Closing Chapters


Resurrection of the Father
watercolor on paper

The last of my drawings for my Popol vuh commission have been satisfied.

I should feel a sense of relief but in truth I feel a sense of disappointment, of hopes once bright , now dimmed a bit. I am not sure where this project, one in which I have invested so much energy into , will go. Perhaps its just the creativity bubble bursting a bit.

What I had understood to be a project slated for publication after I had completed my commission  now seems in limbo. The publisher suggested by the poet  I found to be lacking in creativity and vision  with no apparent back up option-given the publisher was a pay-to-play  publisher was disappointing as well.

But that seems to be the reality. I am now in the position of needing to find a publisher , to pay or to not, willing to publish this heavily illustrated tome. To be honest I feel sick to my stomach but I have put so much into these drawings to just allow them to be stashed away into a folio seems too great a defeat. I also feel ill-equipped and inadequate to the task

So I will begin researching , I dislike feeling  a bit alone in this but from recent exchanges I fear the poet and I now have different intentions for the project. My initial understanding of the collaboration was a shared enthusiasm for Blake, inspiring a  universalist, humanistic approach to this distinctly Maya creation myth, an uplifting  celebration in the Jos. Campbell “Hero with a Thousand Faces” vein. It now seemingly more activist, too anti-Western Christendom in approach than I’d prefer.




There is profound relief in at last being free of the Xibalban Underworld, C.S.Lewis, in describing the creation of his Screwtape Letters  dwelt upon the  difficulty of being immersed in such darkness. The last year or so of trickster demons, their wanton cruelty, the viciousness of unwholesome, perverse gods and the relentless bloody sacrifices has had a similar darkening upon my soul. I’m eager to emerge into the light.


That said, the  following are the images for the tacked on poems to our Popol vuh.

Poem Images:

Scepter 1967
Mi Finca
The Owls Return to Xibalba
The Jungle Path to Xibalba
All Their Lord’s Hearts
(terrible photograph)
Epilogue, the Daykeeper’s Sermon, Circa 1520
(perhaps my favorite drawing)

Chapter headers, the theme being puppetry and nursery amusements:

Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
(my favorite of the chapter headers )

I am going to take some time away from thinking about this project, but not so much that I can wish it away. Just an opportunity to rekindle inspiration, to aflame motivation. David and I are tentatively planning a trip to Mexico City, with old gods underfoot and new above that just may do the trick.

Resurrection of the Father
watercolor on paper


Back to the Popol vuh Drawing board

Hero Twin marionettes , 2014
There are multiple translations of the Popol vuh, many of them excellent, scholarly works by experts in the field of Mesoamerican art and culture embellished with imagery predictably appropriate to the rich history of the Maya people.  I’ve had the good fortune to meet several of the scholars at Mesoamerican conferences, Mesoamerican and post conquest colonial art  being a personal passion; these have been enriching, informative  and inspiring experiences.
The translation that I have been illustrating the last year or so however is a bird of another (quetzal) feather,  my intention is a  retelling of a well told story through images- my own kind of images, imagined through the cultural prism and personal perspective of the re-telling bard, in this case, myself. My first experience with the Popol vuh was much like my imagined 17th c. Court artisan ,  one of ignorance to the actual originating culture, but sheer, spontaneous delight in the symbolic drama of the tale and expressing this delight in the cultural, visual language at hand- in this case a baroque puppet drama.
In the end the Popol vuh is simply  one heck of a good yarn, akin to the gods of Olympus and Valhalla. I try to express that delight and the accessibility in the stories told within my narrative images.
Of which, more have been added.
My collaborating poet has added more verses since I had last considered the project complete a few months back :

The Xibalba Codex


Initially I admit to being chagrined, for I wanted to move forward with other projects that I have placed on hold. But I love this project deeply and truly, this theme, this inspiration, the Popol vuh has been my companion since 2013 when I first encountered the epic tale in a short animated film  in a Mesoamerican class I had been attending. Immediately I was enchanted by this strangely  familiar story and I  began scribbling furiously in the darkened auditorium, doodling up ideas for fanciful puppet operas and traveling marionette theaters, 17th c. commedia hucksters , not unlike those in Hamlet, entertaining court after ennui weary court.

