Art that feeds the soul with it's own beauty and fragrance.

Moving on to the cathedral, of the 6 main windows around the middle spire, 3 are prominent. For me the 3 windows echo the 3 leaves of the Bodytree, so I counted the smaller window holes which totaled 12, one for each year since I drew the image (to the month). It may be just an interesting coincidence, but 12 is a very important number to me, and for that matter, time keeping in the human world, 12 hours, 12 months, 12 houses of the western zodiac, 12 signs of the Chinese Zodiac which fits because it is the year of the rabbit. Which is my birth sign. I drew the image in the year of the rabbit in 1999 (I never knew that it was a rabbit year back then), and twelve years later I offer it here to you (a gift from a rabbit in the year of the rabbit, originally drawn in the year of the rabbit). If you look at the spiky crowned area above the windows, the lighter section looks a little like bunny ears, but as is usual with Subtoons, one image carries many meanings. The ears also look somewhat like a bishops hat, but more strongly to me, like a metal pen nib which I used for years in my comics. Meaning: the city is more like a temple and creating art is my religion. I identify completely with the act of making art.

But is this a perfect state? Does it look like there is a purple screaming face in profile on the right side of the tree trunk? It might be that constantly being taken advantage of for the fruits of my labors doesn't always sit well with me. Because it doesn't. Unlike a tree I'd appreciate some sharing once in a while, some reciprocation. When I look at the cave, the face looks tired and old. Does this have any significance, it's bugging me and that usually means that it does. I'd like to link this in to a personal experience now.

A few months ago we were concluding a collaborative meditation and a member of the group, who can see auras, noticed that my face was almost obscured by a purple haze, I was really feeling buzzy so her observation didn't surprise me. Someone else identified purple as an inspirational color, suggesting that I give out so much that I might be depleting my reserves which is reflected in my health issues around the kidney and liver area. They  recommended that before embarking on any inspirational endeavor it might be wise to charge up my solar plexus with yellow/golden light. Interestingly enough, the 2 dominant colors in the image are yellow and purple. I can also make the case for the Cathedral's spire looking like an umbilical chord taking sustenance from the heavens, and the belly is where the solar plexus is. So perhaps this is a key to not becoming creatively drained.

The thing to remember is that there is no right and conclusive answer with the subconscious, we could come back to this image at some later date and have entirely new observations. It is subjective and that drives most people nuts in our preferred world of definitives and conclusives. The most important thing is that one piece of art that was done unconsciously has a language and we have learned to read it's message.

Lastly read the verse again and see if it has more meaning now.

Monday, May 30, 2011

From the beginning...

Art is very sacred to me. I am devoted to it, addicted to it, and it teaches me. I have no interest in controlling what is expressed through me, I study it's revelations and apply them to my life.
Art is passive and can be easily dominated and overruled by the will. That is the common mistake made by many of the artists I have met in my life. The gift comes when art is invited, and allowed to lead, then something truly new can be created. It takes no courage to do a familiar task, to repeat an action until it becomes a habit, this is the way of the craftsman. To risk, to challenge and make mistakes is the place where true discovery lies. Bringing a new thing into the world is the path of the true Artist. To asking that "thing" to teach you is to be open to revelation.
Revelation is the realm of the Subtoons, and I have been subtooning since 1992. I hope to share some of my experiences and discoveries with you over time.
Fil Barlow: Subtoonist