I finished this piece about a month ago. As much as I love dragons, this piece was one of the hardest pieces to work on and it had nothing to do with technical difficulties with the art itself. What made this piece a challenge was the inspiration behind its creation.
When people see my work, they see someone who likes horses, mermaids, birds, dragons… What few people realize is the deeper meaning behind some of that ‘cool’ work.
For me, dragon imagery is very powerful. I associate with dragons a sense of power, perseverance, strength. There’s a duality to dragons. They are creatures who exist both in the sky and on land. For someone with bipolar tendencies, a dragon can be an apt spirit animal.
Earlier this year, I shared a bit about my biological mother, and where the source of my drive and passion for art came from. This dragon is inspired by my adopted mother, and the struggles we went through as I was growing up.
I was adopted when I was eight years old. While that should be the happy ending for a young orphan, the reality was a lot more complicated. I came to my adopted family with a lot of trauma, and while they did their very best to provide me with a safe and secure home and love, the sort of trauma I came with doesn’t necessarily go away with hugs and kisses. My parents had no idea what they were signing up for.
The impact of the trauma started surfacing in my teens, that along with normal hormonal changes and the beginnings of the same mental illness that ultimately took my biological mother’s life… my teenage years were hell. I was a terrible teenager to live with, and my parents were hard pressed to know how to handle me. Especially while they were struggling with their own issues and issues within their marriage.
My mother and I had an especially contentious relationship. We butted heads at every turn, both of us wanting a close relationship but not knowing how to create one. Unfortunately, during the height of my crisis, my mother had shut down on me emotionally and was not there when I needed her the most.
Enter the dragon…
When I look back on my past and how I grew up and the obstacles I overcame, its not hard to wonder how I came to be here today at all. My biological mother wasn’t able to overcome her obstacles, but in her death I discovered a strength to endure in spite of some truly horrific circumstances.
I think of myself as a dragon. I’m large and powerful. I cans fly on the wings of my imagination and breathe fire when I need to. Most importantly, I’m insanely hard to take out– the universe has tried on many occasions. Knock me down, knock me out, burn down everything around me… I endure. I get stronger.
Recently, for no particular reason, I’d been thinking about my relationship with my mother and how over the years we’ve tried to repair it, but there’s been so much damage that we’ve done to one another. One thing that stuck to me was her explanation for why she shut down all those years ago… The therapist she’d been seeing at the time told her to for her own good.
Thinking about that, thinking about how many whys I cried out for help during that time, that a mental health professional would tell a mother to turn her back on a child so obviously in crisis..
I suddenly I was livid! I saw everything in shades of red, and deep down inside me the dragon stirred.
It’s hard to be so angry while at the same time almost grateful because being shut out by my mother is just one more event that helped to create the dragon I became. I am strong today because I was weak then, because I had to pick myself up on my own and find the will to keep going.
This piece is an homage to that dragon. The person I had to become in order to survive. It’s dark and angry and fierce, but it’s also healing. I had to sit with that anger, the pain, the grief while I worked, which made it a challenge to work on. But at the end, the pain and anger from the memory no longer hold power over me. I can look back and see that my mother got some really bad advice. That she had been struggling with something too, and that her own pain blinded her to mine. It’s no one’s fault, it was simply the reality of that time.
The dragon reminds me that no matter how hard things get, no matter how bad things are, I’ve been through worse and came out the other side.
I am strong.
I am powerful.