Crafting Kingdoms

thangka

It’s Monday.

Continuing on from my project of ‘awakenings’ I’ve played around with a number of visual ideas and methods to get my message across. It’s not proved easy—the message of ‘wake up’ is pretty vague and maybe even a little condescending. ‘Wake up’ is the sort of thing your mother tells you to do before going to school.

While my project isn’t specifically focused on major Asian religions, it’s certainly settled somewhere in that field. At least for now. It’s a subject that would be almost impossible to entirely wrap my head around in the time I have. The sheer number of ideas and books and people is as exciting to read into as it is easy to forget due to the language barrier. ‘Manjuśrīkīrti’ has proven to be an important figure, for instance, but I can barely say it, let alone remember it.

It makes sense then not to pretend to be the expert. I want it to be clear from the start that none of my work is attempting to be authentic, only inspired. Combining my ideas with ideas formed through hundreds of years of culture. I’m always going to be straddling a dangerous line of pretence.

Still, while looking into the various aspects of these religions, one concept that particularly grabbed me is the idea of ‘realms’ or ‘kingdoms’. ‘Shambhala’, despite losing a lot of its meaning through Westernisation, is originally a mythical kingdom that is believed to have existed as a concept long before both Hinduism and Buddhism. Another realm, ‘Tagzig Olmo Lung Ring’ is a place where happiness is a tangible substance and the entire place is made from it. What I think makes these ‘Kingdoms’ particularly interesting is how they can be tools to teach and to guide. I’ve put it to myself, then, that I could design a similar ‘Kingdom’ that leads its audience to think differently about the world.

That’s a tall order, but it’s early days still. There’s a lot of fun to be had here.

Over the weekend I decided to experiment with artwork inspired by Buddhist Sand Paintings as well as Thangkas—large Buddhist paintings on cotton or silk. These are often built as patterns, and since I’ve never really explored creating patterns before, I felt it could be an interesting challenge.

Krita is an open source bit of software that I’m falling in love with more everyday, and its Mirror Tool makes creating patterns with ease. By creating a mirror line directly down the horizontal and vertical centre, I only have to draw a single corner and then see it repeated in the other three.

I kept referring back to other pattern work from East Asia to guide me when I was stuck, while also making a few creative decisions of my own to give it my own flavour. I knew it wanted it to feel more hand-drawn than traditional, and with just a hint of punk to give it that Western edge.

Once I’d drafted everything, it was easy enough to vectorize in Flash and have repeated three times to make up the image.

Next, I had it in my head that I wanted the image to appear as though it’s drawing itself, like a ‘Kingdom’ rising from the dust, or something romantic like that. We all know destroying is easier than building, so I worked backwards. Frame by frame, I erased more and more of the image until there was nothing left. This was fairly arduous work, taking the better part of a day to complete, and some 730 frames. Still, once reverse it gives it a really gorgeous effect that I couldn’t be happier with.

I created a short bit of music that I thought was both mysterious, melancholic, with hints of Eastern and Western history. Put together and I’ve got something that I think would work very well as an introduction to my ‘Kingdom’, whatever form that might take.

It lacks substance, or a message, or a direction at the moment. What I think I was really able to capture was a certain meditative tone. Where this takes me next, I have no idea.

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