I recently self published my Fairyland ABC/Alphabetic Primer of Fairyland through Blurb, at first I was intimidated by the process, but in fact it was pretty straight forward, almost fun once my desktop was properly organized.
The link above allows for a preview of the book and direct purchase and shipping- just in time for the holidays! A perfect stocking stuffer ( that sounds a bit unchaste).
What started out as an extension of my daily drawing practice, my focusing upon the alphabet as inspiration ,quickly suggested itself to book format.This paperback edition is nearly true to size to that actual notebook (the private notations and wonky compositions attest to that day-to-day reality).
The following images are some of my personal favorites:
I last posted what I had then thought to be a finished drawing, one I was pleased with in many ways but still had a persistent nagging sense of dissatisfaction concerning its resolution. But given other studio obligations I decided to put is aside and move forward.
However, a dear friend and accomplished artist in her own right would have none of that. In a private message she let me know in no uncertain terms what specifically was lacking, the email contained a red-inked copy of the offending drawing .
I confess I was taken aback by this unsolicited critique, but given my respect for her, for her academic training and for her own admirable work, I put aside my embarrassment and instead picked up the pencil once again. I now believe the drawing to be complete…unless I receive another private message (smiley face).
I recently finished a drawing celebrating Samhain which has just passed . Inspired especially by Victorian fairy paintings ( particularly those luminous works of Richard Dadd), I wanted to evoke that liminal moment , with lanterns and bonfires lit when we find the boundary between this reality and that of the Otherworld a bit more easily trespassed . If one wants to cross over into Fairyland, Samhain ( and Beltain) is your opportunity ; easy passage can be found also for the spirited Dead who may wish to cross over into our realm for quick hello with the Quick.
I love this Celtic recognition of two realms , side by side , each with inhabitants leading an existence separate yet interconnected to one another . A natural acknowledgment of what seems to be so apparent – I have only to refer to my own fertile dreamscape to believe that two realms run side by side . But which is the “real ” one ?
Colored pencil with chalk highlights on toned paper
18 by 24 inches
One of the many traditions I find so enchanting about this Celtic celebration, is the historic practice of carving humble turnips into lanterns – far more charming I think than the more photogenic pumpkin .
I also wanted to capture the spirits of the Dead , utilizing one iconic image over and over – that of the winged skull found on countless headstones .
I particularly like the idea of the Dead finding escape through ruptures in the earth , cave entrances etc – here I employed the turnip , that modest root vegetable that pleases me so greatly .
And of course, the ubiquitous bat .
Mumming and costume play, another tradition that I take delight in and hope I captured just a bit .
I had hoped to have finished this drawing on Samhain proper , October 31st through November 1st- certainly a broad window . But it just wasn’t to be . Though diligent , I’m not a particularly speedy artist .
Perhaps next Beltain I will revisit the realm of the fairy and the pixie and actually meet the deadline . Until then …
I love this liminal time of year , when the Otherworld is just a bit more accessible. When mummery , be it thrift shop finery or garments rich in folkloric significance can be found in the elevator, on the street , even at the dog park . When fairies , pixies, elves and ogres seem believable and where the day to day grind of this reality can be relieved by the fancy of the Other.
So as Los Angeles once again burns , I play with paper dolls and imagine a more playful , magical , liminal place .
Have a grand Samhain, Hallowing, All Hallow’s Eve 🎃👻🦇💀!
I was recently asked to participate in a collective exhibition , the theme being The Afterlife. Ordinarily I avoid these mass group shows as they tend to be more inclined to spectacle and keeping the masses entertained (as the public never seems sated, craving new sensation after new sensation, we makers are asked to accommodate). But the curators are well regarded , one I know and respect, the art critic Shana Nys Dambrot, and it is after all a subject of keen personal interest.
El Velorio, as these annual celebrations of Dia de los Muertos are known center around a mass call for art, all loosely tied by a single element, participants receive ,via post, an object to base the work, this year it was a stock wooden cross.
The image above is my contribution.
Resurrection of the Maize God (and the Miraculous Birth of the Hero Twins) was inspired by the Popol vuh narrative in which the Maize God is slain/sacrificed and from this loss, new life, in this case the immaculate birth of the Hero Twins. An old familiar story, found across peoples, from John Barleycorn to Jesus Christ.
I had several years ago made the polymer clay heads for puppets, the puppets didn’t quite work out, but my rat-packing paid off as new life was found is this work. Unfortunately , from social media comments, the Hero Twin budding corncobs read as feet to the crucified Maize God.
I don’t read it that way, but it seems the public, in a mad dash to the next sensation, rarely actually observes.
That said, the work is available, along with many other very well crafted offerings October 12th at the Plaza de la Raza here in LA. I am told it is quite an event, very festive, costumed revelers. La Plaza de la Raza is a very fine art hub, actively community based and a vital center of artmaking; 40% of sales will benefit this wonderful resource.
