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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is burning.

Last week, after finishing and submitting the book dummy for “The Emperor’s Pear Tree”, I took a much-needed rest. Now I’m looking for new inspiration among the folktales and fairytales at the astonishing public domain source, Project Gutenberg. The Wizard of Oz caught my eye…can it really have been published so long ago?

Trusting my little printer to valiantly copy all sixty-six pages of the text, my belief that there are writers…and then there are great writers…has been reaffirmed. Even after so much exposure, this brilliant tale still holds my interest and fires my artist’s imagination with imagery. The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, has continued to be an inspiration for screenwriters, playwrights, illustrators and toy makers since its first publication in 1900. (Those of you who read this blog regularly will have already guessed that my all-time favorite interpretation of this classic is by the award-winning Austrian illustrator, Lisbeth Zwerger. Her imaginative characters were not influenced by the popular American movie version, but are her own unique and satisfying interpretation of Baum’s original text.)

With the announcement of this week’s Illustration Friday word, burning, it is not surprising that my newest painting would be inspired by The Wizard of Oz.

I’ll tell you a secret,” [the Scarecrow] continued, as he walked along. “There is only one thing in the world I am afraid of.” “What is that?” asked Dorothy, “the Munchkin farmer who made you?” “No,” answered the Scarecrow, “it’s a lighted match.” The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum

The Scarecrow’s fear is almost comical in its simplification, isn’t it? But then, our deepest fears usually do boil down to something very basic, even if we are not made of straw. I had thought I would write more about Fear this week, but these quotes say it so much better than I could have…and more succinctly. (Many more quotes about fear can be found here.)

“We are largely the playthings of our fears. To one, fear of the dark; to another, of physical pain; to a third, of public ridicule; to a fourth, of poverty; to a fifth, of loneliness … for all of us, our particular creature waits in ambush.” Horace Walpole

“Fear is the fire that melts Icarian wings.” Florence Earle Coates

“Fear is the prison of the heart.” Anonymous  (This one reminds me of Roberto’s wonderful birdcage image, titled, “I Desire This for All” (DESEO ESTO PARA TODOS), in the right sidebar.)

Shall we give our fears a holiday?  ‘Tis the season…

“Burning” (watercolor, pen and ink, pencil, gouache)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is immovable.

Today my post will be short and sweet… especially for my wise and gentle, long-distance friend, Roberto, who tries hard to understand my ramblings using the less-than-adequate Google Translater…

Fear is the ultimate immovable object. But—voilá!—when embraced with compassion, fear changes into something understandable…and then it moves all by itself. “Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.” (Japanese proverb)

More quotes on the subject of Fear can be found here.

“Demons to Tea”  (oil)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is slither.

I can remember becoming suddenly and acutely aware of the liability of being born female at the all-too-young age of nineteen. Newly entered into the arena of relationship, I felt every slur and stereotype as a personal attack. If you are a female, dear reader, you will remember well the mean descriptions that have been hurled at you in particular, and at the female of the species in general. And if you are one of my dear male readers, I am sure that you will also remember, with embarrassment, words hurled in anger or frustration.

Fortunately, as I have grown much older and my world much larger, I realize that these sorts of aspersions refer to aspects that are simply the negative potential of any human being, regardless of gender. And that aspersions do fly both ways. As you can imagine, this came as a great relief to me, living this life in a female body.

The negative aspects of a person, generally referred to as the shadow in Jungian psychology, and more recently as the pain body by Eckhart Tolle, are our worst behaviors, knee-jerk reactions, defenses and survival tactics… all born out of the ultimate shadow quality: Fear. My heart and gut tell me when I have behaved badly, and my awareness tells me when someone else is acting out of fear. Unfortunately, both of these ‘radars’ are not always operating in present time. Often it takes much self-reflection (and calming down) to see that Fear has been operating once again in my life or another’s. If I wanted to be dramatic here, I could proclaim that it is an abysmal state of humanity… played out on a grand scale in arena of politics and world affairs.

However, doing my best to be an optimist… and a problem-solver, fixer-type by nature… I sigh, and look for solutions and reasons for this behavior. What I come up with, time and time again is this: humans behave badly so that we can become aware of the difference between that and a behavior that stems from living without fear. And so that we can eventually realize that we have a choice. Yes, grasshopper, Life is a school… and we are all students for the duration. Patience and compassion are not a prerequisite, but will surely be learned along the way.

“Medusa’s Grief” (oil on board)


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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is fearless.

Rare is the person who can live beyond the influence of Fear. Perhaps fear is the ‘fine print’ of the human condition? It seems that we are hard-wired to be fearful or anxious about so many things, both real and unreal. Fear is surely the most powerful and subtle impediment to living fully… a worthy adversary, indeed.

I will decline to list my own collection of fears here… that would be boring, not to mention self-indulgent. Suffice it to say, my fears are probably much the same as any other persons. Yet, as a contemplative person, I am forced to admit that Albert Einstein was correct in his statement, “The most important decision we ever make is whether we believe we live in a friendly Universe or a hostile Universe.” There really is no room for quibbling in this perspective is there?

Many of the quotes in my previously-mentioned notebooks address this emotion of fear, whether it be related to creativity, survival, other people, or to the challenging process of stretching one’s Spirit. The antidote to fear is always the same. It is implied in the words of Marion Zimmer Bradley (The Forest House), “The gods do not require that we all be conquerors or even that we all be wise, but only that we serve the truth that we are given until we pass it on.” And it is even more obvious in Helen Keller’s words, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” The simple antidote to fear is to move past it… but this is not always so easy to remember in the moment. Fearless is a state of mind that I aspire to… making incremental progress, backsliding a bit, then going forward again, slowly. Patience with myself and persistence are the keys. As an artist, I take much heart from Georgia O’keefe’s words, “I’m frightened all the time. Scared to death. But I’ve never let it stop me. Never!”

For that insistent part of my mind, and for those of you who would voice that thought that Life IS very scary in these modern times, I close with a quote from Wendell Berry“Expect the end of the world. Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful, though you have considered the facts.”


“In-Danger Species Meets King Kong” (pen & ink)

For another image on the subject of fear, see:Demons to Tea

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