I've always been fascinated by visual art. Being a terrible painter and sketcher, visual art has always seemed like literal magic to me. "How the hell does someone take an image from her head and manifest it into the world?!"
I'm sure visual artists who double as frustrated musicians find themselves in a similar situation.
But things changed slightly for me in the past few years, after being dealt a devastating, though thankfully temporary (knock on wood!) neurological problem that affected my arms and hands. After waking up in the middle of the night on April 10th, 2018, I discovered that I no longer had any feeling, and very little mobility in either of my hands. The acute stage of this condition lasted for about a month, during which time my hands were completely numb, as though having received shots of novocaine.
I made the rounds to doctor after doctor, but never received a formal diagnosis. We were able to rule things out via MRI's of my neck and brain - we knew, for instance, that it was not MS. But the doctors more or less shrugged at my plight, and for the most part didn't even bother to try and fake a diagnosis. One such moment that comes to mind is almost comical in hindsight: a neurologist was literally poking my hands with a pin and asking if I felt anything. I told him I felt nothing. His flippant diagnosis was (get this) anxiety. Anxiety! Now, I have struggled with generalized anxiety disorder my entire life, but I didn't realize that long-term total lifelessness of limbs was among its symptoms (because it isn't).
Needless to say, during this time in my life, I was not able to play guitar, which was so life-deranging it is still a significant daily trauma for me, even now.
But I simply couldn't stand the notion of not creating. No longer being a musician was cause for an identity crisis almost beyond my imagination. But no longer having any creative outlet of any sort was simply intolerable.
So I began taking up photography as a hobby, as this requires minimal hand strength and mobility - just the flick of a button, of which I was still capable. At first, as with learning all new forms of art, I totally sucked. But eventually, I got to a point where I was fairly acceptable, and felt comfortable enough to share my photos almost daily on my Instagram - @instagrampadon, if you're so inclined. (I still don't consider myself a "real" photographer in any sense, but it's been a great outlet and it kept me creatively sane while I was not able to play guitar.)
After learning the basics of photography, I began working on collage, which was the particular form of visual art that has always most appealed to me. I would just create these little digital collages which I would construct using apps on my phone, like Pixomatic. This was another huge victory for me in terms of reacquainting myself with creativity. And suddenly, I was able to glimpse the sleight-of-hand behind some of the magic of visual art. (But again, I am by no means a "real" visual artist. Even less so than I am a "real" photographer. I'm just a newbie with a passion and a great respect for a very intricate and serious art form.)
Eventually, as I glacially slowly regained mobility and feeling in my hands, I began the steep uphill battle to regain my ability to play guitar once again. It was grueling, to say the least. I began with five minutes a day. On day one, I nearly gave up. My hands felt like I had used them to stop a freight train. But I felt like I had nothing left to lose, so I just kept at it. Five minutes a day turned to seven minutes a day, turned to 15, turned to 30, turned to an hour! And then, a huge setback left me stuck for a long while at five minutes a week!
As crushing as that was, I was simply not taking no for an answer. Come hell or high water, I was going to play guitar again.
And eventually, through the help of my family, my girlfriend Victoria, a great neurologist named Dr. Charles Asta, as well as my own indefatigable fighting spirit, I now play every day, just as well as ever. (I do have more aches and pains, and occasional problems with the nerves in my hands and arms, but compared to the hell I've been through, it's practically a cakewalk.)
The cliche about silver linings in dark clouds is so often true (hence its status as a cliche). The fact that I was able to take some time to learn a little basic visual art while praying my hands would one day heal, I was able to make some interesting little collages for all of the songs on my three-part Warwalking record (this current release is Warwalking Pt. 2).
I also learned the basics of animating my collages using some more apps, which then turned my still frame collages into kinetic pieces that could be used as de facto videos for all of the songs on my Warwalking records. It's truly mind-blowing for someone like me, who believed himself to have absolutely no propensity toward visual art, to be able to see something I've created come to life! The videos are very simple, and by no means complex animations, but in my opinion they sure beat simply having the Warwalking Pt. 2 album cover on YouTube as the visual for each song from the album.
So I hope you enjoy these animated collage videos! And if you don't, please remember - we're all just floating through this strange life together, trying to learn as much as we can to better our experience here, and everybody's got to start somewhere.
- Mint 400 Records Recording Artist Don Ryan