It was a quiet sunny morning on July, a Saturday that was supposed to be filled with bliss and excitement, a Saturday that was supposed to be the day where I get to actually see the heartbeat of my unborn baby. My fiancée and I were more than just ready, we were looking forward to this day to be the revealing moment that we created another life together out of love and dedication. Unfortunately that day was far from what we expected…
“Spirit of the Infants” was born out of unnerving confusion, frustration, sadness and anger. The core concept and motivation to create an artwork based on my fiancée’s miscarriage was not something I ever intended to do. Amazingly enough, it was her that brought to my attention of how I should channel this tragic event as a motivation to create my next artwork that derives from psychological experiences. Channeling my psychology of sadness, anger and depressive thoughts is nothing new. Some may and have said that this is not healthy to do, yet it has been recommended by psychologists and peers alike that this is a far safer and positive outlet than resorting to other elements of life such as drugs, alcohol and physical harm towards myself or others. I have always used art and design, especially in the personal project realm as an outlet of some kind. Either if this is mentally healthy or not still remains to be seen, however, it is in my blood and nature to depict and communicate certain experiences I’ve had in my life so far by visualizing a psychological landscape filled with enigma and dreams.
Upon the suggestion to create something in dedication of our unborn baby who didn’t make it into this world, I immediately started to brainstorm the direction of the art I wanted to take. It was an art direction project that I haven’t done before, nerve wrecking to say the least, difficulty in immersing myself into this unfamiliar territory to say the most. What would have become of it? Failure was not an option, I had to create something I’ve never done before. Between my time of tackling commercial work, and my personal time taking care of my fiancée and her physical and emotional bouts with this miscarriage, became my own personal trip through this nightmare and sadness over and over again. I visualized that Saturday morning every time I started to sketch out idea’s in my mind about how to portray and honor our baby that we very much wanted. What would I include into the art? Would it be more like a painting? Would it be a super abstract art piece like “Twisted Thought Generator”, or “Deliverance III: Vaporthought”? People may assume that these two pieces I just mentioned do not convey much of a message, but like any art, it is left to interpretation. The truth, regardless of it being left to interpretation or not, is that those two pieces are very much alive and organic in regards to communication. I can take the two artwork and direct it at someone if I really wanted to.
Although that tragic Saturday morning was only a short two weeks before, the trip back into that day was a long one. I remember holding my fiancée’s hand and crying together. I remember our embrace with each other was painful and full of tremors. Many questions are still left unanswered. We do not know what caused our baby to slip away from our hands. We still hold onto the memory of our baby as much as we can. We still get misty eyed when we think of the possibilities and what the baby could have become. It was nothing short of memories that left us riddled asking as to why this had to happen to us. With that in mind, should my artwork be riddled with questions? Should it be a confusing piece that doesn’t explain what element is what and why the colors are defined as it is? No, it had to be much clear, it has to almost be an advertising piece where people can tell the artwork is based on an infant and the tale of a soul slipping away quietly while we slept expecting for the best.
The art direction
I have never sat in front of my computer trying to find the right picture of an infant. Let alone have I never fired up Photoshop and copy and pasting an infant to begin with, I have never imagined myself cutting out the background of a baby to use in one of my digital artworks. I’ve used many beautiful models, male and females alike, but an infant? I needed to take a step back and understand what I am trying to do. I have a certain set of style that many people recognize as my own. My fiancée always points out to me that my style is profound and has my name written all over it, regardless of me putting down my signature on it. So what would this artwork with an infant look like under “Chris Takakura’s” style? I am not strong with creating artwork catered towards kids, let alone have I ever done projects catered towards kids in the first place.
I finally finished digitally cutting out a picture of an infant to be placed onto the blank canvas. That was the first element that I laid down, and my next approach was to put elements of love, beauty, innocence and nature around it. I needed to somehow signify the idea of an infant vaporizing into the heavens. I figured this was a strong enough idea, which was for me to make the baby look like he/she was vaporizing into this spiritual energy. I took a step back and realized that “vaporize” was not a good word, let alone depicting a baby vaporizing into a spiritual energy? That isn’t going to look alright. I need to put this idea into hold. I gave myself a break manipulating the babies photograph and started to work on other aspects of the artwork, which was working on the typography.
