The story of Dan Eldon is powerful. I know little, but feel a lot. Most of what I learned is from the Wikipedia entry on Dan Eldon’s life, and scans of his journals at the Creative Visions Foundation.

Daniel Robert Eldon (b. 18 September 1970, Hampstead, England – d. 12 July 1993, Mogadishu, Somalia) was an English photojournalist. He and three colleagues were killed by an angry mob in Mogadishu. He left behind a series of journals, which his family has exhibited on a worldwide tour.

Vikki North proposed a new art challenge a few weeks ago, which focused on the book The Journey is the Destination, by Kathy Eldon, Dan’s mother.

After viewing Dan’s work I was affected very deeply, especially after reading about his death. The fear, confusion, and sadness hit hard in contrast to his enduring altruism. The contradiction of his compassionate life and violent death flashed like the thunder of a night and day all at once.

For example, how many fourteen year old people have started a fund-raising campaign for open-heart surgery to save the life of a friend. Dan helped raise $5,000, but due to the hospital’s neglect, his friend died.

Or during college, Dan spent his summers raising $25,000 for a venture to a refugee camp in Malawi. With friends from six countries, they met in Nairobi and traveled thousands of miles in three vehicles. Then they donated one of their vehicles to the Save the Children Fund, as well as money for three wells, and blankets for a children’s hospital.

These stories are commonplace. Altruistic action seems to have dominated Dan’s life.

And on the day of his death at 22 years old, he was working as a photojournalist in a Mogadishu refugee camp ravaged by war. A mob, confused by erroneous attacks, focused their aggression on Dan and three young colleagues.

My response to the challenge, and Dan Eldon’s journals, is a series of sketches that I worked on over the past few weeks as I thought about his story.

At first, frustration set in. I struggled to get past angry feelings, drawing numerous dark sketches driven by fear and confusion. I couldn’t see Dan clearly. But as I sketched, forgiveness and amnesty trickled in slowly. The first two drawings below are from that period. They are approximately 11″ x 14″, drawn and painted with markers, colored pencils, paint pens, acrylic paint, watercolor, charcoal and chalk.

Abstract Drawing/Painting Inspired by Dan Eldon's Journals, Journey

Dark Abstract Drawing/Painting Inspired by Dan Eldon's Journals, Journey

Eventually I stumbled across feelings of inadequacy as an artist for this challenge, and guilt about the less than altruistic aspects of my own life. Thankfully with support from friends and family, I began to focus on the Journey rather than the Destination. It was a wonderful feeling, to see clearly again. All that time, right in front of me, it was the essence of this challenge! All I could do was cry a little and laugh.

A few days later I re-approached the artwork with a portrait of Dan. I left the color and emotion behind and around him, and was inspired by his own self-portrait with a red eye. Many more sketches followed, but I’ve only posted a few. The two below are also 11″ x 14″, drawn with pen, markers, paint pen, watercolor, and gloss varnish (not visible in the digital reproductions). The two at the very bottom are 3″ x 5″ drawings, sketched with pen, markers, watercolor, and paint pens.

Pen, Ink, and Marker Portrait Drawing/Painting of Dan Eldon

Abstract Drawing / Painting of Dan Eldon and Refugees

Now that I am running in this space, I’m reminded of a quote that Vikki sent me from one of Dan’s Journals:

“What’s the difference between exploring and being lost? The journey is the destination.”

The journey is the destination, and I’m comfortable knowing that I’m not done working with Dan’s legacy yet.

Visit Vikki’s Red Chair Gallery Blog to see her contribution to the Journey. Also, check out Martha Marshall’s Blog, she’s an amazing professional artist who is also contributing to the challenge.

And thank you Vikki, for a challenge that lived up to its name. 😉

~Michael

P.S. I read on Wikipedia that Daniel Radcliffe, of Harry Potter fame, will be playing the role of Dan Eldon in the upcoming biopic movie entitled Journey. And with Kathy Eldon working on the project, I hope for its truth to be uplifting for many more people for years to come.

Abstract Drawing Inspired by the Life of Dan Eldon and His Artwork

Abstract Drawing of Dan Eldon's Red Eye from Journals, The Journey is the Destination

Artwork Inspired by Dan Eldon Journals | The Journey is the Destination

12 thoughts on “Artwork Inspired by Dan Eldon Journals | The Journey is the Destination

  • October 7, 2008 at 11:13 am
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    Oh Michael,
    You absolutely out did yourself. You work is incredible. I love your steps in this process. You clearly express the exact emotions I felt in my acquaintance with Dan’s story.

    You start with anger, and then sadness sets in – then clarity of whom Dan really was and what he was about. What we all should be about. I love all the images – but then to land on his portrait. It’s so well done. Your work is exceptional.

    And your story and details about him and its impact on you…. You did this ‘challenge’ very very very proud. I have no doubt Dan himself smiles down on you today.

    I think this was the perfect Challenge. It really made us stretch to our limits, huh? It has been my honor and privilege to work with you, kiddo.

