I have been working on and off on a visual dictionary in Polish– actually, let’s be real and call it a very limited glossary — since December. This is deeply silly on a few levels, the most prominent one being that it feels like the extension of a wonderful but incredibly long project I was involved with at work. It would be even sillier if I thought this project was a good way for me to actually work at learning a language — doing that usually requires you to focus more on the quantity of the words you know rather than the quality of the pictures you create to represent them. Silly or not, though, it has been a way to tie together a few things I spend a lot of time thinking about. I’ve always liked the feeling of working a few puzzles at once, and thinking about art while I study language and language while I create art has deepened my engagement with both.
I showed you one of my early favorites a few months back; here are two I’ve done recently. Fortunately, I don’t think you’ll need to hit up Google Translate — though you might find these pronunciations useful.
This pairing is such a cliché, but even if you take out religion, history, and Big Questions about the nature of good and evil, it’s easy to see why we return to it so often. In order for two things to be “opposites,” they have to be very much the same. After all, each thing only has one opposite, and it’s never something that’s absolutely different (Dog and cruise ship! Tennis and slime! Nebula and scarf!). Rather, opposites are quite alike, except for the one thing that’s most essential to understanding them: Over and under, cat and dog, man and woman.
For angel and devil, the most interesting thing commonality is just how absolute a concept each represents. Of course you end up with a preternaturally serene angel and a gleefully bad devil. The thing that differentiates angel and devil lends itself to extremes better than, say, man and woman. Think about the angels and devils in movies and advertisements and even art — the main thing they have in common is just how over-the-top they are. I don’t think I need to explain how fun illustrating this type of contrast can be.
The big challenge of depicting these two is making the angel even a third as likable as the devil. I think I met that standard, at least — as I worked on the angel, I found his beatific little smile infectious enough that I smiled the whole time. Still: that devil! He is perfectly wicked, and a lot more charming than anyone so bad should be. Poor angel! At least he has justice on his side.