ThrowBackThursday: A Logo of ‘Golden-Fleece’ Proportions

The wait is over! It’s that time again, folks! Time to go digging in the vaults for some not-so-new material that’s worthy of a second glance. This weeks’ #ThrowBackThursday inspiration comes from all my talk of branding CultSTATUS – and by extension, myself – as a visual presence in the minds of our followers. It’s definitely NOT a new topic for me.

When I started this blog, three years ago, one of my first thoughts was that I needed to find an image to best represent my core message. I quickly fell in love with Veer and several other websites for their endless array of stock art, designs, and fonts. I spent hours, days, and weeks searching for the perfect logo to introduce CultSTATUS to the world. I was like Jason on his quest for the Golden Fleece. There’s still a folder, somewhere on my computer, filled with several hundred brave soldiers, er … pictures that didn’t survive the battle. I found rabbits to go along with the ones scampering around in my head. I considered sketches of music, music notes, and musicians. I even toyed with the idea of using Hieroglyphics or Sanskrit lettering to add the ‘Culture’ in CultSTATUS. There was inspiration, in vibrant living color, as far as the eye could see – or my mind could dream.

In the end, I chose the picture of a dancer in mid-leap which has been our official profile picture on Facebook ever since. I love this picture. It spans just a moment in time, but offers up so much potential for all the moments that come before and after The Dancer’s leap. It is that potential which grabbed me the most. I wanted to express, with CultSTATUS, all the possibilities that are out there for committed artists. The Dancer has shared that message perfectly for the past three years. And yet. I’m sure you know where this is going. I’m thinking it might be time to let Her die in favor of a new Heroine. Why? Well, now would be a good time to take that ThrowBack trip down memory lane. Not just  a three year trip, though. More like thirteen years.

*Editor’s Note* – I planned to write this post as one cohesive ThrowBack. I knew it would be a long one, but that wasn’t too big a deal for me because, as you know, I’m a writer and a word person at heart. I’ve written plenty of posts that topped 2,000+ words with no problem. I figured those of you, my followers, who chose to read it would appreciate the effort that went into the process. Basically, I chalked it up to physical training in my fingers to build up to my novel.

But the more I wrote, the more I realized this really was turning into two separate stories. A FlashBack within a ThrowBack, if you will? I decided I wouldn’t be doing justice to this post about my Logo, if I didn’t break out some of the pre-story details that filled in every.single.moment. leading up to my “eureka!” It’s still a #ThrowBackThursday post, but I’m taking that trip back seven years, as a happy medium, instead of thirteen. If you want the full stream-of-consciousness FlashBack, you’ll have to check out tomorrow’s post – #FlashBackFriday: The Prequel. If you’re continuing to read from this point, just pretend the last line up above says: ‘Well, now would be a good time to take that ThrowBack trip down memory lane. Not just  a three year trip, though. More like seven years.

I was 23 years old, a college dropout, and living in a new city that I’d moved to on a whim. Okay, not just a whim. I was chasing after a boy who decided, after I got here, that he didn’t love me like I loved him. On the bright side, I was discovering that I didn’t love him like I loved me! I was trying to find myself  and find the silver lining in all this heartache. The one thing that kept coming back to me was the idea of getting a tattoo to document the realness of this experience, these feelings, and this moment. Not a tattoo of him, for him, or about him. God, no! But a tattoo about me and what this experience with him had done for me. I’d considered getting a tattoo in the past, but I always chickened out. I could never decide what I wanted. It had to be something I could commit to for life.  But I have commitment issues. I’ve always struggled to pursue what I truly want versus what everyone else thinks is right for me. In this moment of failure – when I had finally been ready to commit to something against everyone else’ advice, no less – I gained a rare moment of clarity into all the other things I wanted. For me.

Suddenly I knew what my meaningful tattoo would be. It had been at least three years since I seriously thought about it, but I knew without a doubt what I wanted. I pictured an angel. At once, both falling and rising from heaven. She was stretching out one arm. Reaching upward. There were undertones of the Michelangelo masterpiece “The Birth of Adam”. But she wasn’t reaching towards God. She was reaching out for… Love. I decided to “personify” Love as love-birds. Tons of them. Fluttering in disarray all around My Angel. She would be giving up heaven to chase after love. It would be painful. Her wings would be burned off as she entered the earth’s atmosphere. It would be her punishment. How would I depict heaven? A massive star above/below her feet. But it couldn’t just be about the lost Love. Not the loss of some boy as my love, anyway. It had to be about the loss of so many of my True Loves. My passion for art and music and dance and creativity. It had to be about the joy in jumping off a cliff to win back those Loves. And now… love-birds seemed too easy also. Too one dimensional. I’d make them tiny hearts with golden wings. And I’d have My Angel wearing a ballerina skirt. She would be en pointe and in the middle of a classic pirouette. There would be Dance in this love story. There would be a happy ending too. Those winged-heart love-birds would still be in disarray all around My Angel. But like the night I first saw Orion, there would be order in the chaos for anyone who took the time to let their eyes focus. When looked at from just the right angle, the heavenly star and love birds would be connected to form a crucifix and rosary beads that were wrapped around My Angel. She wouldn’t be choosing Love instead of God. She would be reborn through God because of her Love!

Can’t you just picture it? Don’t worry, no one else could either. I discovered this a few months later when I went back to New York for a visit. It was late 2007, I’d noticed that people were starting to get more detailed tattoos, and I thought my problems were solved. I could definitely find someone to draw my Star of Bethlehem now! I spent an afternoon hanging out with one of my BFF’s, Lourdes, and decided to share my design. Her first question was: “So, what are you Catholic now?” Her second question was: “And where exactly are you getting this tattoo on your body? That’s a lot of detail to fit into a single drawing!”

