Feeling Good While Giving It Away

Marcus from Real World Personal Defense, and repeat offender at Studio Bowes Art.

Summary: While donating an illustration for a charity auction, I find myself in wonder at being connected to a larger community. There are additional notes regarding the conceptual process of creating the image. Followed at the end by links to the charity organization.

I first heard the term “Citizen Designer” while I was in college. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but recently, I was given a wonderful opportunity to discover what that term can really mean. In that process I was able to crawl out from under the weight of my own current life situation, take a broader view of the world around me, and was able to give back in my own way. And for me, that way is through Art and drawing.

So, let’s start with a quick back story:

I’ll say that it started at Marcus’ Shodan (Blackbelt First Degree) test at the Aikido Noe Valley Dojo where we practice. Marcus (pictured above) is as brilliant a person as you’d like to meet, so when he asked me to join in the festivities after his test I was only to glad to say “yes.” Afterward we all went out to dinner, and I got a chance to talk with his parents a little. Somewhere in the conversation Sharon (Marcus’ Mom) asked if I would like to participate in an art auction called “Sketch the Future” that they were planning to use to raise money for an organization that they worked with called Real World Personal Defense. And so, this is how it began, and I agreed to donate a drawing to the auction.

A note about Real World Personal Defense:

Real World Personal Defense works with foster children. They provide a number of skills for the children ranging from Tai Chi and Aikido to Somatic Integrity. You can read more in depth about their work on their website. But, more than just these skills which are aimed at creating centered and balanced human beings, they help to provide a certain grounding for the children. Consider for just a few moments how valuable it would be to you to have a place that was always there for you as you were bounced from house to house growing up, just take a moment to consider that.

Here’s a small blurb from the History section of their website:

“We started out teaching more traditional Aikido and Tai Chi classes but the restraints of the classroom and the necessity of avoiding physical contact made this very difficult. Somatic Integrity grew from these early experiences and has proved successful in teaching the underlying principles without sparring or fighting.

Part of the Dojo experience is feeling the support of other students, almost as an extended family. Because kids in the Foster Care system are frequently moving, we created the Gargoyle Project. This allows a small group of volunteers to support the kids regardless of where they may end up.”

So that is a brief introduction to their organization, now, I’d like to share what I created for them, and why.

The story behind the picture:

There were three themes to choose from on the “Sketch the Future” challenge, I chose “Your Vision of the Future.” While there may seemingly be a disconnect between the program and the sketch below, let me take a few moments to explain my thinking to you.

At first I thought about all the usual stuff for a sketch of the future, science fiction pictures of far flung architecture, rockets, etc. etc. But then I got to thinking about the people that this illustration was for. It was for people who’d either already overcome great obstacles in their lives or were facing incredible challenges, further more, they might very well be facing those challenges for the rest of their lives. Which, I realized, we all do every day in our own way. What’s more, I believe, that the real challenges we face aren’t only our external situation, but also our own inner perspective and how we chose to view the world, our challenges, and then, how we move forward from there. This then becomes our greatest challenge, and these obstacles that are within us become our own demons. I felt that even in the future our demons will continue to try to knock us down. This train of thought reminded me of an age old axiom, “Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight.”

I started to work from this concept, and developed the sketches that you see here. But, I felt like the view might need a little more information to push them in the right direction, and so to that end I put a passage at the bottom. The passage reads:

Defiantly he rose,

facing the Demons,

yet again.

Once I had the concept down, and the drawing had started to flow, I began working in much the same way I would any illustration, photo reference, multiple compositional sketches, and then a value study. I chose to do a pen and ink piece for the auction. In keeping with the spirit of the piece, I find working in pen and ink quite challenging and many times found myself having to get back up, go back to the drawing board and do my best to make it work out.

The Conclusion:

Now, I can’t pin down a moment exactly when I was able to step outside of my world and to really consider the work that I was being asked to donate to. Perhaps it was while I was reading their website where I began to get a sense of the work that they were doing. Perhaps it was when I started to conceive of an appropriate piece to give, or perhaps it was when I gave it away. I don’t know, and in the end I am just grateful that I am able to give, and that the experience helped to broaden my perspective on the world.

The actual date for the auction is as yet to be determined. I will blog/tweet/facebook about it when I know. If you’d like to be personally notified, I will happily send you an email, simply send me a note using the contact form here on my website.

The final image, matted and ready to go.

While Real World Personal Defense is still as of yet a small organization, it is indeed an honor and a pleasure for me to donate to their cause. I would encourage you to please check them out, and consider making a donation in what ever way is most comfortable to you.

Real World Personal Defense website: Sketch for the Future, and Donation Page

Finally, I respond well to enthusiasm. Your feed back is encouraged and welcome here!

Thank you,


4 Responses to Feeling Good While Giving It Away

  1. Brian,
    First, this is an awesome piece with so much thought behind it. Congratulations to you for letting it go and to such a worthy cause.

    Second, thank you for bringing it to my attention several months ago. I too was able to pull together an image to donate and proud to be a part of the event.

    Third, any artist reading this post should check out the organization and their website. Think about donating a sketch (or full blown finished piece) and send it their way.


  2. Howdy Donna,

    Thank you for your kindness. Real World Personal Defense is a great bunch of folks and they’re doing work that is definitely on the fringe of society. It’s far to easy to get wrapped up in our own bubble of trouble and forget to take a look around us, these folks are out there lending a helping hand everyday. It is a joy to be able to give to them.

    Also, since you mentioned your piece, let’s put a link to it …HERE!


  3. Howdy Simon,

    Thank you for taking a look at the piece. While I love doing cross-hatching, I must admit that this image was something of a challenge, so I appreciate your note on it.


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