Creating this Series

Posted by Gregory Johnson on

You may ask why I decided to create images of these archetypes. My art over the years, at least the non-commercial art, has involved simply attacking the paper with whatever media, (usually felt-tip pens), and letting the image create itself through me. In this case, however, it was about being focused on a specific aim. Having many years of free lance illustration experience helped greatly. I researched each one, did many pre-sketches, and relied heavily on the discipline of art. Below is a description of the process involved in each image. Please note that I am an American, so my vision of these archetypes is from an American point of view.

"The Innocent"

Of all the archetypes, I have met very few of this type. This particular era seems to produce many more cynical people, of which I am one. However, this image was inspired by one person in particular, who is always optimistic with a sunny disposition even when he's angry. He refuses to let life overwhelm him with bitterness. I resolved to create a head shot only. (These types tend to exist there exclusively.) The idea of innocence should not be confused with naivete. It's simply a choice certain people make, even when life batters them. I emphasized the eyes looking skyward, his face portraying a sort of sad happiness. The face is filled with the complexities of life that he simply refuses to acknowledge. That could be his hair, or it could be the blackness that both surrounds and protects him.

"The Everyman"

I live in the suburbs and am literally surrounded by these types. This is as American as it gets. The sculpted lawn, trimmed shrubs, the flannel shirt and bland, fake smile. Where would we be without this type? They fight our wars, work hard, pay taxes, raise families. Politicians live off of them like wordy leaches. But there is a dark side to this type. Notice the window over his left shoulder. This type lifted the Nazi party to power, and shed oceans of blood for it. They can be easily manipulated into believing anything that's fed them, as long as it fits into their own worldview. However, this type is also capable of great empathy and courage, as well as simple courtesy toward others. In this depiction, I decided to make his race ambiguous, since the word "vanilla" best describes "Everyman". Notice the endless blue sky and the gathering clouds.

"The Hero"

When I think of the word hero, Superman and Batman are not the first things that spring to mind, although they obviously fit this archetype. No, my image of a hero is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others, regardless of the consequences. This image reflects the great suffering that the hero endures. He is speckled with blood, because he will do what not everyone is willing to do. He is clutching his stomach, which reflects an emptiness inside. I intentionally made him African-American, having been inspired by the character "Shadow" in the book American Gods. He is suffering from PTSD, and is hurting. I wanted to over-emphasize his physique, which is sort of his armor, but his armor has been penetrated. Superman had his Fortress of Solitude, and Batman brooded constantly. How can you be a hero and not suffer?

"The Outlaw"

The idea of the outlaw in my mind isn't so much about John Dillinger or Billy the Kid. Lisbeth Salander from the series of books by Stieg Larsson better fits my idea of this archetype. This is probably the strangest rendering in this series. The subject is non-binary. The drawing is technically wrong, at first glance. Notice the position of the head in relation to the shoulders. I was going to abandon this depiction because of this, until I realized that it worked. Sometimes old influences come out in my drawings; in this case a splash of Picasso. The "mohawk" is actually not a mohawk, but what I would describe as a kind of a rebel halo, for lack of a better phrase. Notice that it is not in the middle of the head. I made this drawing intentionally stark, and almost if not in fact cartoonish, with no color save the halo. Think an LBTQ+ activist, who will do anything in the cause of personal freedom.

"The Explorer"

Human history is filled with this type, of course. Marco Polo, David Livingstone, Admiral Richard Byrd, and so on. However, when I started to think of depicting this particular archetype, the face you see peering back at you was EXACTLY what I envisioned. These types still proliferate today, in ways large and small. All of them with a thirst for travel and discovery. He's looking at you as if to say, "Do you understand how awesome this is gonna be?" The mountains in the distance beckon him. His cloak is of the stars. The sun is in front of him, yet some kind of light behind him illuminates his face. This drawing/painting was fun to do from beginning to end. Jacques Cousteau kept coming to mind..."Do you understand how awesome it was?" he seemed to ask as I added color...

"The Creator"

Not for a moment did the idea of God enter my mind on contemplating this archetype. Nor, oddly, did artists. I view the act of creating art as a sacred undertaking, but do not consider myself God-like in the process. But there are those in the world who are constantly creating. I think mostly of engineers. The ones whose ideas spring into life and become real. The very computer on which I am writing this, for instance. If we look at human history, we realize that in 1903 the Wright brothers had their first successful flight, and 66 years later we landed on the moon. We fly on airplanes to anywhere on the globe, and complain about the food. We take it all for granted. But rest assured we are surrounded everywhere by the miraculous. And it all started as a dream in somebody's head, to quote Peter Gabriel. I tried to depict this idea in this drawing/painting. His eyes have no iris, since all seeing is in his head. And from there explodes the creative.

