Point of Exquisite Suspension

Thoughts & life experiences of a Chicago area graphic artist

08 February 2018

A Crossroad for Artists

As a person who has enjoyed earning a living as a Graphic Artist for the past three and a half decades, I am heartened and encouraged to see a new generation of creative innovators making their mark in the Graphic Arts field. I see such wonderful work by younger co-workers, through portfolios emailed to me and through various streams on social media. And I’m also encouraged by what I see of students in my additional role as an Art Instructor.

I remember when I was an art student: I revelled in learning skills and techniques that I could combine with my creativity to make works of my own art.  The source and energy of that exciting process seemed to come from another place. It was like I was watching myself as I brought forth a new creation that I couldn’t quite explain or account for logically. And so the thrill of making Art is derived, in part, by the feeling of being transported, in a way, outside of everyday circumstances. And in that timeless, alternate zone, anything seems possible.

Once in that creative zone, ideas, stories, solutions and artistic pleasure flowed so easily that I would freely give my art away and think nothing of it. Such generosity was just a natural progression of the creative flow as far as I was concerned. It wasn’t until I began contributing my art to the school newspaper, youth group event flyers, School play programs or to illustrate class projects that I began to see the practical value of my art in the eyes of other people and causes.

"I’ve seen that creative people, whether they are wielders of words, pictures, or other art forms, have the distinct and sometimes unfortunate position in society as they are praised and celebrated on one hand while conversely being undervalued in the marketplace."

But as the years have gone by, I’ve seen that creative people, whether they are wielders of words, pictures, or other art forms, have the distinct and sometimes unfortunate position in society as they are praised and celebrated on one hand while conversely being undervalued in the marketplace. Placing a value on a particular item of creative work is not necessarily a problem. It’s that in the minds of many artists, as they start their careers, making art and having it received by an audience, is payment in of itself. And so it is hard for them to have a practical perspective on how best to make a living from their Art if that’s what they want to do.

Eventually there comes a watershed moment, a fork in the road, if you will, in the life of any artist. It is the point at which one decides whether or not he or she has the necessary desire and endurance to make some sacrifice for art. This sacrifice usually involves undergoing the demanding discipline of more training in advance skills for both art and management of one’s business as an artist (That is a route filled with ups and downs that can tax one’s patience and resolve to the limit).  The other route, which is just as honorable, is to let one’s art serve as a more private refuge and pastime while making a living in other vocations. The main drawback of that path, perhaps, is being struck with the pangs of wondering what “might have been” had one pursued an Art career.

But I have come to realize that Art on any level, whether for fun or for work still has it’s own beauty and reward. It is one of humanity’s signature gifts and traits: the ability —and, in fact, the need— to create art, write stories, design and dream.

It has been said that Art is Humanity’s only true monument. As I look down through the ages of History past, it is the Art of long gone civilizations that most reveals the inner life and perspectives of people in a particular era.

So I say to anyone who enjoys making art at any level, continue to make art, create, write, express your visions, publish your work and test yourself with the realizations of your dreams. Whether you pursue art as a career or maintain it as a refuge, it will be a sustenance and treasure.

I would like to recommend the words encouraging artists of Irish Poet, John O’Donohue* in an excerpt from his poem
A Blessing for the Artist :

May your imagination know
The grace of perfect danger
To reach beyond imitation
And the wheel of repetition
Deep into the call of all
The unfinished and unsolved…

In order to come to birth
In a clean line of form.
That claims from time
A rhythm not yet heard.
That calls space to 
A different shape…

To surprise the hungry eye
By how deftly it fits
About its secret loss.

--excerpted from the book To Bless The Space Between Us by John O'Donohue

*In fact, I recommend all of O’Donohue’s published poetry and essays.

This article was adapted from a speech I gave at a celebratory reception of one of my students upon the publishing of third issue of his art anthology magazine.

19 January 2018

No Time? Know Time.

Sun and Moon Symbols to represent how Those Two Heavenly Bodies help us keep Time.  © O. Douglas Jennings
Time is an element of our lives that can be exasperating as well as mysterious. To live is to have time. To run out of time can seem like coming up against a harsh barrier.

But try to reframe your awareness of time. To Know Time is to bring your consciousness into the NOW.

Shifting your awareness of time can become a game. Speed it up. Slow it down. See as kind of like a book in which you can flip through the pages at your leisure.

