Context and Content -part 1

Firstly I think it’s important to talk about process. I believe that we learn more about our process when we have to explain it to someone else. The act of organizing the mush or soup that is our internal creative workings looks a lot clearer when we have to organize it into sentences. So, with that said, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about my process with you. I have a lot of much needed creative housekeeping to do, as I’ve been largely silent about how I created the design language for the Emanations, visually and narratively.

The Beginning

As you may (or may not) know, Angelarium: Book of Emanations is based heavily on the texts in the Kabbalah.( The Kabbalah is sometimes considered the heart of Jewish mysticism.) When I first signed on to work on this project three years ago, I was asked to make some designs (illustrated symbols) to represent the tenets of the Kabbalah the way Pete had painted other abstract and angelic concepts over the course of the (then) 11 year life of Angelarium. Obviously he was looking for my interpretation of it; my style. 


This was on my business card at the time and this was the image that got Pete interested in my work.


When approaching any doodle, drawing or illustration, writing is a big part of my process. I tend to derive a lot of my content from whatever is happening to me and I write it down to begin crafting an image around it. By framing the desire for the drawing around whatever I’m feeling or concerned with, I can take any visual problem and solve it in a way that is meaningful to me. (TL:DR - I feel stuff, and draw stuff based on those feelings…)

Quite a bit of research when into understanding not only what the Emanations were within the original texts, but also what they mean contextually to one another. Because as illustrations they needed to fit together as a collection, I needed to know how they fit together in my understanding of reality. In order to make this work fun and meaningful (which is the first step to making authentic work) I needed to internalize a lot of the source material. I needed to make the Kabbalah a part of my life. This wasn't difficult as I found that a lot of the texts made sense and fit the way I already approached the world. Once the research began, I did encounter my first MAJOR problem with the source material.

Solving the first problem; How NOT to depict something…

The first rule of Kabbalah is you don't tal-... wait, it’s you don’t depict the Emanations… fuck. It’s one of very few “rules” and it’s at the top of the list. I didn’t even contact Pete about this, I just kinda sat there, with this cinder-block of a problem, crushing my head. I wasn’t sure if Pete knew about this or would care, but I knew I did. It occurred to me that my own laws about content and my work might prevent me from working on this. I knew I needed to treat this text with as much care and respect as I could manage, as I felt very much like a visitor in someone's house. Drawing pictures of these entities felt like tracking mud into it. I needed to be patient finding the solution...




Join me next time as I take you step by step into the process I used to solve this problem.