Dec 10 2011

#224 “Happeh”

From Dreya in Maryland

Happiness is not a response or a destination. It is a decision, a choice.

This is a lesson that I am continually learning, and it’s young artists like Dreya who are often my teachers. In the body of work Dreya sent to me, happiness is a clear theme. It seems that almost all of her wolves are smiling. They are all basking in the glory of a life filled with contentment and tranquility. They trot, they dance, they howl peacefully, they make friends with heart-shaped butterflies. Simply put, they seem to love life. Even the name of this work itself (which was chosen by Dreya) conveys the happiness that fills this young artist’s heart and flows out into her creations.

A few days ago someone posted a piece of scripture on the Wolves by Strangers facebook page. The verse was Isaiah 11:6, and it reads, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” I’m not calling Dreya a child, nor am I assigning any real supernatural powers of Biblical magnitude to her or her artwork, but at the same time I can’t help but to be lead to a more holy place of inner peace when I experience her works of innocence, purity and happiness. In a world that often chooses to focus on negativity and a society that sometimes seems to focus exclusively on entitlement and self-pity, it is artwork like Dreya’s that has the power to work small modern miracles.

Thanks, Dreya. If there’s anything I can say about this illustration, it’s that it truly did make me happy.

To see more of Dreya’s work, check out her dA page here.

Aug 28 2011

#120 “Joy”


From Sandra in East London

In my life I have been blessed to be able to visit Disney World in Orlando, Florida several times. It might sound slightly silly for a grown man to admit to this, but I absolutely love Disney World; in many ways I believe that it truly is “the happiest place on earth.” By far my favorite ride in all of the 4 parks that make up Disney World is called Soarin’. The unusual premise of the ride is that you are somehow strapped into a sort of open air flying machine somewhat similar to a mechanized hang glider of sorts. But this isn’t your average roller coaster. In fact, the ride isn’t a roller coaster at all. In reality it’s more like being suspended in front of a giant IMAX screen while various flying sequences and scenic images speed by.

What makes the ride so interesting, though, is how sensory appealing the whole experience is. You not only experience the sensation of flying because of the various tilt angles of the machinery; you can actually feel the wind on your face. You can smell the scents of oranges as they rise up from below you in the Florida orchards. The sounds that greet your ears are true and real and feel like they are coming at you from just the right angle and at just the right time. Everything is perfect. You really feel like your flying.

Ok. Moving on. This is where things might get a little weird. You see, whenever I ride Soarin’, I don’t just like it, I love it. Whenever I ride this ride, I don’t just experience happiness; I experience joy. And in my opinion, happiness and joy are two totally different things. We often think of joy as just a kind of happiness that is a little bit more intense than your average good mood, but I think the definition of joy runs deeper than this. Joy is the emotion that makes you cry for spontaneously at moments when your heart is overflowing with rapture. It’s a feeling that just feels like too much, like you’ve touched something very special, but you’re not actually sure what it is. Like you are nostalgic for something that you can’t quite put your finger on. Like an otherworldly memory of complete happiness is just outside your grasp. Like you have experienced something so beautiful that it has caused you physical pain. Your heart literally aches because of the exquisiteness of what you have encountered. The feeling is often bittersweet, tinged with the slightest bit of heartache, but the happiness of joy is so far beyond any other type of happiness, that even the pain that comes with it puts mere “happiness” to shame.

What does any of this have to do with the illustrations by Sandra that are on display today? Well, simply put, they give me joy. For reasons I can’t explain they carry me back to the warmest childhood memories and call to me with their layers of texture and their elements of magical realism and grounded fantasy. They stir my soul and cause my heart to pang with the deepest feelings of longing and solidify a belief that true beauty is not dead.

Thanks, Sandra. Joy is a rare commodity in this world, but you have given me this gift, and for that I am grateful.

For more great artwork by Sandra, check out herĀ blog, her website, and her twitter account.