Lately I’ve had Day of the Dead on the brain, mainly because I’ve been working on Day of the Dead articles and tutorials for Art is Fun. The other night, after I’d been preparing tutorials for Day of the Dead art projects, I laid in bed thinking about skulls and those empty places where the eyes were. And thinking that my eyeballs are now resting in those two holes in my skull, as they’d been all my life – something I always take for granted and accept as fact and never question or even consider.
So I laid there thinking about the solidity of skulls and the soft fluidity of eyeballs, contrasting the living with the dead. And thinking that there is a profound difference between having a functioning brain and eyeballs beneath this skull, versus having a dry, bare, exposed and empty skull – and knowing that one day, that is exactly what my body will become. My eyeballs, these lovely organs that allow me to see the visual world around me, will no longer exist. It’s all very basic on one level; we all know that we will die. Duh, right? But to really contemplate death, especially one’s own death, is an entirely different experience than to just passively be aware of it (or to ignore it completely).
So thinking of Day of the Dead incited all these ruminations circling around mortality, ephemerality, the cycles of existence… we’re here one minute and gone the next, but where do we (our spirits, our minds) go? No one really knows. We have theories and opinions, hopes and visions, but no solid evidence of anything.
I guess that makes some people scared, so they either try to ignore the inevitability that they will die someday, or they cling to their beliefs, which are really just stories they tell themselves to try to make sense of it all. Personally, I find beauty and wonder in the mystery of not-knowing. I don’t want to try to fit the future into a preconceived storyline. I just want to ride the wave and see what happens. And this brings me a sense of inner peace.
Pondering the inevitability of death also brings everything back to basics… such contemplation leads to discerning what really matters in life, if we’re all gonna die someday anyway? The way we conduct our lives often seems to depend on our own individual answers to this question. To me, it suddenly makes my priorities more clear: I want to be a good person and have a positive impact on others.
So anyway, back to what started this whole train of thought…
I just finished a page explaining Day of the Dead (for those who may not know) and showing my Day of the Dead Art. Now I’m writing tutorials on how to draw skulls, hence the funky animation at the top of this post. In the coming weeks I plan to expand on these tutorials to include instructions for making colorful Dia de los Muertos calaveras, like this one. It’ll be fun!