The Hyacinth Girl — can she save Empathy?

(Warning: reading this could cost you money)

A long, long time ago, in a faraway life, I painted this in poster colour on paper and titled it ‘From The Waste Land’.

It was the Hyacinth Girl, of course. This was the layout for a canvas painting never done.

It appears that 20 years back, I saw myself standing at a distance and watching her in a background that may not have been quite what either Pound or Eliot had had in mind.

A couple of months back, I was wondering about how to make a detached wooden door presentable with some kind of drawing or something …

And then I scribbled this in a small note pad with black gel pen:

Looks like I was trying to get closer to my Hyacinth Girl, this time.

A bit of whining, now …

People close to me know that I’ve run a self-funded stray animal shelter for a while now. Since 2002, to be exact. This is how it used to look in 2012. Now, a sorry state of affairs.

The last five years have been difficult but I’ll spare you the sob story since the matter, for the most part, is sub judice. Suffice it to say that I was forced into content writing (as a part-time profession) to keep the shelter (and my life) running.

I seem to have achieved some kind of success since WriteWorldWide.Com featured me recently in a list of Top 14 Successful Non-Native English Freelance Writers. Thanks again, Yassir :)

Last August, however, a disc somewhere in my neck decided it had to slip.

In the image below, taken right after I put on the Philadelphia Collar, you see me grining like a jackass because the collar worked instantly. It made the pain bearable to a considerable extent.

You might want to pay attention and even save this image — it is a rare example of a REAL grin in a selfie.

A fundraiser seemed like an option

The disc returned to its original position in about three weeks but left a lasting impression. Consequently, at present, working at the computer is literally a pain in the neck.

The way out was working on fewer projects. And admitting to myself that times had changed. The shelter that I had named EMPATHY needed help. I could no longer run it on my own resources.

I managed to find a site that organizes fundraisers with t-shirt sale. That didn’t seem half bad as a means of asking for handouts. Even the exact fundraising URL I had in mind was available: https://booster.com/empathy

I’m so glad it didn’t have to be something like /empathy2569 or /em-pathy.

The Hyacinth Girl scribble wasn’t my first choice for a t-shirt design. But most people I showed the proposed artworks to said that they liked it the most. So that was that.

My brother, who used his considerable talents to create a very successful career in the advertising has now become an independent filmmaker and screenwriter. He usually remains busier than most people I know. I did not think of consulting him before the fundraising campaign went live.

At least, that’s my excuse. Most likely, I thought I knew what I was doing and didn’t feel the need for expert advice.

The campaign text was virtually rewritten upon his advice and read infinitely better and certainly less confusing than my original write-up which, according to a long time friend, read like I was talking. God knows a write-up that reads like me talking is not the ideal choice for any kind of polite appeal notwithstanding the genuineness of the said appeal.

Not wishing to encroach upon my questionable creative independence (as far as t-shirt designing is concerned), my brother tentatively put in something like ‘I can probably do something about the composition if you’re comfortable with it’. Not wishing to encroach upon his busy schedule (yes, honestly, this time), I had not thought of asking him to edit the composition as well and was genuinely relieved that he wanted to take a look.

This is what I had created with a digitally edited version of the original scanned image:

The ‘Klimt squiggles’, I think that’s what he called the digital edits, did not appeal to him and he used the original version for a draft which made mine look like the amateurish stuff it obviously was:

I loved it. In case you don’t, wait till you see it on a t-shirt (coming up below). And then I tried my hand at it. It was alien to me, really, this looseness, lines that did not appear to remain contained (but were) and the perfect overlapping of shades of gray and black without any loss to legibility. But I tried:

Knowing one’s place

A very long time back and yes, in the last part of that faraway life, I attended a film appreciation course because I knew that different forms of art have their own aesthetics which must be learned to be understood. No, I don’t mean you cannot appreciate cinema unless you attend a formal course. This was strictly about myself — I thought it would help me understand cinematic aesthetics better and it did.

Somewhere along the way, I got lost and forgot so many things. Or, maybe I’m just so darn tired these days. It never occurred to me before trying to design the t-shirt that an apparel might just have its own set of rules about looking good. I think I’ll attend a short course on t-shirt designing, next.

For those of you wondering what on earth is going on — what is so deep about the realization mentioned above that it must be confessed in writing — blame it on my eccentricity. Only, be advised that I’m not unique in this respect.

Nothing’s ever easy, but I had a lot of help

Anyway, we decided to use the 1954 Faber and Faber version of the text and the design was finalized. But Booster.Com does not allow design elements to be directly edited once a campaign has been launched, and mine had been. I had to contact them.

They don’t work on weekends — which is just fine. No one could be as friendly and helpful as the Booster Adviser I know only as Rebecca V if they had to work either 24 or 7. She put my campaign on draft mode. And then, before the changes could be made, the campaign got accidentally relaunched.

That happened on a weekend, again. I wrote to Rebecca, apologizing for the inconvenience and with a promise that this would not happen again. She replied early on Monday with a cheerful, “You are good! I went ahead and put it back in draft mode for you. Please let me know if there is anything else that I can help you with!”

But a couple of hours earlier than that, someone had become my campaign’s first donor. We were not connected on Facebook but I messaged her and she got back to me soon enough. Obviously, she was fine with it.

And then, my brother and I worked on the composition long distance with screenshots over WhatsApp. By the time the final version was saved (with two browser errors one of which deleted all progress), I wasn’t sure if I had a neck at all.

Now, I’m hoping to reach a bunch of obsessive T-shirt buyers with an interest in animal welfare or literature or both. If you know of any, please be sure to direct them to my campaign at this URL: https://booster.com/empathy

Thank you!