Promises: Comprehend



Promise 3 — "We will comprehend the word serenity"

You are looking at a failed drawing. In my experience, every drawing starts as a failed drawing. I once heard a painter say that if he knew right away that a picture was going to succeed, he threw it away and started a different one. He wanted to learn something new or not even bother, and I agree with that. So when this drawings started as a failure, I wasn't immediately concerned. But it ended as a failure, in my eyes, and this is a story of that failure.

The first-ever TwelveDrawing illustration was the word "serenity" from the Serenity Prayer (you can find it on this website). It shows a lone tree sitting picturesquely in the bend of a small river. There is more to it than that, but that's the only part which relates to this Promise 3 drawing.

My 1934 Webster's Dictionary offers this definition: "Comprehend v. To take into the mind".

I pray and meditate before drawing. That doesn't make my drawings special. If you are in recovery, you're wise to pray and meditate before many everyday tasks. This drawing frustrated all of my attempts to begin it. What happens inside the mind is unseen and, without symbolic devices, the mind is beyond my ability to illustrate.

I remembered that peaceful tree from the "Serenity" drawing and wondered how a person could take that into their mind. You can see the result. A figure in the foreground is surrounded by the reflection of that same tree of Serenity. She has paused to gaze at the mesmerizing pattern caused by of the waves and the expanding ripples spreading out before her.  Who she is, where she is from, and what she is thinking remains unknown. She cannot see how the image of the spreading tree and she herself have become mingled together, but the viewer can. She cannot see us, but we see her as she lingers in a moment of solitary reflection (pun intended).

Determined not to indulge in careless or lazy symbolism, I worked very hard to create an effect which—sadly—fails to materialize. Just behind the woman's head are a series of gradually expanding ovals. They happen to visually line up almost exactly with the brim of her summer hat. My goal was to deliberately confuse the viewer about about where the woman's head ended and where the concentric circles in the water began. I wanted you to do a "double-take", trying figure out what was in her mind vs. in reality.

Now that I have described it, you can probably see what I was attempting. It fails for two reasons. First, to connect this drawing to the word "serenity", the viewer must have already seen the "Serenity" drawings. That makes this image like a movie sequel—one that first-time viewers would have no chance of comprehending. Second, the visual special effect didn't work. From the start, I sensed I was fighting a losing battle and I kept struggling to save the drawing—trying to somehow lighten it by making it darker and darker. As a result, the woman appeared rather sinister and the looming tree appeared more ominous than serene. Neither the spiritual concept nor the artistic execution is what it should have been. 

I could have started over from scratch. In fact I have done so on a couple of other drawings when the final result was entirely worthless and confusing. In this one, some good qualities do remain but the overall effect is weak. Still, one of the principles of recovery encourages a focus on "progress not perfection". If I attempted again with a less ambitious concept, it would only be out of a desire for a safe but vain sort of perfectionism. Thanks, but no thanks.

The job of true perfection is now occupied by my Higher Power. I no longer try to mimic His utter mastery in the area of fixing mistakes, nor could I if I tried. He can turn my miserable mistakes into intricate and wonderful miracles. All I can do is post my mistakes on this website, and humbly ask you yourself to draw whatever fractured lessons you can from them.

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