“It is about time” is an ongoing visual project about the human relationship with time in a culture of speed. An illustrated praise for slowing down life’s pace and an invitation to practice meditation.
Now, for the few humans out there that still have the time and patience to read, a deeper explanation follows:
The human world is going too fast. One might argue that there are many problems in that world that need solving quickly. But taking a step back and having a more profound look, one might also consider that speed itself is a root cause of many of those problems. After all, it is the increasing human hyperactivity and never ending demand for more that is depleting the natural resources at a speed nature is unable to keep up with, and replenish. It is the fear of a coming future of scarcity, that underlies most of the social and geostrategic conflicts of the present.
Maybe it is about time to question our relationship with time and ponder the impact that speed culture has, both on our personal and natural environment. Everything we cause in the world arises from the mind: Here and now, moment to moment. And if we can agree that it is the sum of all the individual human actions we make in each present moment, that continuously shape the immediate future... How can we expect a less conflictive future when there is no peace in our minds in the first place?
We need more peace of mind that inspires good thoughts, which inspire kind words, which inspire right actions. Peaceful minds that are much happier with much less material needs. Minds that inspire present positive actions that replace our reactions to fears about the future. Positive actions that collectively transform the world with the right amount of effort, and therefore less impact, on the natural environment. In this context, Meditation, a most elegant and simple technique, may very well be the best tool for such apparently complex job.
This visual project is inspired by personal meditation experiences. And the thing is, when you try to explain these with words, you can’t. You can’t simply because many of the insights that naturally arise from them, occur at the level of direct experience, in a state of “no mind”. So useless words can be, that Zen teaching uses Koans (short questions without solution that confuse the rational mind) to briefly stop our thought process and allow insight of deeper nature of mind.
One day, shortly after a 10-day Meditation course, the sand clock character popped in my head. And for a visual metaphor, it seemed a fairly good way to translate what I had experienced. I wondered then if images could be better than words to inspire the practice of Meditation, given they do not rely so much on rational thinking. After all, even the best book about Meditation can end up filling your mind with more thoughts.
As the project evolved, the characters were used to reflect on the increasing speed and conflict of the human world: I believe this speed gives evidence of the anxiety and restlessness of all our minds combined. And the ongoing conflicts and irrational polarization of human societies are direct psychological projections of our inner collective confusion.
More recently, this visual world has being used to create short books that advocate for a cultural shift towards slowing down life's pace, and the popularization of Meditation as a simple solution to bring presentness and peace to our minds. Experiencing that within us, below the grey clouds of our hyperactive grey matter, there is a natural source of inner peace that we can always come back to, is quite a present that deserves being shared. And that is what this project is about.
As it happens with words, probably the best an image can do, is point at something. But maybe the care and attention that goes in the making of these artworks whisper you something about the truths they are inspired upon, and you consider giving Meditation a try. Above all, I can say that I've made this project slowly, without stress, with honesty and good intention, to the best of my capacity.
May all beings be present.
The visual world of “It is about time” makes use of the widely known sand clock to question our perception of time at the level of the mind. The sand in the head represents our thoughts about the future. The sand in the body represents our thoughts about the past. And the falling distance of sand between them represents the fleeting present moment, as it happens. When the mind’s attention is constantly occupied with interpretations of the past and projections of the future, we can’t be fully present. We are just somewhere else. Lastly, the attention focused on the present moment is represented by the wave-spectrum coloured sand.
The sustained attention on the present leads the mind to slowly emptying itself of thoughts: transparency, clarity of mind. From this emptiness, peaceful nature of the mind effortlessly arise, until there is constant flow of present sensations.
The top and bottom caps, come to represent our preconception about the ultimate beginning and end of things, including the clear delimitations of the self. In deep meditation states, the direct experience of the changing nature of phenomena in the framework of the body, can challenge these preconceptions: We can awake a deep sense of interconnection and involvement with all that surrounds us, that becomes indivisible with a deep sense of love and kindness that tunes in from within. This insight, is represented visually in the characters without top and bottom caps, open, free flowing in present moment.
The flower represents a natural “object” to focus the mind’s attention upon. In Meditation, “objects” are used to train and sharpen our attention. This “objects” can potentially be anything, internal or external. But of all, breathing might be the simplest one. Both because we carry it with us every moment of our lives, and because its flow, calmed or hastened, gives insight about the state of our minds. The choice of the flower “object” is borrowed from the Zen flower sermon tale, in which Buddha, expected to explain the Technique to an audience, hold up a white flower and remained silent. As the tale goes, nobody understood, but one, who smiled.
The apparent contradiction of the sand clock being emptied to be present, is a reflection of another surprising insight we gain during meditation. By emptying ourselves of thoughts, we fill ourselves with presentness. It is that simple. Unintendedly and effortlessly, everything follows.
All the artwork curves have a very high level of detail and can be scaled up indefinitely. I spend as much time with each character as it requires, to the point they almost have a personality of their own in my mind. By creating them in perfect vectors I intend to make them essential so style becomes invisible or irrelevant and only meaning remains. You can see some detail images here:
From a technical point of view, once an idea arises I start drawing it on paper, looking for the composition that will make all the layers of its meaning visible. All the artwork is then carefully created in flat 2D vector, based on those drawings. The 3D look is achieved by outlining the front view of a 2D element, to later skew it to a certain angle and break it down to draw its 3D projection. Despite aiming for a 3D overall coherence, small exceptions are made to favor 2D composition over what would be perfect geometry.
Once the body proportions of a character feel right, I move into colour. The parts are broken down and coloured with layers of semi-transparent gradients that combined give sense of shape and roundness. Lastly, sand is drawn according to what I consider is the character’s level of “presentness”, trying to understand how sand would flow within the glass shape, again favoring composition over realism.
All characters and elements, with two minor exceptions, are created in the same dimetric projection of 160°. This angle makes the observer look at this world from above, without detaching too much from it, as I felt happened with higher pov’s. The common dimetric angle creates a graphic environment in which all the characters can be brought together to acquire different meanings in relation to each other.
Drawing these characters has become another kind of meditation for me and I hope you can feel the time, attention and love that goes into making them.
For magazines or design & art blogs that might consider featuring this project.
Here you can download some high-res images of the artwork in various sizes.
For anything else, contact me at - firstname.lastname@example.org
A Failing Beautiful project.
Concept, writing and artwork by Nacho.
Website Creative Development Hugo Dechesne.
To the very kind people of Random Studio for hosting me in their beautiful space.
To the typographer Jessica Hische, for her wonderful typography “Tilda”.
To my friends, for their reflections, their comments and their time.
It is about time 2016 · Failing Beautiful, The Netherlands
All rights Reserved ® All artworks are copyright protected by Failing Beautiful and may not be printed without written permission from the artist.