In 2010, I created a series of seven black and white acrylic paintings called “The Drink of Death.” I bought seven 16″ x 20″ canvases and simply used a tube of black paint and a tube of white paint to create the whole thing.
How I got the idea for the art series
I don’t know how common it is for the things that disturb artists most to end up popping up again and again in their work. That’s always been the case for me, and I’m not entirely sure why. The process is kind of cathartic.
Ever since I was a little kid, one of the things that creeped me out the most was goo.
I remember three movie scenes haunting me as a child: the tar pit scene in the original Land Before Time, the scene in The Brave Little Toaster where all the helpless little appliances sink into the swamp, and some part of Who Framed Roger Rabbit where someone got stuck in glue.
All of them filled me with disproportional horror.
It’s never been so much that I’ve been afraid of the goo—just profoundly disgusted. It’s a similar feeling that I would get seeing someone’s guts exposed. But a little weirder.
If you’ve seen much of my art, you may have noticed it showing up in various places. Here are some examples.
Here’s a goo monster putting green goo into this sleeping person’s brain through their ear. Maybe that’s where nightmares come from. If so, gross.
And here’s a thing that looks like part computer, part city, part insides . . . dissolving into goo. (This is actually part of a series I’m working on called “My House” where anatomy is interpreted as architecture).
And here’s a painting of a humanoid creature that’s both made of and stuck in goo.
And here’s one of many goo-themed sketches—this one’s made on my iPad.
Anyways, as you may have guessed, the idea for this painting series came out of my deep, visceral dislike of goo.
One time, as I was reading through the Gospels, the cup metaphor in the below verses struck me in a new way.
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”
It made me envision Jesus preparing to drink a cup of one of the most horrifying substances imaginable. The one we just talked about.
I had never imagined someone actually drinking the goo until this point. It left me in a bit of a stasis for a little while. Then I realized that what I had come up with accidentally was a pretty effective visual metaphor for trying to picture someone absorbing the sin of all mankind.
Granted, there’s a lot more to what Christ did than that, but I found it to be a fascinating (and terrifying) way to explore and appreciate the gravity of what he did.
It was not fun to make this series, but it was an interesting experience, to say the least.
The completed painting series
I wanted the series to have that adrenaline-rush feeling you have in that moment when you’re about to do something that really freaks you out. Like jumping off a 60-foot cliff for the first time. Everything seems to break down into slow-motion chunks, like:
- I’m about to jump. Do I really have to jump?
- I’m going to jump but I can’t feel my legs
- I just kicked off the rock and I can’t take it back now
That’s the reason the series is seven paintings, instead of just one.
I spent a while thumbnailing out the progression of the series in my sketchbook to lay out how each piece would be composed. I attempted to depict the hesitation and the resolution, and really tried to slow the moment down into seven distinct frames.
For the first painting, I simply created a closeup of the cup, focusing on the viscous stuff getting poured in.
The next painting features the freshly acquired cup. The person holding it is tentative: they don’t really want that thing in their hands.
I showed the cup from a different angle in the third painting, the goo beginning to spill out over the holder’s fingers.I wanted to depict a sense of desire to put the cup down, but realizing there was no place to put it. The cup has begun to overflow.
There is a sense of hesitation. This is a really horrible thing the person holding the cup is about to do.The sixth painting shows the resolve. The thing must be done, and the cup is raised toward the lips.
In the seventh painting, the deed is finally being done, and the goo is oozing into the physical body, destroying it from the inside out.
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