So to return to this beloved story is an opportunity to at last figure out how best to share my passion for these two heroic ball playing boys, their sainted mother and of course the hellish brood of daemonic pranksters.
Lord One Death marionette
The poet and I need to figure out how best to get this monster of book published , I had naively understood there was a publisher in the wings, it seems that isn’t the case. Self publishing, unless a small press can be secured, appears to be our option. A certain degree of apathy seems to have set in with my collaborator, thus far he seems convinced that there will be little interest in our work and perhaps out-and-out hostility to two non-Maya fellows creating this homage and as artists we’d be best off in just getting the book made and to just move on to our next project.
That is a dispiriting perspective and one I do not share. This is , to me, a special project, one close to my heart, an amazing story, one easily appreciated by Maya and non-Maya alike , a human story, one familiar with its brave heroes, powerful maternal figures, sacrifice, trials and redemptions …and of course the buffoonery of the Xibalban underlords. I’ll have to do some researching how best to get this undertaking out there, I’m ill prepared for this quest, I am unfamiliar with the jargon , with contracts, with preserving rights, with fees and commissions . But the road to Xibalba is made one foot step at a time.
 I will need to reach out to those more acquainted with publishing, should I self-publish, using a platform such as Blurb? I would at least have more control over the aesthetics of the project as the one publisher my poet did contact insisted upon visual control of the cover, examples of which I have seen haven’t met my expectations. I have friends more familiar with this game,  I’ll be reaching out to them, gathering options, opinions, suggestions. I have time, I have taken this long, what matters a few more months . But for now I have more drawings to make, of which, these few are the latest.
Illustration for “Scepter,1967”
Illustration “Mi Finca, 2021”
Illustration “The Owls Return to Xibalba”
Illustration “The Jungle Path to Xibalba”



I will close with a proposal sketch for a solo exhibition from I think 2014. My proposal was a resounding dud, zero interest,  so perhaps my poet is correct. However, all the more reason to put the Xibalba Variety Hour out there!

Proposal sketch , 2014

Open To Criticism

In my desire to more fully engage as an artist I have joined an artists  alliance that is affiliated with a local museum here in Southern California. Apparently, once a quarter, its members gather with one piece of their work and a group critique ensues.

Strikes terror in my heart frankly.

Nonetheless I have decided to attend. I have a fair number of paintings to choose from but most tend to be rather large.  Fortunately I have been working on three smaller paintings, one of which is 95% complete, it is called Peregrino de la Rosa- Pilgrim of the Rose.


Peregrino de la Rosa

oil on canvas

24 by 30 inches

The painting started out, as I posted on the following link, as a small sketch cobbled together after being inspired by my dear friend Rosa’ s nocturnal wanderings-spiritual development and a trinity of owls being major themes, the link provides more detail. But as I painted and explored I better understood the personal significance , hence my pilgrim is no longer a woman but instead one of my idealized
Poussin inspired heroes.

I have come to see this image as a moment of  decision at a crossroads, one in which I find myself. Our pilgrim has encountered a shaman like figure and is offered two paths, the more obvious one and  the more furtive one, which will he take? I find myself still struggling with this persistent question : steeling my nerves and going forward with formal training or staying on the familiar and frankly often frustrating path of self discovery. This group critique is an opportunity for me to poke my head out of the hermitage and perhaps explore options.

IMG_4079 2Detail of my peregrino

On an aesthetic level I’m happy with the tone and coloring of this painting. The underpainting was done in a very warm monochrome, essentially Indian Yellow. I’m pleased the painting retained the warmth.

IMG_3971Initial underpainting.

As I mentioned the painting is very close to completion, some noodling about with finicky details and further shadows and light but essentially finished. The critique is early this evening and I want the painting to be at least tacky dry  for transport so I will hold off fussing until tomorrow.

Wish me well and until next time, take care,


From Today’s Notebook: the Pilgrim and the Owl

I have a dear friend, more sister than friend, her name is Rosa.