And back to Psychology
Let me not digress with the technicalities of how I produced “Spirit of the Infants”. I am quite aware that not many people care in regards to what software I used, what techniques, and what type of world elements I used. Although I have made myself take screenshots of the progress and how it developed over time, I do not fully remember every technique I used unless I go back and look at the 500 layers used to achieve this project. All I know is that I took the time and effort to separate each objects into it’s separate layer, so I had full control over what got placed where.
Everything kind of came to me naturally, as my past experience with the software naturally flowed through my mind and hands. But the most riveting part of my creation experience was my mental state and the psychological journey I had to embark myself in. As I stated before, I almost purposely went back to that Saturday morning, and then some prominent days where I walked around my neighborhood, teary eyed, trying to understand the reality of what has been lost. Images I saw from the ultrasound monitor always visualized in my head. After a while, there was music, that I played over and over again on my smartphone. It’s initially interesting because my actions were obsessive compulsive at the very least. It is no lie that I have and do go through mental health issues from time to time, but this obsession with me repeating a certain task to resonate a certain event in my head was a bit of a new worrisome experience.
Between commercial projects and daily tasks I have to do in my life, I again found myself some time to fire up my computer and to create the digital artwork dedicated to our baby. I started layering out elements for the artwork again. This was the 12th time I am listening to “Tokka” by Agnes Obel, a short yet beautiful piano song that made me imagine my baby laying in a crib, as I stared from above. The room was black and white, the baby soundly asleep, and I stood there wondering what kind of person the baby was going to be.
The track changed to “The day the world went away” by Nine Inch Nails. My world started to change as I found myself back in reality to that Saturday morning. That song played and resonated into my ears as I sat in the doctors room with my fiancée. The lyrics started to play, as Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails began to sing a prolific line that perfectly resonates what my facial expression ended up being after the doctor had told us “you are most likely going to miscarry in the next 2 weeks.” Mr. Reznor soothingly sings out, “the plastic face forced to portray, but in his voice I heard decay.” People may wonder why I would do this to myself, when at the current time, I was highly emotional and was doing my best to hold back tears and be an emotional comfort for my fiancée. Regardless of people agreeing or not, I had to do this, I had to step myself into the realm of pain and discomfort to understand the situation and somehow find inspiration to finish my artwork.
Eventually I got myself to the point where I felt so much overwhelming sadness staring at my artwork. I realized that my song track has changed to “Together we will live forever” by Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet. Such a sad song, yet almost wishing there was rain falling from the sky. This song made me think of death, funeral and losing a loved one. Death within my family is not new as unfortunate as I may have written that. My grandmother who basically acted as my second mother took care of me until I was 26. She was my backbone and her death had a profound shock wave in my life. Is the loss of my baby within the same realm? No, it is different. It is different because me and fiancée never got to experience someone being alive in physical form. We were trapped in sadness over abstract thoughts of the baby growing inside a womb. It was a different kind of sorrow and can’t even begin to fathom how it feels to be a parent that has to bury their children who have been alive and well in the physical realm. But to me the pain is no less, and even though many can argue and say the baby does not really have a life at 10 weeks of pregnancy, I can emotionally say that it does. I can never say that I will be up to par with my fiancée in regards to having a connection with an unborn baby. I did not physically carry the baby and I did not speak to it as much as she did. But the truth is, I was able to cry, I was able to be sad, and I was already talking to the baby in my personal time and telling the baby that we will always remember.
Medical professionals, researchers, psychologists and any expert in infant fertility can say that unborn infants as well as infants that are young as 3 months old are aware of their surroundings. They feel stress when the mother feels stress, they understand something is going wrong when the mother cries or screams out in horror. By no means am I an advocate of religion or follow a particular religion, but I am spiritual at the least and can say that I believe in the spirit surge a baby has with their parents.
