Lucas

Trying to keep my hand in!  This attempt at painting Lucas the elephant (when he was about 3 years old, I think) reminded me of a few watercolor principles:
– squint at your original to determine where the core shadows are;
– use color/shade contrast to convey shape rather than outlining everything; and
– keep a sense of proportion throughout, using bigger or smaller brushes as necessary.

 

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Seal in Triplicate

Last week, I helped with a fundraiser.  Among other things, this involved making a couple of signs to post on the street, pointing folks THIS WAY! 

After a frustrating half-hour of scribbling with Sharpies to make letters readable from a distance, I pulled out my widest paintbrush and Chromacryl paints.  These suckers are about two decades old, purchased from some enterprising lady hawking student acrylics at my grade school.  Should I have tossed them years ago?  Probably.  Did I instead hang onto them for their much-vaunted hour of need?  But of course.  Slightly goopy, but they got the job done!

Chromacryl.JPG

So old that new tubes of Chromacryl look NOTHING like them.

Since then, paint’s been in the back of my mind.  I’ve got 3 different sets of watercolor tubes, 2 sets of oil paint, 1 set of acrylics, to say nothing of various markers, colored pencils, pens, and oil pastels.

I should paint something, I thought yesternight, digging out old watercolor paper that had been divided into quadrants with painter’s tape 5 years ago and never used.  But what?

And then I saw this post, and figured a seal was as good a place to start as anywhere.

What should I paint next?

What have y’all drawn or painted lately?

Random Research: Raphael and Rilke

Every once in a while, I stop and consider how utterly reliant I am on the internet in general, and Google in particular.  O, benevolent online overlords!  Thou art the repository of so much of human thought, the cache of my own ideas, and my lady Mnemosyne.  Nor dost thou scorn to stoop and serve me, so long as my ISP does not fail me and I can limit my query to 128 characters.

But sometimes even Google, mighty Google, cannot come to my aid.

Two instances of late come to mind.

Back in April, I went to Rome with a friend.  Among the sights I appreciated most was the library of Pope Julius II, the Stanza della Segnatura, which Raphael decorated on all sides with frescoes.  The School of Athens is there (cue flashbacks to college days), as well as La Disputa del Sacramento – The Disputation of the Sacrament.

Disputa_del_Sacramento_(Rafael)

I was struck with curiosity over the scribe girl sitting next to St. Augustine (the fellow with a miter to the right of the altar, who is gesturing toward her).  Presumably she’s taking notes on the discussion of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist.
La Disputa scribe

I love her.  My practice is the same: to write down what people are saying in conversation, whether it’s in a booklet or whatever scraps of paper I have to hand, whether it’s clever or funny or erudite or just plain ridiculous.  Whoever she is, she is my representative where this picture is concerned.

Sadly, I have no idea who she is.  She might not be anyone at all; she might be a figure representing all scribes in all times and in all places, or the preservation of the doctrine of the church throughout history.  She might be the anthropomorphization of some concept: purity, truth, reason.

After scrolling through site after site in vain, I became convinced that all the Googling in the world could not illuminate this figure for me.  I headed to the library and got out every book on Raphael they’ve got, which gave me background on the putative chronology of the frescoes, and the background for how Raphael was chosen to paint them, but not much insight on the iconography he used, beyond the fact that it was ground-breaking in its animation. Roger Jones and Nicholas Penny, bless them, shared an endnote in their 1983 Raphael that Heinrich Pfeiffer explored the question in his dissertation, Zur Ikonographie von Raffaels Disputa.

It is a testament to my curiosity that I submitted a WorldCat request to get it from Montreal, despite the fact that I will need to translate the lot to get any answers from it.  Provoking!

But not, perhaps, as provoking as that other problem that plagues the internet, namely: people crediting an individual as the author of a quotation or idea or aphorism, without citing where they found it.  Then other people share it, be it truth or falsehood.  The thing becomes ubiquitous, a weed with no way to trace its forebears.

In this case, I found a poem credited to Rilke called “Blank Joy,” which of course appealed to me very greatly.  Given that he composed in German and French but not, to my knowledge, in English, I was interested in finding and translating the original.  So I checked Amazon for his titles, and took a look at their respective tables of contents.  I consulted my library’s catalog, and Wikipedia, and poetic fan sites: all the usual places.

The original German…does not appear to exist.  Or, rather, I’ve found it on three sites, but no one indicates what volume of his it was published in (was it published?  Did someone share a poem once written in a letter?).  Is it actually his?  How can we know?

So far the only solution I’ve come up with…is to request Sämtliche Werke in 12 Bänden – his complete works in twelve volumes – from the library.

I’m not sure what to take from this.  Maybe I should rely on Google less; perhaps I should consult the library and librarians therein first; possibly (probably) I should develop more vigorous and enterprising methods of research.