    Vikki

  • October 7, 2008 at 11:15 am
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    I wanted to also mention- I love the fact that you have this innate ability to weave your abstraction or expressive line right through to a naturalistic portrait. Not many can do that, and you do it with such ease.
    Vikki

  • October 7, 2008 at 12:50 pm
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    Dan, I appreciate the privilege of being invited to participate in this challenge. It was very, very hard. Just taking in the impact of Dan’s story took several days for me to think about. Then to try and come up with a way to express it in a work of art was even harder. But it was a great exercise, and stimulated my mind to go in all kinds of directions. So thanks!

    I love what you did with your imagery. It’s incredibly expressive. Like Vikki, I like the way you showed the progression of your thought process.

    It was great tagging along on this project.

  • October 7, 2008 at 12:50 pm
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    Thanks Vikki,
    I’m grateful for your help. This was a difficult, but satisfying challenge. Helped break me out of a few habits, which at first feels uncomfortable, but helps further creative boundaries.

    Thanks for your feedback about the abstract styling too, I appreciate that a lot! 🙂

    ~Michael

  • October 7, 2008 at 9:24 pm
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    As I’m looking at your works I’m feeling your emotions on each one of them. The angry, the forgiveness, the sadness. You truly pour yourself in it.

    MV./

  • October 7, 2008 at 10:33 pm
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    Vikki / Red Chair suggested that I check out this challenge. She thought that I “would enjoy it when [I] had a moment. ” Oohh, that’s a British understatement. I read the wikipedia entry first and was totally flabbergasted. It all seemed like science fiction. I could not imagine a real human engaged in so much “life,” in such a short period of time. I immediately focused on the birthdate and date of death. I could not imagine the circumstances that drove this kid.

    I then remembered the title of the challenge, which had appeared on Vikki’s link to my blog, but did not register contextually. I can not imagine a more appropriate title.

    This is almost incapable of definition or comprehension for me. I have such incredibly mixed emotions. That one would die, and so young, amongst the people that he was trying to help is …. almost unfathomable. I’ve now reviewed your work and that of Vikki. Quite frankly, I’m overwhelmed with emotion to the point that I’m pretty incoherent. Both of your works capture so many of the emotions. Yours definitely capture the confusion and the clarity both. Vikki’s images seem more like childhood.

    By the time I actually saw the photos of this man-child (in the literal sense, not the dictionary sense), I really did not know what to expect. I’m rambling. I can’t anything more of value at this point. Need to take a break and let this soak in. If art is supposed to strike some sensual chord, its been plucked here.

    One final thought, my thoughts immediatly go to the parents. They must be some pretty unusual folks themselves. That the Mother has chosen to publish the journals is actually pretty special.

    Haven’t looked at the third artist’s renditions yet. Not sure whether I have the emotion _____ [whatever] to do so tonight. But I know I will go there. Can’t help it.

  • October 8, 2008 at 1:52 am
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    Michael. Art Childe. This is an absolute stunning challenge and the three of you did a gorgeous job of representing this young man’s short life.

    As always, you capture the inner spark and spirit of Dan Eldon with your portraiture.

    I’d love to see the three of you included in a retrospective.

    Blessings, Honeylamb,
    Dina

  • October 8, 2008 at 2:33 pm
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    Hi Manuela,
    Thanks for your awareness of my work. I appreciate your vision of the emotion very much! 🙂

    ~Michael

  • October 8, 2008 at 2:53 pm
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    Hi Logistician,
    It is comforting to be able to hear your thoughts about the process of experiencing this challenge and Dan’s story. I appreciate your openness and for sharing so much… it’s a rare experience to me. And I see some of myself in your words… the mirroring is a reminder that I am not always alone in my emotions or reactions. And as an artist, it’s a great honor to be able to read your words. Thank you for that.

    I followed you on to Martha’s Blog, and was happy to hear that you saved hers for last! I did as well, and her work truly infuses some calm and perspective into the challenge. 😉

    Also, Vikki is an amazing force for raising consciousness, and especially in a community with supportive people connecting. With Dan’s life story as a focus, I feel this challenge has been propelled beyond what I can describe here.

    You raise a very interesting point about Dan’s parents as well. 🙂

    ~Michael

  • October 8, 2008 at 3:20 pm
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    Hi Dina,
    Thanks for your comments, you are inspiring with your words.

    And what a great idea! You remind me that there are infinite possibilities that surround us at any given time… just open eyes and go! 🙂

    ~Michael

  • July 22, 2009 at 7:39 am
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    I am in awe of what you have achieved- and grateful for your willingness to go into dark places within- and keep moving to find peace. It delights me to know that Dan has ignited sparks within you that have produced such extraordinary art.

    Please stay in touch with us. Kathy Eldon– Dan’s mother

  • July 23, 2009 at 12:05 pm
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    Thank you Kathy,
    I appreciate your comments, insight, and dedication to the preservation of Dan’s artwork and story! I think there are many more souls out there who will be moved by Dan’s life and energy. And good luck with all your work at the Creative Visions Foundation.

    ~Michael

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