Sep 28, 2011

She loves me, she loves me not....

When I had the epiphany I call 'the sadness of aging' I was 19 years old and it was 11 o'clock in the morning.

I was on the 309 bus ( a single decker painted blue) travelling from Botany to Kensington. In was in the  mid seventies, in the days when people could still smoke on buses, the bus was crammed with grey and blue haired  people in their sixties and seventies, there was a blue and orange add on the wall that announced VD is Catchy! and there was a hand lettered sign behind the driver that said "Do not speak to the driver whilst bus is in motion.". 

As the bus chugged off from the bus stop and I took my seat I took a moment to examine my fellow travelers - the invisible people -  and realised how old and uninteresting they all were. 

As far as I was concerned, in my little 19 year old's head at least, the other people on the bus, as 'old' people,  weren't real people, they were just cardboard cutouts, just caricatures. 

The bus trip to uni was about forty minutes and often I would entertain myself by playing that game where you stare at the back of someone's head and try and get them to turn around by the mere power of your gaze (it works - just try it)....  And, on this particular day, during this game, my eyes fell on a particularly fine looking woman, in her seventies, with sculptured cheekbones and porcelain skin and clear blue eyes - and the light glanced upon her face in such a way that, for a moment, she metamorphed into a much younger person. 

In that moment of clarity I realised that she had once been young and beautiful. 

And when I looked back at the other people in the bus, I understood, that if I looked very hard, I could see the young people hidden in their faces, that I could see the archetypes of youth, that I could almost recognise the people that I had been to school with, as if every generation has it's facial types that emerged in groups every twenty or thirty years ....

I first heard the expression 'invisible person' a few years ago from some friends of mine in their seventies. I heard it again a few weeks ago while watching an English detective show set in an old persons' home - so I am guessing that, as an expression, it has become endemic.

Basically the expression relates to how people become 'invisible' as they get older. I think we have all experienced it in one way or the other.

Interestingly as people age they can be invisible in a few different ways. They can be invisible because people of the opposite sex no longer relate to them in a hormonal sense. They can be invisible to advertisers who perceive that older people have not available income to spend. But more importantly, they can be invisible because they no longer appear to have anything to offer society. 

For me I think I started entering the realm of the 'invisible' person about five years ago. It's hard to say really, because I seem to merge in and out of that realm on a daily basis. It's like there is flimsy wall there, not quite tactile, not quite translucent, that divides the two worlds that I stand in, and I can, with difficulty, step between one and the other, depending on what I am wearing, or whether I have had a hair cut, or whether I am in Paris, or my hair is blonde, or I am booking into an expensive flashy hotel, or walking through a shopping center dragging a plastic bag full of apples along the ground .....

So in a way, both these gentleman are me. They are almost brothers. Yet you can see that they have different characters. One is posing seriously for his photograph, the other refuses to take life lying down, to take anything seriously, in fact denies that he has become an invisible person, and in this denial, creates his own self fulfilling prophecy. I'll let you guess which is the real me.

So what's this have to do with Illustration Friday?

When I read the Illustration Friday prompt "Ferocious" my first thought was to do the lion tamer thing (i'm doing circus themed stuff still)... then I realised that "Ferocious" could be applied to so many things. 

It could be an adjective for friendship, it could be an adjective for a cat - and it could be used to describe the Norwegian Death's Head man-eating-butterfly that spends the daytime hours hiding in the damp underleaves of the Norwegian Oespaghous Bushe, only to emerge just on twilight to descend on unwary travelers and rip off their heads with one fell bite while said travelers are looking in the other direction.

Hence the butterflies :) 


  1. What are you doing the rest of your life?

  2. Bonjour Andrew,
    En te lisant je me sens subitement plus vieille... Je crois que moi aussi je suis rentrée dans le monde des invisibles... dure constatation! Nous devenons de plus en plus nombreux dans ce cas!
    Cependant je me sens comme ton personnage, prête à toutes les pitreries... Je suis presque certaine d'aimer plus volontiers m'amuser que beaucoup de jeunes gens d'aujourd'hui...
    Je me sens semblable à ton petit chat... je poursuivrais bien les papillons... Les "vieux" ne sont-ils pas de grands enfants ? ...
    Gros bisous et merci pour cette belle illustration.

  3. Andrew, this is a fascinating illustration, and an amazing essay. Maybe its because I'm roughly the same age you are, but I could relate so well to your story. In fact, I kid you not, I had that experience just this morning at the podiatrist's office (there's that blasted age thing again). The doc was older than I am (imagine!) but was fit and outdoorsy-looking and had a big friendly grin. I immediately set him spinning in my mental time machine and I knew just which kid he was in high school and college. Thanks for perceptively zeroing in on the aging process and illustrating it so well with pictures AND words.

    And that comment that you left about mandala art has me fascinated and reading all about the subject this evening. Complex and elegantly simple...we live in a fascinating world, do we not?

  4. Very interesting work. Have a nice day.

  5. How about that, Andrew? You summed up beautifully random thoughts that have been careening around in my spacious skull for years now. Thank you for addressing it here. I think ferocious applies to the effort society puts into marginalizing those in society who do not fit into traditional pictures of youth and beauty. But for those of us not blessed with the one and too generationally(?) advanced for the other must remember who we are and fight back. I mean, would you honestly like to be 21 forever? It's great to get to a place where you stop worrying quite so much what other people think--a gift of advancing age, to my way of thinking.

    Love the blending of your story and artwork--always interesting!