Spirit surge is exactly what has came to me. I almost felt it, I felt warm, I felt electrified with inspiration and a fire was born. Our unborn infant touched my hand and guided me through in how to create the artwork that was meant to be. Our baby loved flowers, our baby was looking forward to chasing butterflies in an environment filled with nature and soundscape. Our baby wanted to know how it feels to touch the water of our nearest ocean. I had a goal as a father, to teach my child how to swim. I had a goal as a father to teach my child the beauty and wonders of the creative realm. It didn’t matter if my baby was a left or right brain thinker, the most important thing was for the baby to understand the importance of creativity and how it colors the world around us.
I’ve always said that if my baby ended up being a better artist or designer than I, there will be nothing more in this world that will make me proud. In that one late afternoon, the baby guided me through the artwork and told me what to do. I have finally started to use techniques I never have before. I started to “paint” instead of “design”. I truly became a digital artist that day, because the baby told me so. As cliche as that may sound, it’s important to share with you this experience because it is not about my story that matters most in this long article. It is that inspiration can be alive with a soul, rather than just looking at an artwork and implementing it into your head.
Near the finish line
It was almost time to finish up the artwork that our baby guided me to create. “Piano sonata No. 14” by Ludwig van Beethoven was playing in the background. It brought to me to a place of harmony, yet brought me to a place where I was holding our baby in my arms. They say that parents are the ones who guide and teach their children the morals of life and teach them everything they need to know, but it was not the case. The baby taught me so much already, it is hardly a word I can find to say how much more I would have learned if it survived in this world. Every time I showed the progression of my art work to my fiancée, it brought her to tears. It was beautiful to her at the very least, but it had so much story behind it that I could not help but to be moved by her tears myself.
I was afraid of adding angel wings and a halo to the baby as it may feel a bit cliche, but to me it felt okay this time. This artwork was not suppose to be left for interpretation. It meant to convey one sole message, it is meant to be dedicated to us as much as to others who have gone through the same thing. I’ve went through countless stories of other mothers who have gone through the same experience. Some were more heart breaking than others, some were far depressive than what we have gone through, and I personally can’t imagine going through the same thing. Our experience was painful enough, it was nothing but sadness and confusion. Our doctor could tell us over and over again that it is what it is, and that it is a risk regardless of who it is. But is it really that delicate to have a baby? The only thing I could do was to take our doctors words and to keep telling my fiancée over and over again that is not her fault. Regardless of my strong feeling to never place the blame on the mother, I couldn’t sometimes help myself to place blame on life itself.
But this artwork was not about rage, anger, confusion or sadness. This artwork was about the celebration of our babies existence and the short period that we were together in the same world. “Opus 20” from Dustin O’Halloran came into play, and I started to transverse into a world of where me and my fiancée sat down in a flower field with our baby and read a story. It was a story about me and fiancée’s journey as a couple and how nothing can tear us away from the love we have for our baby. It was a story of dignity and pure dedication to raise the baby as someone extraordinary. All the flowers around us started to collect together, the blue butterflies started to fly in to celebrate the unity of the pollen that gave the baby a distinct smell. This was it, the finish line that I been looking for, “Spirit of the Infants” was complete.
In the Japanese culture, particularly the ones who follow Buddhism, they perform a ceremony for babies that were lost during miscarriage or an abortion. The babies who have been lost become “water babies” and perform a ritualistic ceremony called “the water ceremony” to celebrate the infants passing as well as insuring that the baby travels into the heavens peacefully. (http://www.nytimes.com/1996/01/25/world/in-japan-a-ritual-of-mourning-for-abortions.html) With that inspiration in mind, I made a mindful note to synthesize the element of water within the artwork. To me, “Spirit of the Infants” is not guided by just one religion. Anyone can say that the wings of an angel and a halo around their head is based on Christian belief, as angels or spirits arising into the heavens within the Buddhist religion do not necessary have wings or halos. But “Spirit of the Infants” is about the coming together of all religions, and commemorating the idea of an infant becoming a spirit.
