this drawing freaks me out.

when i was in art school, one of my excellent teachers took me aside and, in just one sentence, he summed up everything that i was trying to say with my artwork: "despite all suffering, life is beautiful and the universe is good." i was shocked by how easily he'd read me. i was shocked by how concise my message was. if you tour my portfolio with that sentence in mind, i think you'll see that he is right. the beauty of life is my favorite subject.

but now and then, i get an assignment like this one. the art director of the pasadena weekly commissioned me to illustrate a story about the media's fascination with the murder of diane whipple. she was the san francisco woman who was mauled to death by a dog. i felt nauseated when i read the copy but, out of morbid fascination, i looked up more articles on the case. the dog was trained by drug dealers to kill. the owner, a drug dealer i suppose, was arrested. his lawyers adopted the dog, bane, and its sister. the dogs terrorized the neighborhood but people were reluctant to contact authorities for fear that the lawyers, who were very litigious, would sue them. then, one day, bane attacked a woman who was leaving her apartment. she was ripped to pieces. bane was destroyed. the lawyers were convicted of manslaughter. there is no bright side. even the dogs, in my mind, are victims.

as i drew the story, i had to come to terms with it.

i don't think anyone can really live happily until they come to terms with all the bad things that happen in the world. i sometimes ask my friends and strangers what they think about suffering. i'm always surprised when people say they don't think about it. i'm always curious when people say that everything happens for a reason. i'm curious because so many people are trampled by life in the end.

when i am really confused by suffering, i try to think of it as a song or a movie. i remind myself often that some of the best songs are sad songs. there are beautiful songs about love loss, death, catastrophes, fires, even vicious dogs. i mentioned this to a friend once. she said sad songs are beautiful because life is beautiful. the horror is when the sadness is happening to you.

© 2003 rama hughes