In New York, I like to say that everyone is Catholic and no one is Catholic. There are rosary beads, statues of Mary, and ‘Bless This House’ stickers as far as the eye can see, but very few people are the truly in-your-face Catholics depicted on T.V. So, it really hadn’t occurred to me that my design would come across as deeply “religious.” I was not Catholic. And my intent with the rosary beads and references to God had simply been to create a general hint at the concept of two distinct choices in life. The Good, Right, “Expected” choice versus the Bad, Wrong, “Self-Satisfying” choice. A struggle that seemed to be at the root of all my commitment issues.

As for her question about where I would put the tattoo, that did give me pause. But only for a moment. I quickly decided it would look best on the inside of my left wrist. Still somewhat discreet, but perfect to add the illusion of rosary beads wrapped – not just around My Angel – but also around my wrist. I brushed off my friends’ concerns and continued with my plan. I would find a tattoo artist, tell him my idea, and have my permanent testament to this growing-up experience.

A little over a year later, I was back in the Tri-State area to visit my other bestie, Reisa. She was looking for her first apartment and we decided to commemorate the weekend by getting tattoos together. She got a scorpion on her shoulder and I thought I would finally get My Angel. But, once again, I was deemed ahead of my time. Drawing a heavily stylized star was no problem these days, but no way could my artist get so much detail on the tiny space that was my inner wrist. Especially without so much as a sketch to guide him. I still thought I could just walk in, tell him what I wanted, and receive an immediate spark of recognition in his eyes as my reward.

I settled on an equally meaningful script phrase tattooed on my front right hip bone. Inspired by the Ziggy Marley album of the same name, I still love my ‘Love Is My Religion’ tattoo to this day. But I hadn’t given up on My Angel just yet. I went back to Atlanta and recruited the help of one of my girlfriends with a background in Graphic Design. I thought she would be just the right person to sketch my idea. Within a few days, this too had flopped.

Her sketches were beautiful, but she had drawn an angel with faerie wings when I’d imagined a more gothic style. Her angel was in profile, while I had envisioned My Angel either facing forward or away from the viewer all together. Her angel was flat-footed where My Angel was supposed to be en pointe. And all this, before we’d even begun to discuss the more intricate details like references to The Birth of Adam or the winged-heart love-birds that did/didn’t look like rosary beads. I thought maybe I could save the endeavor if I drew a small rough draft of what I had in mind and then let her take over from there.

What I discovered was something that’s probably been screaming at all of you throughout this entire post. I discovered that my “rough draft” sketch was good. Really good, in fact. But, of course, it would be. I spent all my time in college drawing sketches and wishing I’d followed my dream to pursue a career in the Arts. I didn’t have a degree in Graphic Design, but I had the same natural talent and an advantage in that the Angel was my personal vision. How did I expect anyone to draw something that only I could truly see?

I spent the next six months perfecting My Angel with revision after revision. Once again, I was Jason on his noble quest. When I finally had something I felt was worthy of turning over to a tattoo artist, it had been over two years since the idea first came to me. It was late 2009 – early 2010, the economy was sinking lower with each day, I was out of a job, and sadly I didn’t have a spare three hundred bucks lying around to pay for my finished concept. I thought I would just put it off until I could “catch my breath” financially. But catching my breath would take another few years. Somehow, more important responsibilities just kept popping up and I never found my way back to it.

Of course, my highly original concept became not-so-original with the passing of time; and suddenly several of the very same friends that I had approached for help with my drawing, were now getting self-designed tattoos on the inside of their own wrists. I had let the moment slip past me all over again and I didn’t know what I should have done differently, but clearly I was falling back into old habits. Worst of all, was the feeling that even if I got my tattoo at this point, I would just come off as a band-wagon follower of the trend now that everyone was doing it. I let some more time pass to decide if I even wanted Her anymore.

Flash forward to the present, and I’ve been in the midst of my own personal quarter-life-crisis part deux (I had the first melt down, right on schedule, as I approached my 25th birthday). Now, leading up to my 30th birthday, many of the same recriminations and self doubts have been resurfacing. But this time around I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things, albeit a slow learning. For one thing, there’s all that talk I did earlier about the possibilities waiting out there for committed artists. It would seem that I need to follow my own advice. Instead of worrying about what other people will think, or measuring my accomplishments by some precise timeline, I just need to be committed to the process and open to the potential for what might be.

With that in mind, I’ve begun to re-imagine My Angel as more than just a tattoo. Maybe it’s not that I have commitment issues. Maybe I don’t need to be worried that I did something wrong or somehow let the moment pass me by. Maybe there was just more to the process and I couldn’t fully see Her true potential yet. She was never meant to be a tattoo for me alone. She needed to be more than just My Angel. She needed to be shared with the world.

So it is my honor to unveil the new and permanent CultSTATUS logo: The cS Angel. The thought has occurred to me to turn Her into a full “Welcome to Your World” mural with even more layers and dimensions (I could really have some fun toying with all the possibilities for a mural!) So yes, I may engage in some artistic “tweaking” down the road, but for the most part this is it. And is it just me, or is she not that far off in her looks from our first logo, The Dancer? Maybe that Heroine didn’t have to die after all. Maybe she’s just been reborn in a better, fuller form. ~ cS

cS Angel With Signature

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