Or perhaps the real lesson is that I should learn German.

A Long-Unexpected Illustration

I’m hoping it won’t be stepping over any bounds to say that Thalia and her Vati have spent the past several months working on some storybooks (if so, expect redactions in the morning, I suppose).  They tell of The Noble Adventures of Georges and Jean-Luc, and are (so far as I have seen and read) charming.

The thing about them is, Thalia writes the stories and G. R. T. does the illustration.  This is, I am assured, a wise division of labor.

But.  Thalia HAS done some illustration in the past, and whilst going through some older pictures on my laptop this week, I came across proof of the fact.

There was a day, nigh-on two and a half years ago now, when the two of us declared that we would Draw Pictures of Poetic Merit for the Baby Loon (now a much older Loon!  We shall have to call her something else) and mail them to her.

The pictures were duly drawn, but were never sent.

Our apologies, dear Baby Loon.  Here they are now, better late (we hope?) than never.

IMG_3282 IMG_3284

After she had drawn Methuselah with ice cream, a camel, and a tent, and I had drawn a peacock, a pelican, a phoenix, and an albatross around a cross, we were in a sort of groove.  So we kept drawing.

IMG_3278 IMG_3279 IMG_3308

The latter pictures weren’t necessarily meant to go together, but I find it amusing that the Jameson family crest (shown here according to the whiskey brand variation; typically there are 3 ships and a bugle) and the tale of the Nancy Bell are both rather maritimey in nature.   I suppose one could indeed say that James of the Nancy Bell is indeed Sine Metu: Without Fear!  Without any Dutch courage involved, even.

“Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And a bo’sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain’s gig!”

The Unity of the Church (Augustine)

Happy Pentecost!

In celebration, I give you This is an excerpt from St. Augustine’s sermon on Pentecost, and an awesome El Greco painting.

 

Dearly Beloved, God greatly commends unity. Let you dwell upon this, that in the beginning of creation, when God established all things, He placed the stars in the heavens and trees and all green things upon the earth. He said: Let the earth bring forth, and trees and all living things were brought forth. He said: Let the waters bring forth creeping things and flying things; and it was done. Let the earth bring forth the living creature in its kind and cattle and beasts of the earth; and it was done. Did God make the other birds from one bird? Did He make all the fish from one fish? All horses from one horse? All beasts from one beast? Did the earth not produce many things at the same time? Did it not complete many created things with numerous offspring?

Then He came to the creation of man, and He created one man; and from one man the human race. Nor did He will to create two separate beings, male and female, but one man; and from this one man He made woman (Gen. i. II). Why did He do this? Why did He begin the human race from one man, if not to commend unity to mankind? And the Lord Christ was born of one person. Virgin therefore is unity; let it hold fast to its integrity; let it preserve it uncorrupted.

The Lord commends to the Apostles the unity of the Church. He shows Himself; and they think they are seeing a spirit. They are frightened. He gives them courage, when He says to them: Why are you troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? See my hands: handle and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see me to have. And see how as they wondered for joy He takes food; not from necessity, but for His purpose. He eats it before them. In the face of the unbelieving He commends to them the reality of His Body; He commends the Unity of the Church.

For what does He say? Are not these the words I spoke to you, while I was with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me? Then he opened their understanding, the Gospel says, that they might understand the scriptures. And he said to them: thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead the third day (Lk. xxiv. 44). Behold our Head. Behold our Head; but where are the members? Behold the Bridegroom; where is the Bride? Read the marriage contract; listen to the Bridegroom. You seek the Bride? Learn from Him. No one takes away from Him His Bride; no one puts another in Her place. Learn from Him. Where do you seek Christ? Amid the fabrications of men, or in the truth of the Gospels? He suffered, He rose the third day, He showed Himself to His Disciples. We now have Him; we ask where She is? Let us ask Him. It behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead, the third day.

Lo, this is now come to pass; already we have seen Him. Tell us, O Lord; tell us Thou, Lord, lest we fall into error. And that penance and remission of sins should be preached. in his name unto all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. It began at Jerusalem, and it has reached unto us. It is there, and it is here. For it did not cease there to come to us. It has grown forth not changed places. He commended this to us immediately after His Resurrection. He passed forty days with them. About to ascend to heaven, He commended the Church to them again. The Bridegroom now about to depart entrusted His Bride to the care of His friends: not that she should love one among them, but that She might love Him as Her Spouse, and them as friends of the Bridegroom; but none of them as the Bridegroom.

