“Muerta II” Print
A revisit of one of Nicholas Ivins’ most popular pieces!
The original “Muerta” was the first Day of the Dead piece I did way back in 2010. I was getting interested in Día de los Muertos at the time, and decided to explore that artistically. It resulted in my most popular and enduring piece to date. Nothing else has really come close to matching it, which is almost a source of frustration to someone who has an unquenchable desire to continually improve and top himself over time.
But weird tendencies like that aside, I had felt like re-approaching the subject again as I have done with others in recent years. Although my Día figures are rarely based on real people, I still regard them as such when I draw them. Perhaps the many hours spent with them creates some sort of intimate familiarity, or because my mind is constantly weaving stories and narratives to be placed upon the incomplete fragments encountered in life. In some weird way, I have the urge to check in with them every so often and see what they’re up to and how they’ve changed. Or just to depict a different aspect to them.
In any event, I wanted to approach the same girl, but a few years later in her life, and a few years later in terms of my artistic style and ability. I didn’t set out to “beat” the original, but just re-imagine it from my current style and instincts (which have hopefully evolved in the intervening six years).
One major difference is in my application of color; I have almost completely shifted over to the digital medium for color (as opposed to a mix of markers and digital). My growing comfort with that medium shows in the second piece in its brightness and digital tricks employed. The composition is much more complex, particularly in the construction of the border. I liked the concept of the original but wanted to push it further, so turning it into a three-dimensional deal seemed interesting and challenging. The overlapping flowers and leaves also served that desire.
The girl herself also reflects my evolution. I depicted her with more personality and an improved sense of form and figure. She seems to exude more life this time around, and appears more like a living person than a stiff and poised object. Overall, I wanted the image to burst outward with life and vitality, and the composition, colors, and linework accomplish that nicely (if I may say so).
None of these differences do I equate as being better or worse. I certainly consider myself a better artist than I was six years ago, and I think this piece exemplifies a lot of improvements I have cultivated through experience. But that doesn’t necessarily translate to a better final product. Art can be frustratingly elusive in that way—you can’t simply choose to be better, despite practice and experience. The stars must align in a certain way and the art just kind of… chooses for itself whether it’s better or worse. For someone as analytical and devoutly non-religious as me, that sounds like an incredibly bizarre and uncharacteristically god-fearing point of view, but there you go.
In the case of the first “Muerta” the stars definitely did their thing and allowed me to produce something truly special (based on people comments and buying habits). Will this revision usher in a new, greater era of praise and sales as equally dramatic? I doubt it. But that wasn’t the point. Despite my desire to best my past accomplishments, I’ve also realized that you can’t re-invent something, at least not the way you did before. Creation is a difficult enough act, re-creation seems to be impossibly doomed and destined for failure/disappointment. Cherish the past but don’t live in it, and don’t try to redo it. Do something new, or do something old in a new way.
And, uh, something blue too? You don’t want to be married to the past. Ah? Ah?
I should have quit while I was ahead…