Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dan Eldon

My first college art professor introduced me to the story of Dan Eldon. I cried on the spot.
The only thing I wanted for Christmas 2008 was his book, The Journey is the Destination. (I do not own the rights to this)
His love for people around him was simple and childlike, but he also took on the burden and pain for those he knew he couldn't help. Dan grew up in Nairobi where he lived a life far from ordinary and he documented it in visual diaries.

The professor told us to start keeping visual diaries, an assignment that changed my life. Recording my life with words AND art made such a huge change in my perspective that I suggest that everyone keep a visual diary.

My professor encouraged us to buy a big sketchbook, to use it to plan out our work, to brainstorm, and to create within its pages. 

A recent project I completed in my own visual diary.
He said we could glue a map onto a page in the middle of the book, start writing down a thought on another page, glue a picture from a trip to Ireland to another page, and overlay a small painting on another page with a random paragraph written on wax paper. The idea was to create a feeling and a congruent concept throughout the sketchbook, using as many layers as we felt necessary.
This took forEVER...
When I went to the art supply store, I was already in love with the idea. I bought the biggest sketchbook that would fit in my backpack and I'm only halfway through it, three years later, because it's such a big investment of time and emotion.
I combine magazine clips with written word and my own painting.
I've used magazine clips, my paintbrush, stream of consciousness writing, sketches for bigger pieces, and other random contributions to document my last three years. Much like my diary entries, I cringe when I turn some of the pages, but I love the book as a whole.

I let my eye do the deciding and eventually, something is created.
African Dan
The whole project began because of Dan and the love of his mother and sister. Dan grew up as a compassionate person who empathized with the Africans who saw war, hunger, and corrupt government everyday of their lives.

Dan became the youngest photojournalist for Reuters at the age of twenty-two and documented the war-torn continent. His compassion and his job also brought him to his death, as he was stoned to death in Somalia in July 1993 by a mob reacting to the United Nations bombing raid on the suspected headquarters of General Mohammed Farah Aidid.
A view into Dan's book. (I do not own the rights to this)
Dan's mom and sister, Kathy and Amy, raise money and awareness for African causes through art promotion through their organization, Creative Visions. After Dan's death, Kathy and Amy pulled together Dan's seventeen visual diaries and created two bound compilation books, one of which I have.

Neither the organization's website nor Dan's book mention any specific Christian mission, but they do a lot of good for people in need.

Another page from Dan's book. (I do not own the rights to this)
The foundation is a "creative activist website" that provides "toolkits" to help anyone become a "change-maker" in one's own community. They hold conferences, seminars another ways of connecting artists, journalists, and creative activists for the betterment of the world.
One more page...(I do not own the rights to this)
Yes, some of their rhetoric smells of socialism, but helping people through this private, non-profit is a great venture.

A few years ago, I got so involved in politics and the drive behind it that I forgot about the best mission: living to help other people. I haven't finished deciding how I'm going to use my talents to accomplish this mission, but having Dan as an art role model is very telling of how much we can do on Earth after we've gone.

(My parents purchased Dan Eldon's book, The Journey is the Destination, and I took pictures of open pages, though I do not have the rights to any of them)


Kevin said...

Eliz, your art is awesome! Very motivating. Considering I'm still working on keeping up a text diary, I can't say I give the chances of a visual one starting any time soon, but it's something to think about!

Elizabeth said...

Thanks Kevin!

Julie Robison said...

I want to make a visual diary too! I actually made one when I was at Leadership Academy for Kappa my junior year, and I still go back and look at it. This is a wonderful idea, E! Thank you for sharing Dan's book and story too!

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