"The Ruler"

Haven't we seen enough of this guy lately? But this type has dominated history since the first bully took on every male in the tribe for his pick of the females. They have called themselves Kings and Queens, Pharaohs, Emperors, Priests, and Chieftains, and many more. Nowadays, they are either elected or appoint themselves, usually by force. Always with the idea of obtaining more power. "Absolute power corrupts absolutely". In this depiction, our ruler is very American-he even sports the ubiquitous, (for American politicians), American flag lapel pin. He was also drawn as more of a cartoon, because let's face it, most politicians are. The only colors are black and red in this drawing. He is up to his waist in either shit or oil of which his clothing is made, and he sports a cracked fake halo. He speaks from both sides of his mouth as he happily lords over us, telling women what to do with their bodies and LGBTQ+ people that they have no rights. Selfishness and duplicity mark this most pathetic contemporary archetype, and is easily the most dangerous. There are some kind and gentle rulers in history, but they tend to be overthrown by this type.

"The Magician"

Many a fantasy story involves The Magician, as we all know. I won't go into that, as we can all fill in the blanks there. My contemporary view of the magician is that of the scientist. He is the true magician in our world. Not the very savvy and skilled trickster, who saws women in half, but the dedicated investigator of all things real. Electricity, for instance, would most definitely have been considered magic in the middle ages. In my depiction the Magician is depicted as a scientist.(Notice the white jacket and pen). He is seemingly making a glowing orb float. Maybe electro-magnetism? Notice in the drawing that there is something possibly holding up the orb...or not. This symbolizes perhaps how little most of understand magic...err science. This one is also ambiguous as pertains to his race. Skin color most definitely DOES NOT indicate intelligence.

"The Lover"

When approaching this archetype I did NOT want it to depict anything overtly sexual. This is not about a romantic lover, but more about a giver of love. One who gives love unconditionally and openly. I gravitated toward a female subject, because from my own personal experience and observation, it has been women who are more predisposed to openly love than men. I realize that's a generalization, but I wasn't able to make a male image work for this. Her body is, well, a bit frumpy, intentionally, because I wanted no sexual reference. Yet she is beautiful both physically and with her giving. The face is rendered in blue to reflect the sadness that love can bring.

"The Caregiver"

First of all, this image strikes me as a tad bit strange. But I pre-sketched this image that way from the very beginning. I wanted The Caregiver to be a sort of cocoon for the sufferer. A place, as well as a person that maybe, for instance, The Hero could go to for rest and comfort. And yes, I again used a female subject, mainly because all the caregivers in my life have been female. I wanted to convey the idea of the cocoon, and the idea that everyone is a child to the caregiver. So even though the person she is caring for lovingly seems like a child, is such in symbol only. Notice the nosebleed, which symbolizes the effort necessary to give unconditional care.

"The Jester"

What fun. And hell yes this is unabashedly a cartoon! When researching this archetype I was going to render the traditional court jester, but I found myself drowning in cliche. The moment I put the jester's cap on him I realized it had been done ten thousand times at least, and this series is not about that. I said ah the hell with it and just started drawing. At some point I realized I could make his hair the jester's cap. His skin is green with envy, and also ambiguous as to race. Jester's permeate our society. You know the guy. Class clown, standup comic, that guy in the office that keeps everyone in stitches. The Jester would rather not deal with things as they are, but deflects everything with irreverent humor, so as not to have to deal with it in any meaningful way. They tend to experiment with danger, being impulsive, including illegal drugs and alcohol. He is probably mocking someone. Notice the tear-you can only hide so much.

"The Sage"

Wisdom is something you acquire if you don't die and you've been paying attention. When researching the archetypes I came across several sites in which you could fill out a questionnaire to determine which one you were. Every one I took came up The Sage. I found this to be strange. I'm sure thirty years ago I would have been identified as The Everyman. (I own a similar house and similar shirts to those depicted in my drawing. I probably thought the same way too). I wanted to depicted an inner intensity and overt self awareness here. That outwardly his persona is powerful, but there is a universe of grounded and learned experience inside. His robe is black, depicting deep spiritual roots. Around the time of my "Everyman" period, I realized how numb and asleep I was and sought after Answers. Along the way I encountered several Sages, a couple of whom became my teacher for a spell. The expression as depicted on my drawing/painting of this archetype expresses how these men regarded me in moments of powerful seeing.

In conclusion...

I'm honored and amazed that you read this far! This is the age, after all, of The Short Attention Span. I'm retired from my day job now, and can devote my remaining time on this planet to be a conduit for the magic that is art. I'm rather doubtful that it will reach many's a little, shall we say, tilted. But there ARE a handful of people that love my work, and that's enough. It's the very act of creation that fulfills this dopey little life. I wish you well, whoever you are. Thank you for peeking.

1 comment

  • Greg, your work is so intriguing and filled with emotion. Your recount of the process you went through with each piece was captivating and I had to follow along and study each one on my computer while I read your blog on my phone! Well done and I am now following so I can see more of your work.

    Kristi Szabo on

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