I’ve been struggling with the latest Illustration Friday prompt all week and consequently been stuck in research mode for too long. I need to get drawing already. Not too sure why it is I have issues with it, but the word in question is “Primitive”. Plenty of other participants are fine with it apparently judging by their entries. Some of them show primates and cavemen and various tools and pottery. A few dinosaurs. There are surprisingly quite a few robots. Lots of portraits of people from various parts of the world who are still known to wear traditional dress. And lots and lots of stuff which, as far as I can tell has nothing at all to do with the word “primitive”, not even if you stretch the definition a whole lot and make extra allowances and special exceptions.
I thought of drawing this beautiful African bench that my mom has left with me. It’s quite old and has figures all around carved right into it, and it actually is an authentic tribal piece. But I’m not really wanting to draw an object right now. Some other time though, as I’m sure my mum will get a kick out of seeing it. I have funny primitive-looking little figurines from somewhere in Indonesia, but again, not enough life, maybe for another time. Then I thought Aha! Maori face paintings, and I did a whole bunch of research which yielded plenty of references, but then decided if I’m going to draw a portrait this time, I’d rather draw a woman rather than a male warrior. So then I searched “African tribe women” and found a few interesting images (all this via Google and Flickr, understand) until I found Her. So beautiful. She was the little spark of inspiration I’d been looking for.
I wanted to do a very loose interpretation of her portrait and get wild with colour, maybe to suggest face paints and/or naive art, but then from yesterday evening until now, I’ve been paralyzed with doubt. Would that be racist? I don’t want to imply that this woman is primitive, God forbid. As basis for a drawing she effectively become a symbol for womanhood, for humanity for ancient customs and rituals… but I can practically hear the PC police breathing down my neck. Maybe that should be part of the reason for painting her, because after all, I’m just doing this drawing for my own amusement and there won’t be an approval committee. Amen to that.