Courtney Blazon grew up reading Richard Brautigan, the cult writer of the novel "Trout Fishing in America." By high school, she dove into his poetry, now out of print. This last winter, while going through some large life changes and approaching middle age, she revisited his works.
She still identified with them, and admires their simplicity, although now that she's the age he was when he wrote them, she had a different insight into them now — with "visceral reactions" to his writing about break-ups and introspection on aging. She also saw the casual misogyny of the 1960s and '70s throughout, and thought it would be interesting to use his first-person masculine poems as the basis for a series of self-portraits.
Blazon, who works as a full-time illustrator, is well-known around town for her intricate drawings, tableaux that she stocks with historical figures and anecdotes. Her museum exhibition, "A Year Without A Summer," explored the effects of an 1815 volcano eruption around the world in large-scale drawings.
For these pieces, she set very different parameters, for good reasons. She was between studios while moving, so she drew them on her iPad. She didn't allow herself more than eight hours per drawing. She let things flow, and kept the backgrounds simpler than anything she normally does.
Since she has a full-time job working on commissions, she fit these Brautigan works in as a personal project when she had time, a way of dealing with changes.
"Something was happening, I was going through it, and this was my way of dealing with it," she said.
The face in each drawing is very much like hers, the expressions often appearing blank or solemn. The figure is often contorted or incomplete, in some sort of transition that doesn't look pleasant.
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The title of her show and one particular piece, "The Necessity of Appearing in Your Own Face," is paired with a short poem by Brautigan from "Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork":
"There are days when that is the last place/in the world where you want to be but you/have to be there, like a movie, because it/features you."
Blazon admires the simplicity of his poems, particularly ones he wrote in Montana, but others raised her eyebrow on re-reading. One poem, "15%" criticizes a woman for not being 15% prettier.
Other poems deal with sexuality frankly, with lines like "(expletive) me like fried potatoes." The imagery Blazon drew doesn't shy away from the female body (but isn't obscene, either.) Instead it reads like a study in self-acceptance.
Since she's past 40, Blazon was thinking about reaching middle age, and how you grow far more comfortable with your body as you get older.
"It's just a strange phenomenon that when you're young, you just don't accept yourself very well, but as you get older you start to be like, I'm me," she said.
She drew 21 pieces in total over the winter, most of them one day. The final piece, "Horse Child Breakfast," was done a month later, when the turmoil had passed. Her figure, which is drawn with clean lines and bright colors that recall anime, is leaping forward like a superhero with a look of optimism on her face.