To live is to have time. Miss a deadline? You're not dead are you? Whatever was lost, you still have time as long as you live.

Related post:
Mindful Spacetime

14 January 2018

A Man Among Wolves: Photographing Yellowstone’s Iconic Predators

Amazing, polarizing and fascinating creatures. Conservation photographer Ronan Donovan spent more than a year photographing Yellowstone National Park and the wolves that call it home. This was a side feature of an article on National Geographic's website about the remarkable life and tragic killing of Yellowstone National Park's most famous wolf.

07 January 2018

The Point I Decided Not to Stress About....

...keeping a daily challenge/blog!

Originally posted on my Flickr Site a few years ago. © O. Douglas Jennings
I was taking part in a daily Creativity Challenge a few years back. It was intended to be for one year but it actually took me 2 years to complete. It was a valuable exercise and I'm glad I stuck with it. I gave myself permission to pace myself according to my own needs/circumstances.

You can see some of my entries here!

12 December 2017

My Potential

That's me --the empire builder --sitting on a stump. 1981

When I was in my early twenties, I discussed with a friend over the phone future plans and decisions that are typical of young men in that time of life. I can't recall many of the exact details of our banter but we were both in college and I was working as an artist part-time on the newspaper of a youth outreach organization that I felt was enough of a worthy cause to eventually become my career. What I do remember of that conversation, distinctly, as words coming out of my mouth, was the bold proclamation, "I'm building an empire!"

Obviously I had a very high estimation of my potential at that time. My youthful exuberance and aura of imagined invulnerability was in full sway. Now as a guy in my 50s, I see things differently. I’ve not built any empires but I’ve created a life for which I’m thankful. I’ve sustained a career as an artist and art educator for all my adult life and have been blessed with a family that I cherish.

So what is my potential now? I’m actually just beginning to sort that out as I fend off doubts and insecurities that are common to middle-age. The last thing I want to do is make this a gripe session on the travails of growing older. As I catalog and estimate the rate of (and extent of) my inevitably-diminishing powers, I am determined to focus on the growing strength of my increased, wider perspective on life.

That perspective has taught me to hurry less, worry less and not take myself too seriously. It reminds me that all people have common frailties and everyone makes mistakes. Truisms, I know. But that perspective has taught me I should not be in the business of unnecessarily judging people or demonizing those who think or believe differently than I do.

Flashback, again, to my time as a young man. I drove my 80-year-old grandmother to the bank for some financial dealings she needed to fulfill. My grandmother, Clara, from what I knew by watching her all my life, was a stern, devout woman. She had conservative views and an outspoken nature. But she knew how to make the kind of small talk common in rural communities.

All the bank clerks knew my grandmother and she and the current clerk, a middle-aged woman I’ll call Betty were discussing upcoming plans for the Summer months. Betty mentioned that she was making a vacation trip to Las Vegas. I braced myself for what I expected would be an icy turn on my grandmother’s side of the conversation. That is, if she didn’t outright warn Betty of the evils of cards and gambling.

“You only live once, child,” was all she said, good humoredly as they finished the transaction. And at that time I caught a glimpse of the potential I see for me now. To grow in acceptance, compassion and good will. I’m happy with that.

07 December 2017

Moonrise (a recollection)

"Moonrise" art © O. Douglas Jennings. All rights reserved.

"Attention, Please."
Every head in the classroom turns to look at the loud-speaker mounted above the classroom door.
"School will be dismissed early, due to the rising of the Full Moon."
"All right, class", Mrs. McCluskey nervously intoned, "Leave through the door in an orderly manner".
I am near panic. I must get from my 5th-grade classroom to the Kindergarten class on the lower level to gather up my little brother Martin. We live just close enough to be unqualified for the secure bus service. We must make our way home on foot. And as a five-year-old, he won't be able to run as fast as is needed.

Hand in hand, Martin and I leave the safety of the school house door to make our way home. Quickly as possible we walk to the edge of the school yard near the old maple tree next to the fence and topping the small hill that slopes downward to our street. All of our senses are hyper-alert as we hear a rustling of bushes from the old abandoned Stout's house across the street from the hill. Muscles tense, adrenaline flow escalating.

The menacing growl barely commences before I dart down the road. Martin practically suspended horizontally at the end of his hand and arm that I grip like a vise. We hear the feet pounding the gravel and asphalt behind us. The panting, horrible guttural noises sound terrifyingly near.