They are jealous for Him, the friends of the Bridegroom; and they will not suffer her to be corrupted by a wanton love. Men hate rather when they so love. Listen to the jealous friend of the Bridegroom, when he knew, through friends, that the Bride was in a way to being corrupted. He says: I hear there are schisms among you; and in part I believe it (I Cor. xi. 18). Also, it hath been signified to me, my brethren, (you, by them that are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you, that everyone of you says, I indeed am of Paul; and I am of Apollo; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul then crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (I Cor. i. 11-13.) O friend of the Bridegroom! He refuses for himself the love of Another’s Spouse. He wills not to be loved in the place of the Bridegroom, that he may reign with the Bridegroom.

The Church therefore has been entrusted to them (the friends of the Bridegroom). And when He was about to ascend into heaven, He said so to those who thus asked Him about the end of the world: Tell us when shall these things be? And when shall be the sign of thy coming? And He said: It is not for you to know the times which the Father hath put in his own power. Hear, O disciple, what you have learned from your Master: But you shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you. And it has come to pass. On the fortieth day He ascended into heaven, and behold, coming upon this day, all who were present are filled with the Holy Ghost, and speak in the tongues of all nations. Once more unity is commended; by the tongues of all nations. It is commended by the Lord rising from the dead; it is confirmed this day in the Coming of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

El Greco's Pentecost

El Greco’s Pentecost

Seasonal Selections

Nipping air, murky skies, dark puddles, and crisp edges in each sense: Fall is here!

I have been slowly reawakening from my summer stupor, and enjoying every moment of actual seasonal change. Despite the outwards appearance of death that seems to characterize Autumn, it is when the 5 senses seem to sharpen: colors are brighter, smells are cleaner, tastes are warmer, touching is cooler, and sounds are richer.

To celebrate, I give you 10 of my favorite things in Autumn. Choose one for each of your senses, and indulge!

10 Autumnal Artworks

10: The Pride and Prejudice Soundtrack (2005)

While Knightly is a terrible Lizzy and I cannot  in good conscience recommend the movie, the soundtrack is fantastic! Dario Marianelli is excellent in all that he does, but here his work sparkles with the clean, sharp images that go perfectly with the season.

9: Apple Cider

Hot or cold, spiced or au natural, (I prefer mine with a generous splash of peaty scotch,) apple cider is an absolutely  work of art. Think of the time, work, and tradition that go into making cider! While it may not have the individuality or require the skill of a poem or painting, still, cider makes the senses tingle with life. It fills the partaker with an incredible sense of time, place, and peace. It epitomizes the taste and smell of all good things in Harvest time.

8: The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy Sayers

Even ancient cultures recognized something dark and eery and tangibly mysterious about the Autumn.  (Samhain?) Therefore, a good mystery is must for those days when you have an hour to spare, and warm blanket, and a hot mug of your preferred beverage. Sayers is a favorite of the Egotists, but this mystery is particularly suited to the season; it is filled with graves, bells, ominous skies, and the blandly blundering Lord Peter.

7: This view of Yellowstone, by American painter Thomas Moran

6: Sauteing onions with the doors (or possibly windows) open

This art does require a certain amount of participation on your part.  It’s very modern that way.

When the wind is blowing from the east and the eves are dripping steady rainfall, open all the doors (or windows) and bend low over the heat of the stove. Slice an onion and throw it into a pan already bubbling with melted butter. With a wooden spoon shove both onions and butter about at will. When an aroma begins to arise, step back from the stove.

Feel the mingling of chill breeze from the open door and steamy heat on your skin. Inhale the sweet, tangy, wild scent of onions and rain. Know that life is astoudning.

5: Rocking chairs

Rocking chairs are one of the greatest advances of civilization. Even the Ancient Philosophers, in their wisdom, would have lavished praise on the rocking chair, that divinely inspired combination of sitting apparatus and cradle. It is a functional meditation on the complex nature of humanity: wise and child-like, hard-working and leisure-loving, practically minded and beauty oriented.  The combined parts living as a whole and complete rocking chair both inspires deep thoughts about our contradictory selves and gives us a place in which to think them.

4: Bonfires

Leaping light, low crackling, living heat, and woodsmoke scents. Autumn bonfires have been extolled for centuries, in part, (I think,) because they appeal to almost every sense so pleasantly. Contrasting colder weather and darker days with wildly controlled flames only makes resilient mortals more at ease in our domain between worlds.

3: Four Season: Autumn 3rd mvt, Vivaldi

This is high on the list for obvious reasons. The stately dance of grey clouds to the wild tumble of leaves are all present to your ears!

2: A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle

“Wild nights are my glory”, declares a very wonderful Mrs. Whatsit one stormy Autumn night. Aside from being one of the best books of childhood, this story is filled with a presence of Autumn; from the actual earthly setting to the plot arcs of sacrifice and renewal.