  6. I went to university (once I wanted to be an agronomist, ha ha I laugh at myself) and I played the same game as you, (about an hour away by bus, all the same as you describe. but there is a difference with me the game never worked!
    (tell me one thing: if you were going sitting behind the woman, how you saw his face?) ha ha just kidding, I like to look for the fifth leg of the cat, as we say here.
    oh, there's ferocious butterflies and sharks ame, certainly
    and dangerous cats (ha ha, you did not want to know what, in my country we say "cat")

    Eh, I do not think you will lose your hair when you are old.

  7. Wow Andrew. Thank the universe that we have our art to loose ourselves in and to bliss out for awhile when we are really old..... well hopefully we can hold a paint brush or pencil...... Oh....thats got me thinking.

    A really moving illustration.

  8. (This webpage is not available
    The server at can't be found, because the DNS lookup failed.) This appeared just now, when I am finally ready to write and now , I forgot what I wanted write.... I have to come later.....
    Once more:
    Last days when trying to write some comments I am often teased by the Blogger....hopefully it has nothing to do with IF topic of this week....

    Andrew, very interesting story. As many of the readers already mentioned, I tried it also. And believe it or not, when I was YOUNG , it worked. Surprisingly 82,753 % of the people turned head at my direction and stared into my eyes....I was sure they knew it was me. I tried also different distances wondering how many meters my "resonation" can reach...but as you understand , it was impossible to implement ( I couldn't ask people: just stay, do not move I have to measure the distance between you and me...)

    As you say, human's are strange. By meeting people ( even in this virtual, blogger's world) we realize that we all have many things common. That we think about the same things , how we deal with it and .........Do you think that (for example) the bird do the same???
    I agree with you that people become 'invisible' as they get older. But this could be a long discussion ....

    I am very bad writer, but thanks for sharing your story and your work with us.

  9. Did I mention this story and your illustrations are amazingly well put together?

    BTW, fairy sounds exciting... :D

  10. Hey Andrew! Great story! We are close in age and I could really relate to a lot of your sentiments. I could never get people to turn around with my mind.... so I used my finger :o) One morning I went for a walk and everyone was older than me. The next morning I went for that same walk and everyone was younger than me! How did that happen? I like how you described stepping from one world into the next. We are becoming semi-invisible. I can’t wait till I’m totally invisible so I could stop putting on my pants every morning ;o) Great post and wonderful work. That has to be you.... the fun-loving old guy on the right :o)

  11. I love the way your mind works! I guess we're in a similarly translucent age category; not invisible yet, just a bit closer than half the population.
    I'm sure we seem like relics to any 19 year old out there, but not to each other. People in their 70s don't look old to me any more!
    I think you are both of the elderly gentlemen... and you're the dog and cat and butterflies too!

  12. Ah yes, funny how our perceptions of age evolve. I clearly remember when I was a kid, my dad's graduate students seemed ancient!!
    Also, my brother had the same theory of stare-power. I was always too shy to try it, but amazed at its apparent efficacy. To this day I wonder how it works...

    Do you know the Bob Dylan lyric "But I was so much older then/ I'm younger than that now"? Works for me!

  13. Love this post Andrew. I can so relate to it. I love the part where you said you could see the young people they used to be. I do this all the time, the staring thing too.;) I love the image in the "photograph" and the reflections, very cool.
    So our next 3D project was a house and a desert island. We had to make it into an animation. Blender is not quite as irritating now, but it is still not my friend.
    I've been sick for weeks so I haven't posted anything. I'll get something up before the weekend is over. :)

  14. I love this post Andrew! Really well written, and as always, the art is always a joy to look at too. I especially like the old guys with their faces ghosted behind them. I've done the same things on the bus and didn't realize so many others were doing the same thing. I've often thought of random people I pass as "filler people", just filling in spaces of my current reality. When you make them turn around and notice you they become more real. All of this is very cool and I may have to think about it today. I love when that happens :)

  15. Beautiful illustration and very touching post:)

  16. Hi A.
    I was here , The Absence of Pain, reading your thoughts, but no space for comments. Well, it is not necessary to comment on each post (IMHO) , but want say just Hi, enjoy sunday , have a fun and if you have time, there is some beer( and maybe a fig cake left) at Roberto's attic!!

  17. The “Invisible people”? Hmm, I never thought of aged people like that, but I agree that most of us do not notice them. You can “look at” without seeing, just like “listen to” without hearing… Your post made me think, Andrew. It is special and reveals what a sensitive man you are, although sometimes you pretend this is not true… The society as a whole doesn’t notice the old people, because they are not interesting any more (in different aspects).
    Children are attracted by other children. Teenagers and young people need love and affection, so they search for beautiful, young faces… We begin to notice the old people around us and pay attention to them, after realizing that we are slowly approaching their age and problems…
    I think that only children are VISIBLE for everyone, at any age!
    While studying puppet theatre directing, we had to write in special diaries our observations and impressions of people we met in the streets, in the bus, in the hospital, etc. I remember I had written about old people I had travelled with in a train. I must search for this diary. We used the material in our acting classes…
    I admire your picture! Especially the doubling of personages by the reflection effect!
    What concerns the interpretation of “ferocious”, go and see this wonderful post in one of my favourite blogs -
    Have a lovely new week!!:-)

  18. hi andrew i got a letter a few days ago.

    Dear You,

    you are old yourself.
    and you are invisible to some people.

    he loves you, he loves you not...
    yea well here's the thing: he doesnt.


  19. why the hell am i laughing :'(

    anyway, great illustrations Andrew, youre no old, youre forever young, you know that.


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