Since the year 2000, it has been a long journey for me as an digital artist and creative communication. In that year, I have dedicated myself to really focus on creating artwork that had language, a message, or an abstract approach to communicating my personal psychological experiences with any forces of life and nature. Dubbed “Psychological abstracts”, I have always put a version number behind a set of abstract work that I have created based on the evolution and enhancement of my techniques.
The transition from one version to another was not just about style differences. I had to learn and evolve into a better artist in order for me to make that significant jump, and I had to fully reach the goal of photo realism to the next level. Due to my busy schedule of finishing off my undergraduate program, my next level of Psychological abstracts did not come until the year 2006.
The next transition came around the year 2011, dubbed “Psychological abstracts v3”. My next step into creating abstractions based on psychological experience and expression.
You may wonder as to why my explanation of these version advances of my goal towards the purest abstract work is any relevant to this article, but for good purpose, there is a good reason as to why I am taking the time to explain my venture. To look back at all the version “advances” I have gone through so far, it was always followed by a significant event in my life. Note that the important aspect of my explanation comes from the idealism that inspiration can come from negative experiences or hardships in life. Yes, no one likes to experience negative impacts in their life time, but it is also an important aspect of who we are as human beings as it is very possible to find inspiration and improvement from that outcome. With that explanation out of the way, it is important for me to note that I have advanced into my next personal advancement within the realm of Psychological abstracts because of the loss of me and fiancée’s unborn baby. And with that note, I cannot thank the baby enough for the experience and what I have learned not only as a potential father, but as an artist and designer. Psychological abstracts v4 is alive and well, and will be pursued more starting this day.
It is true that me and my fiancée shared our experience within the world of social media. We contemplated, discussed, and carefully went through the thought process as to why we should share this. We decided to share our story because our baby was not shameful. This baby was wanted, we wanted the experience of parenthood and we wanted to tell the world of our existence. Our friends and family had to know what we have gone through because we didn’t want it to be some secret that we carried. There was no point in hiding the glorious process of making a baby.
Although most reactions with our story and the artwork were positive, it didn’t not come with a few gripes and disagreements from people. But it didn’t and doesn’t matter to us, because in the end, this was our life and our story that we wrote. It is true that there are no positive outcomes to what has happened, but it is important for us to never forget who we had with us for a short period of time. That reality cannot be changed by the opinion of others, and with that reality, nothing can stop me from creating artwork inspired by what I have learned.
As an artist, I infamously understand that not everyone will agree with the subject matters I communicate about. I have received messages in the past that degraded my artwork, my messages, and some of the wordings I have used. But in the end it’s okay, as I am the sole story teller and I am the one that creates the execution. I can put people into frame and try to understand as to why they object to such atrocity as they may put, but again, in the end it’s as simple as my way of expressing my feelings and my idealism of certain psychological subject matters.
If you have read this far along, I commend you for being a faithful reader and only hope that you learned something out of it. I indeed understand that me and my fiancée’s story is one of many, and hope that “Spirit of the Infants” can be taken as a dedication of sorts to be inspired and be a memorial for the other fathers and mothers that have gone through the same thing. It is not easy, it is not happiness, but still embrace the idea that your experience and love for the unborn baby is not going to go untouched. I am proud of the artwork I have created, and although I won’t always follow the same style, I can definitely say that it really came from my heart and wasn’t about just pushing virtual buttons on some software. It wouldn’t have been possible without the energy of my baby, and it wouldn’t have been possible without me learning from the things I did.
My name is Chris Takakura, I am an art director and visual designer servicing businesses and studios around the world. I specialize in print design, brand/identity, with a strong concentration in web design & front-end development. I am always looking to connect and be involved in creative projects, so if you are interested in my creative services, please contact me here.