I've begun studying
for my putative career as an illustrator. This involves some structured digital art and drawing practice and reading through a book called Akademie X which is more for the mental side of things. One of the assigned readings right at the start of Akademie X is “In Search of Miracles” by P. D. Ouspensky. This is a very interesting book about esotericism and worth a read if only for a change of pace and it has a lot of neat little turns of phrase. One of these is the basis for this piece:
“Everything living on the earth, people, animals, plants, is food for the moon. The moon is a huge living being feeding upon all that lives and grows on the earth.” – G. Gurdjieff
Anyway this phrase , Design By Humans running a competition for T-shirt designs and some recent advances in digital abilities all coincided and this thing was born.
Conditions for this piece were as follows:
- It needed to be monochrome – any colour, but only one colour.
- It had to work as a t-shirt design and a standalone piece of art
- It had to incorporate the digital techniques I’ve been learning lately rather than be hand drawn like Wrath Panda
- I wanted it to include some element of the works I’ve been reading for my training.
- It should fit in with what I do in general and hopefully scare the bejesus out of someone.
Although the competition allows the use of shades of colour (varying levels of transparency) I decided that I wanted to work with one pure colour. Based off my experience with Wrath Panda this delivers a really powerful impact, particularly with white on black.
This consideration that this work as a piece of art as well as a shirt precluded the use of text. I was originally going to include the quote above but decided against it.
For the third consideration I have been making some progress with Photoshop and I’ve been developing a real passion for the work. Instead of drawing my own work I decided to make use of public domain images (listed as for commercial use with modification on Google images). The main elements in this picture are the moon (pictured above – I selected the one on the right, rotated 45 degrees), a mandrill skull and a panoramic picture of London from Parliament Hill. The picture is completed by a free scratch texture and a modified and inverted photo of a dead tree.
While there’s a lot of interesting imagery to choose from in Ouspensky’s book on G. Gurdjieff’s philosophy, the one that really grabbed me was that of the moon feeding on the Earth’s organic life. In Gurdjieff’s ordering of the universe a ray of creation passes through various levels of existence from the highest, the Absolute, to the lowest. Each level is alive and grows and relies on the level above it for its sustenance. The Moon therefore feeds on the Earth so as to grow one day to become like the Earth, and organic life is the mechanism that feeds the Moon.
This is quite chilling stuff. Unless we can break free of our own mechanical habits we are destined to be eaten! I therefore characterised the moon as a predator, but with human characteristics – I chose a less evolved primate to supply the fangs of the moon to fit in with the concept of evolution while still being terrifying. In an early version of the design I included squid tentacles as well but decided against it as it was thematically off and detracted from the stark horror of the moon itself. The tree trunk, inverted to seem like a root structure that goes from the moon the the city of London, added another feeding/growing element while also offsetting the white space from the scratch texture in the background. Finally I added the enneagram, a symbol which would be recognisable to anyone with a passing familiarity with Gurdjieff but has a clearly occult and disquieting appearance to anyone not familiar with the symbol.
Work in Photoshop
This involved placing the images I wanted to use, getting the proportions right, adjusting levels and finally thresholds. Some manual erasing or brush work was needed in deleting parts (ie most of the Mandrill skull) and adding in some extra linework.
This really taxed my computer, which is a first for me. The working image was huge and I was copying in massive images from the internet. Eventually I started running out of memory. I will need to upgrade my RAM some time soon if I’m going to keep this up.
The final step was to delete all the black spaces, leaving only the white to be printed. Then I exported the file as a PNG and uploaded it to the competition.
Food For The Moon
This design is available from Design By Humans and while the linework is white only you can pick from a range of shirt or jumper colours.