What does it mean when your spirit animal is a creature that went extinct hundreds of millions of years ago? Trilobites have been an obsession of mine since second grade, when I first learned of them. I hunted their fossils many afternoons of my childhood, even though I only found one or two poor specimens. I was never discouraged by that - the hunt was its own reward. I loved to draw them and daydream about them.
Recently they began showing up in my dreams and thoughts again, and I realized that they've been carrying a message for me all this time. They embody a certain kind of glee and simple curiosity, scuttling their way across the world's sea beds. They were the dominant animal form on Earth for millions of years and evolved into hundreds of species which are still being discovered and cataloged. They were one of the first creatures to evolve eyes, with lenses made of mineral crystals (the first glasses? goggles?), and sight gave them advantages that made them one of the most successful beings to evolve on our planet. Their message nudges me playfully when I most need it.
This piece seemed to rush all at once onto the paper as a pencil drawing about a year ago, but then I was stuck for months. I didn't know how I wanted to paint it. Then one afternoon I just took a brush that seemed much too large for the job (Frondine - she's a big "bright") loaded her with French ultramarine and painted all of the darkest passages of this in about 30 minutes. Not overthinking it - just turning the brush this way and that, squeezing and twisting her way through the tight places and filling in the larger ones without fuss. As if we were feeling all the edges of the plates with bristles and fingers, or doing a maze together, with our hand against the wall the whole way round. The rest came gradually over several more months, on and off. When I close the door of my studio, there it is, at eye level, like a big grin from the Cambrian period, five hundred million years ago.
It even has the Emery nose bulb... definitely a relative.