1: The Poetry of Robert Frost

After Apple Picking

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.         5
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass         10
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,         15
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.         20
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound         25
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,         30
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap         35
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his         40
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

An Experiment in Art Criticism

A couple weeks ago (gosh, is it already that far past?), Thalia and the Brilliant Scrupulously Exact Physicist came to visit.  Having but limited time together, and the Scrupulously Exact Physicist having nixed the suggestion that we go busking with a plaid hat and a repertoire of hymns, we took ourselves down to the museum in town.

You know the one.  The one with a weird bit of iron out in front, and a weird bit of carved wood out back, and oddness in between.

We determined that it would be diverting to level our most withering wit at the works within, provided we were suitably fortified; Thalia had the further brainwave that we might tell the truth slant – in fact, not merely slant, but actually perpendicular to our normal mode of discourse.  All of which is to say that we gathered up our pens, notebooks, and a flask of bourbon, and rhapsodized in the blankest verse we could muster.

(Dear sweet teetotalers: surely even you understand the importance of fortification against the utter lack of metanarrative in postpostmodern art?  Have you not read your Walker Percy? Do you not know that “post-painterly abstraction” is an honest term used by an art critic to distinguish from earlier abstract expressionism?  Read this whole page  and tell me you don’t want a drink by the end of it.)

(N.B. that we were, at least, covert in our potation.  The Scrupulously Exact Physicist whose pockets guarded the flask ended up quaffing the lion’s share, which is to say, maybe an ounce or two more than the rest of us.)

So without further ado, here are the fruits of our labors.

First, the piece the Scrupulously Exact Physicist wrote on:  Smoke Rings, by Donald Sultan

Smoke Rings

“Thunderstorm in Purple No. 6”*

Spirit,
inspiration drawn,
flames of unity,
darkness spills through it.

A phoenix is promised to ignite from the ashes
its crimson mane flowing,
as the firefox turns
and peace is dislodged

How many times?
will an elder rise or fall?
a leaf
falling Adonis
Cut from the top
in a swirl of cloud.

I wrote on something by Richard Diebenkorn.  It might not have looked exactly like this, but it was…similar:

ocean-park-no-131

Re: un tarde de Julio…

an envelope not yet trimmed or folded
into
usefulness.
rain has worn down the lines
of division,
jagged door opening
revealing naught but beige beyond.
Three figures sit at the bottom of it,
soon to be cropped out
by demands of time,
the folds pulling upward and away.
That bleeding paper
(such it might be)
bled not from any meaningful word,
any knife of truth.
All is quiet

All is empty.
~~~~~
something wrong:
assayed beauty via truth
as assured by Keats of unity
and believing truth
simple to see
simple to sign

a veil drawn over drawn truths
or a wash over half-depicted figures

not sad empty hopeless being,
nor vacant past plains:
a slightly yellowed page
awaiting drawing of the future.

Lastly, Thalia peered up at Helen Frankenthaler’s Sunset Corner, wrote a while, then carefully removed a number of connecting words and threw a brick at her punctuation.  Seems apt. Sunset Corner

Venetian Earthquake by Candlelight*

Lofty Depth.
Sundered plain
(Cower, blood – Dry)
murk, jagged; lurk, snagged –
Possess, weigh, measure, despair
——-
Ache,  bile, blotch
Central – corrosive
Control, Knot, Vomit.
——-
Void,
Promising.
A template ?
Abrupt, the hope
(Absurd)
Hence therefore; hell.

*Credit must be given to our friend, the Doctrix M. Harrison, for pointing out that such poetic assays must be titled appropriately, and for her endeavor to find something appropriate.

Yesteryear: Vellum

Vellum. Even the word evokes wealth. Vellum. Do you know what vellum is, or do you just like saying the word? I’m with you, if it’s the latter. It’s a beautiful word.

So the process of making vellum is gross, if you are not an old fashioned tanner. I’m going to gloss over it. If you are a member of PETA or a vegan, you might disagree with me on this one. That’s ok.

Vellum is a translucent parchment made from the skin of a young animal, generally a calf. That’s enough of that!

It is a loss to mankind. For why, you ask? Why thank you! I will tell you. Three very good reasons in handy bullet point form.

1) It is beautiful
2) It lasts a very very very very very very very long time.
3) It was expensive.

Here is an example to demonstrate points one and two. The heartbreaking beauty of the Duc de Berry’s Les Tres Riche Heure, created by the Flemish painters of miniatures, the Limbourg brothers. Oh me, I’m sorry about my grammar. I’d fix it, but it’s funny.

Les_Très_Riches_Heures_du_duc_de_Berry_mai

This that you are looking at…is 600 years old. The color unfading, the detail clear. Do you think anything we have done with our computers will last this well, or give so much to our children’s children’s children’s children’s….etc?

And thirdly. If you had to slaughter a calf every time you needed some new paper, do you think Twilight would have been published?

I’m just sayin’.