“…Once your life is too stable, your creativity dies.”
I recently watched the epic anime Vampire Hunter D for the first time the other night (both the 80s version and “Bloodlust”). Must be all this Scorpio in the air because I’ve suddenly been craving some dark and violent dramas…not usually my style. But admittedly, I’ve fallen quite in love with the character D. I mean just look at him, he’s everything you ever dreamed a taciturn half-vampire-half-human world-saving aloof-tortured-soul cyborg-horse-riding invincible immortal hero could be (did I mention he’s supernaturally gorgeous, as the cherry on top?). Occasionally during Scorpio time one needs to watch Mr. Badass slicing and dicing some nasty villains in “a post-nuclear holocaust world where vampires, mutants and demons ‘slither through a world of darkness’” while resurrecting himself every 5 minutes after the most unbelievable mutilation you can imagine.
Anyway, this got me to thinking about one of my all-time favorite artists, Yoshitaka Amano, who illustrated the covers of the Vampire Hunter D novels, and whose D artbook I’ve owned for many years. Recently I’ve been lamenting the lack of movement in my work–I feel that I’m chronically stuck in static imagery and that complex compositions continue to terrify me (am I supposed to admit this here?). So whenever I look at Amano’s work, I always see exactly what it is that I want to achieve but find so difficult. Pinpointing where I want to head creatively is always the first step to greater satisfaction with my work. So my new task is the hardest of them all for me, and that is…more chaos. More letting go. Being the Water element rather than the Metal element. I remember an art teacher once begging me to “make a mess.” And yet, the loss of control in my work does scare me. Why? “Think like Amano” (name of an exhibition, and as it turns out, great advice as well).
I wrote an essay on Amano in college some years ago titled “Places That Never Touch the Ground: The Art of Yoshitaka Amano.” Here is the first paragraph which still succinctly captures my love of his work:
[Amano’s] work transports us to other worlds—Amano’s worlds—where figures flow like water or float with the clouds; where a myriad of creatures make their homes; where lines and patterns swirl and sweep; where superbly delicate, ethereal beings are juxtaposed with dynamic, muscled demons; and where I can lose myself in the intricate beauty of places that never touch the ground. His paintings have a mysterious quality to them, as if the viewer has seen these people, places, and creatures in dreams they have forgotten. He makes light shimmer and glow, and makes darkness mystify and intrigue. Sensuous, elusive, playful, ethereal, erotic, energetic—each of his pieces tells a story and reminds the viewer of that certain quality of life they can never quite grasp.
I am fascinated by weightlessness, with the places that never touch the ground, which is essentially what Amano captures so exquisitely. Several years ago I became inspired to create a series called “Levity & Gravity,” which I put aside and am recommencing now. The theme of the series is degrees of being weightless or grounded, which I also relate personally with my inner spiritual journey and noticing when I am in my body, in my mind, or connecting with Spirit. These are all very different energetic qualities that affect how I move through life. The characters in the world of “Levity & Gravity” are dreaming, doubting, flying, resisting, soaring, sinking, surrendering, landing. I’m trying to capture these feelings anyway and hope to continue creating images with this theme until I’ve personally exhausted it. Amano’s been going for around 40 years so maybe I never will!
He makes excellent use of positive and negative space: often these two planes are interchangeable, as the background moves forward and the foreground disappears, and vice versa. Much of his work lacks a sense of gravity. In his illustrated version of “1001 Nights,” he creates “a world ‘without up or down, left or right—just free-floating space.’” His figures often appear to lift off the ground, and action can occur mid-air.
Why the virtues of weightlessness and weightedness? We’re held here physically by gravity but what’s always been more important and more interesting to me are the places I go without my body. And yet, having studied yoga and body-centered psychology, I also experienced that within the body is another realm, energetic, completely alive. It is totally real and exists outside the ego mind. This is why enlightenment is complete presence, in the body and spirit, without getting lost in the other worlds of the mind. With “Levity & Gravity” I’m exploring the experiences of all these states of being.
“My artistic side is not really satisfied. I want to take more risks, to do something more challenging. Don’t listen to others, listen to yourself. Do what you believe in.”
A Small Sampling of Amano’s Art
Collected over the years…copyright to Yoshitaka Amano.