I cut across the neighbors yard and somehow make it to our front porch. Martin is crying as I reach for the door handle and before we know it we shut the door behind us. But it is now on the porch and wants in. We know this because the beastly howl that it makes in desperate frustration emanates from the other side of the wooden, locked panel door.

Incomprehensibly it might not protect us as blow after powerful blow rattles the door, distorting it with convex shaped spasms until at last, with a violent crash it gives way. And I wake up.

This one of the actual dreams I would have as a grade-schooler who could think of no greater, more abjectly, tortuously horrifyingly monstrous threat than the classic werewolf.

Frankenstein's monster and Dracula had at least some semblance of humanity. I would think that confronted with either of those two creatures of darkness I might have a chance. Either I could outrun them or perhaps (I had a high estimation of my intellect) outwit them. But the sheer animal irrationality and primal beastliness of a werewolf totally vexed my powers of defensive strategic calculation.

Even in my twenties, if I was working late in the office where I was employed and no one else was around, I would have an occasional spasm of irrational terror that a werewolf might enter the building to stalk and attack me.

This has faded over time. I'm surprised I didn't become a gun owner. It's funny that when one lives long enough, the dark isn't scary anymore. I'm not talking about the common sense caution that anyone should have if he or she is out at night around deserted streets or darkened alleys. But a dark room or closet or even an empty house at night is unable to evoke the fear in me that it did at one time. There are greater fears I have these days. Fears of economic down turn. Fears of catastrophic illnesses. But even those don't hold the same sting of terror that once agitated my mind when I thought of my imaginary lycanthrope.

20 November 2017

Warner Bros. Prolly R not worried too much abt JL... yet

Social Media needling of #JusticeLeague fans over "disappointing" early box office receipts of the DCU's prospective flagship movie has been brutal. But since 85% of the audience reporting on Rotten Tomatoes liked the movie, I feel like there's is nothing to be alarmed about. I'm confident that Justice League will recoup Warner Bros. production costs easily through worldwide box office sales and DVD/Digital release. Although I'm sure the bean counters will be ringing their hands.

Illustration © O. Douglas Jennings. All rights reserved.
As far as I'm concerned, the movie (even with it's flaws) was a satisfying, enjoyable and fun experience. I loved the characters and felt they embodied their respective heroic icons well.

SPOILER ALERT - If you read further, I discuss aspects of the movie in detail. If you don't want to know surprises or other plot details, please read no further until you have seen the film.


We're clear.

On the outset, the film dove directly into the plot of the invasion. Actually, it seemed at first that it was a typical night on patrol for Batman as he apprehends a criminal. But then the next layer of understanding and story is revealed as he actually is setting a trap for a Parademon. Some viewers expressed dislike for this continuing faced-paced plot. But I enjoyed it.

To me, it was classic Batman as he and Alfred were trying to decipher the clues left by remains of the Parademons, Lex Luthor's notes on mysterious sketches of "boxes".

Meanwhile, Wonder Woman was thwarting a terrorist plot to blow up a city block. This action was quite an exciting ride.

Then the scene switches to Themyscira where the Mother Box being held by the Amazons is vibrating and making alarming noises. The first appearance of the invader Steppenwolf is dramatic and menacing. I suspended any disbelief that might have been caused by some less-than-perfect CGI. I could easily stay captivated by the action.

I caught many of the Easter Eggs in the flashback scene with Steppenwolf upon his first thwarted invasion. The Atlanteans, the Green Lantern, the Greek Gods/Heroes were easy to follow as they battled Steppenwolf and the Parademons. This was all great fun.

As Bruce Wayne and Diana worked to gather the team, I was happy with the way each character of the team was introduced & developed.


You might have heard about the scenes where there was obviously some weird visual stuff going on with Superman's face. It's like when someone shaves off their eyebrows and you can tell at first what is missing. Actually it's not that bad. But there was something just a bit off about Henry Cavill's upper lip as he talked, smiled etc. It's not in every scene. Just in the scene's they added after filming had ended and they decided to add some extra scenes. That is when they brought back the cast to film some select scenes to help the story, etc. Problem was that Henry Cavill already was in the middle of filming a Mission Impossible movie and he had a mustache that contractual obligations did not allow him to shave. So... much $$$ was spend on "fixing" it. Fun behind the scenes story.

But that did not ruin the movie for me by any means.