I recently finished two new works, one a drawing which I made recently on the feast day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15th), the other an oil painting of Paul’s epiphany on that road to Damascus so long ago. I’m becoming increasingly aware of spirit entering my life ( I do not know what else to call it) and my work. It has been subtle, random spontaneous prayer, something I neglected since boyhood; sneaking into churches furtively and unnoticed ; but most especially instances of incredible awareness, of a sense “rightness” at the most curious of moments. I don’t know what it is but I do know it is welcome and increasingly welcome in the studio as well.
I’ve always been drawn to sacred art, I collect it, I seek it out whenever I travel, David and I are drawn like moths to a flame whenever we encounter some beautiful chapel, church or cathedral. Yet I have resisted calling myself religious, and God forbid anyone calls me “spiritual”- milquetoast yoga clad , CBD ingesting, kale juicing LA dilettantes come to mind. But now my symbolist art is becoming increasingly sacred, and sacred in a decidedly Christian way. Not I hope in that pedantic , lock-step fundamentalist sort of way but in the best way, a very personal way, the way one hears and feels the spirit. No one else can depict those ineffable moments of presence but oneself and they cannot easily be explained or depicted, but art making and poetry are frequently very evocative and satisfying.
My interpretation of Paul on that road is at best quirky, perhaps too much so, too personally esoteric…but I must paint as I see it. Christ is front in center, in some strange pompous vehicle, wearing some odd pointed crown of thorns; poor Paul, mid-strangle of some hapless Believer, looking up in wonder and shame ; and as always , in the background and foreground , are we, the unenlightened, unable to witness the sacred in our everyday.
I say “we”, I mean “me”.
I’ve ornamented this bearded fellow with Greenmen, primal gods, folk treasures and a Fool. Although seeking something beyond the realm of the ordinary, I wanted to acknowledge the sacred qualities of being of the world.
The Fool is all seekers, of which I count myself. Seeker Fools, Holy Fools, wether ready for it or not; latent or actively seeking or somewhere in between. I predict many Fools in new works to come.
Of religious art I was taken with what I felt a very British approach to the sacred on my recent holiday visit to the Tate Britain. There in the dizzying galleries devoted to all that is best in British art,I was struck by the sheer numbers of works depicting Christ, the Magdalene, Virgins here and there, and just an over all presence of spirit (Blake of course comes readily to mind). But these works, unlike their counterparts issued from the Church of Rome were highly personal, some oddly so, as cryptic and as wonderful as some newly discovered Gospel.
As an example I suggest Stanley Spencer’s monumental The Resurrection, Cookham. In this detail shot, Spencer himself, nude as our Lord made him, languidly awaits his Savior.
For a sense of the scale of this fantastic painting, this image, with Jacob Epstein’s strangely beautiful Virgin from The Visitation, 1926 in the foreground.
Perhaps being a Protestant nation, British artists were more inclined to “own” the Christian narrative in their work as they feel able to interpret the gospels for themselves. I don’t know for certain of course but it was strikingly apparent that these works , of which there were many, expressed an inner life, richly experienced.
This seems a long standing tradition, although theoretically familiar with John Everett Millais’ Christ in the House of His Parents ( The Carpenter’s Shop), I hadn’t realized until close inspection how unorthodox a painting it really is. Christ, so young, so fair, so in need of his mother, the tenderness she exhibits as she tends to a superficial wound, the precursor to the Wound. Blood drips upon his bare, grubby little feet, again a foretelling. The painting is astonishingly rich in symbolisms, details I hadn’t been aware of from reproductions. In truth I’ve never liked this painting much, that is until actually witnessing it ; too Protestant, I had foolishly thought, not properly “sacred”.
I no longer think that.
But for highly personal visions of the divine one returns to Blake.
Increasingly I feel Blake to be the strangest, most influential and most prescient artist. Although I don’t think that it was the case, I always sense that the work just rushed out of him, painting one might say in the Tongue of Pentecost. I don’t think that was true, that he was in fact quite a deliberate artist, but it is a tender image of the man.
Of Blake’s perennial influence, one cannot neglect Cecil Collins, and although from what I read he loathed to be compared to Blake, the influence of spirit is hard to overlook. Collins has become in his own right quite an influence to me. I feel a kinship to the work and to the man, I especially like this quote where he speaks of the Fool. It reverberates with a sense of rightness :
The saint, the artist, and the poet are all one in the Fool, in him they live, in him the poetic imagination of life lives.
Back to my own stabs at personal spirituality, I came upon this photo of early work, from the early 80’s , back in those halcyon summer days of my youth, spent on Deer Isle Maine painting very strange, frankly ugly paintings onto the most forlorn cast off furniture I could find, which in turn was peddled to upstanding Boston Brahmans summering in Blue Hill ( a very respectable gallery gave me several solo shows, nearly all sold out- I was astonished). I haven’t a clue as to where this peculiar table ended up, I imagine once the buyer came to their senses they tossed it to the curb. Happily I have this crappy snapshot which provided compositional inspiration to my Assumption drawing above.