The Illustration Friday word of the week is creature.
Long before my adult self knew about Carl Jung, archetypes and personas, my child self knew about the simple thrill of costumes, face paint and masks. That child self knew about the magic of make-believe, of being someone or something else , just for a day. It really didn’t matter if that new identity was more beautiful, more nasty, more scary or more silly. It was just fun to try on another’s life, complete with their clothes, their walk and their talk. I reveled in that as a kid, maybe because my own childhood felt so stifling, but I suspect all children are fascinated by the possibilities of Halloween.
My first Halloween costume was a store-bought package, complete with a glitter-encrusted gown, silvery crown, and a full-face Cinderella mask. I could barely see out of that formed-plastic mask (and I bet there are statistics somewhere of all the accidents caused by kid’s masks that reduce their field of vision to two feet directly in front), but I can still remember parading with the other tiny kids through the classrooms of the older school grades. And of course the candy. My brother was the king of Trick or Treat, often coming back to exchange his totally-full grocery bag for a second bag to fully plunder our tract housing neighborhoods. When the collecting was over, my siblings and I haggled and bartered our hoards and treasures, and we were high and wild on sugar for months after. Our mothers and teachers must have loved that.
Although Cinderella was my first alter ego, my costume choices have tended more towards the dark side. I’ve been witches (both white and black), pirates, old ladies, and quite a few more vampires than I am comfortable admitting. Clearly there’s been a shadow side to me that has not been getting well-exercised in everyday life. Perhaps that is why one of my favorite things to draw is monsters?
As an adult, I notice that this fascination with becoming something or someone else is still very much alive in our culture, even when it’s not Halloween. Putting on that alter ego, “re-inventing oneself,” can be a lark. Ah, but the frequent downside! Like the year I was a wild party vampire and drank way more wine (blood-red, of course) than I was accustomed to before or since, resulting in hours of the spinning room phenomena, frequent-flyer trips to the bathroom, and a Morning After that I still cannot recall without wincing. Or the year I dyed my hair reddish and it came out orange. Or the expensive, sexy dress that I couldn’t sit down in, or the heels I couldn’t actually walk in. I could go on…
I haven’t costumed-up in years, nor spent good money on silly make-overs that change nothing, really. And fortunately I’ve kicked the candy habit. But when the oak trees start turning, acorns start pinging off the driveway, and pumpkins begin appearing on porches, I smile to myself and dream, “Who or what would I be this year, if I could be anyone for a day?”
“Untitled” (character sketches from my unpublished picture book, The Teapot’s Tale (watercolor, pen & ink)