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Little Spirit in the Forest

by Joshua Humphries

The following illustration by Joshua Humphries is an excerpt from his children's book entitled Little Spirit in the Forest, which Joshua wrote as well as illustrated. Delivered in colored pencils and ink, the story tells a tale of a boy named Axis who is torn between the security of his brother's acceptance and the wisdom of an outcast hermit. It is the hermit who coaxes Axis into outwitting the Swamp Ogre, who threatens them all from his nearby swamp. The panel reveals Axis debating with his family about a brother who had been caught by the Swamp Ogre...

"We must do something! Gabra'al has been gone far too long now!" Axis cried. His brothers and their wives looked at him and shook their heads.

"Everything will be fine, Axis- it's a long journey up the river and back. " Ababba, who was the third oldest brother, said calmly.

"But it's been many days now! It's been far too long! Axis shouted, upset by his brother's indifference.

"Listen little brother," Ca'an, the fourth oldest brother, snapped impatiently. "Gabra'al knows what he's doing. He doesn't stray from his path like you do."

Suddenly, the rice farmer who had joined Gabra'al on his journey came upon them. He was covered with sweat, and struggled to catch his breath. "Where is Gabra'al?" The brothers cried.

"Gabra'al is gone. As soon as we came upon the Swamp Ogre's fortress, his Goblins came at us with spears. We turned and fled, but they caught hold of Gabra'al and brought him back to the Ogre, who gobbled him up. I am very sorry".

The rice farmer hung his bead as the brothers cried for Gabra'al. But Axis wiped his tears and snuck away. He knew his brothers would do nothing about the Swamp Ogre. But he would show them, "I'll make things better for everyone" Axis said to himself."

New York-based illustrator Joshua Humphries has gone back to the drawing board for most of his young life. Yet at the age of 25, he's found that the steep path of artwork that will mark his trail has only just begun.

"For me, illustration is like a set of spells within a thick spellbook of artistic ability, the contents of which an artist may one day master. Even without covering every medium, however, there are no real bounds when dealing with illusion. The boundaries come from the stories that I provide for the images, or from historical research. Interesting details inspire daydreams in my brain. My hand compresses these dreams into strokes, and they're then cast into the material world. It's really wild to cast them from there onto a virtual plane, but here I am! "

When dealing with the contents of his work, Joshua most often attempts to focus on "the half that's never been told". He is concerned about what has been mythically outcast, through Western art, literature and history. "The trickster who has been branded the boogeyman. Animals whose color is black are cursed. Symbolic associations like these have been applied to Black people in the Americas for centuries. Through Illustration, I feel like I can counterattack these traditional archetypes."

Look out for more work from Joshua Humphries in future issues of Meanderings. We are certainly glad his time has come!

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Meanderings 2.04 -- April 1995