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