Thursday, January 8, 2015

Je Suis Charlie

When I was in college, on the first day of my Drawing I class, my professor offered this wisdom: "Draw as if each line subtracted a minute of your life." Her intent was to teach us mindful drawing and economy, to make our marks boldly, and break the habit of tentative sketchy contours. It was a lesson I took to heart, but I'm sure none of us in that room imagined a scenario where we would pay for our lines with our lives.

On Wednesday, the cartoonists at the french satire magazine, Charlie Hebdo, did just that.

Until now, I was largely unaware of the magazine's existence. Yet this terrible tragedy has weighed heavily on my heart as an artist. I remember consciously choosing to pursue art because I knew it was a career where I couldn't hurt anybody. Not really. And I certainly never thought it would be a career that I could get hurt. Any mistake I made on my path to mastery would be paved with learning opportunities. My mistakes could never cost someone their retirement or their home, could never lead to the death of a loved one, could never cause an important package to end up in Bosnia instead of Boston. I thought at the end of the day, a picture is just a picture. The most juvenile and rudimentary form of human expression, and I don't mean that derogatorily. Even if it's an unflattering rendering on a bathroom stall, surely that could only bruise one's pride. Is that worth killing for?


So is it also worth dying for?

Even if their cartoons were political in nature, I believe the best cartoonists are in it for a laugh. They aren't out to spread meanness or hurt. Maybe make the audience think a little bit, but ultimately cushion to injustices they see with a joke. I'm sure not a single member of staff at Charlie Hebdo had reason to believe they wouldn't come home that evening. Few people outside an actual battlefield set out in the morning prepared to lay down their lives for their passions. But maybe that's what passion is: laying down your life every day for a thing you believe in. The thing you love. The thing you enjoy. The thing you give up time, and money, and other opportunities in order to do. Nothing justifies the horrendous violence wrought on them, but I hope they will rest in peace knowing they died with pen in hand, so to speak.