Rosa is on a journey, dare I say,  of  enlightenment . She would never say such a thing, she is far too modest, but it is a fact I am witness to.  Rosa who is an Episcopalian priest,  lives in our old Fort Lauderdale neighborhood with her husband Sherod, also a priest, our priest. I miss them terribly, if anyone  can help me have faith in man and god it is this duo.  I see far too little of them and their daughter Maria but I do keep abreast of Rosa through her musings on her blog, Cenizas, Estelas y Senderes: Ashes,Trails and the Wake We Leave Behind.

Recently Rosa wrote about her rather frequent encounter with owls, most likely a saw-whet owl, her post entitled I Don’t Believe in Angels, describes the  seemingly chance appearances of these nocturnal sentinels just when she needs them most.  Rosa is an avid walker, for health both physical and spiritual.

 Rosa describes that when the weight of life seems most impossible this little bugger shows up, she doesn’t believe in angels but what the hell is this?  She describes meeting what she believes-wants to believe- is the same wise little fellow.  I found this detail inspirational, as well as her description of owls as being  something she is “…so grateful for, the beautiful presence of these creatures who are as mystery-filled as the darkness we meet it.”

There is a painting in this.

The following is an idea I  have for just such a painting. 


watercolor sketch for The Pilgrim

I’ve taken liberties with the pilgrim, initially I was going to fashion the figure after Rosa, but I happen to be reading an incredible book by Tom Sparbauer The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon. It is a wonderful tale of a young berdache youth , his treks profane and sacred. One of his encounters is with a shaman named Owlfeather. The exchange between the two characters resonated with me, reminding me instantly of my friend and her own pilgrimage. I hope Rosa doesn’t mind being fashioned after a rather randy, bisexual, heavy drinkin’, “star dust” smoking , cussing berdache boy- but knowing my friend I am pretty certain she would be delighted. I did give the fellow a Rose.

I’ve played around with the characters quite a bit, the pilgrim below is from an early quick sketch.


I’m going to start this painting soon after class, which ends next week. I have St.Anthony almost completed, having another in the wings, so to speak makes me happy.

I’m going to end with this adorable image of a northern Saw-whet, they were always a delight to encounter, happy Rosa has such fine company on her evening romps. To follow Rosa on her journey her blog Cenizas, Estelas y Senderes is on my blog roll. 

Until next time,

take care,



Final Christmas Tidbits for Gracie

I am about to send out my niece’s holiday package, obviously it will be ridiculously late, a pattern she better accustom herself to.

As my last post made clear I am trying to refrain from purchasing  many gifts.  In addition to the previously mentioned hand-puppets I have been busy making book-plates. Clive was the inspiration , I wonder if he was aware of my cursing as I hand pressed each and every damned bookplate. I ought to have Popeye’s arms when I am finished.

 A sampling of the bookplates so far:

Athenian bookplates for Gracie
Athenian bookplates for Gracie

Grace is stuck with a theme this holiday, the theme being the grey eyed Athena, her bookplate is an illustration of the divine one. My intention wasn’t for such a severe plate, my initial drawing was slightly softer, but the cutting went where it went. Personally I like the plate, not sure what my disney- princess- loving niece will think.  She will have to grow into it.

Grace will also receive my athena print, I’ve posted this before but not in its shiny pink frame. I know Grace will like the frame at least.

athena in the pink
athena in the pink

The back of the print has a prayer to the grey eyed one. The printmaking technique is rainbow roll, something I do  not particularly care for but it might please my dazzle-eyed niece.

prayer card to athena
prayer card to athena

I did purchase a few books for Grace, I was particularly happy with the book on Athena  I found at the wonderful Getty villa in Malibu. I’m hoping I can successfully convert the girl to classicism ; the Getty would be the perfect place (in the States anyway) to introduce her to the wonders of Greece and Rome.

holiday books for Grace.
holiday books for Grace.

I stumbled upon some blank puzzles, which are a lot of fun to paint. I picked a goat as it seemed suitably Greco-Roman, plus they are terribly cute.

billy goat gruff
billy goat gruff

Into the package  I  have thrown in a little something for my sister and my brother-in-law.  Gregory is a pious man, so I thought my recent relief print of St. Benedict of Palermo might be suitable.  I hope so.

St.Benedict of Palermo
St.Benedict of Palermo

Putting this package together, I realized I have not actually seen or held my niece since 2008. My sister Kat and Grace flew out for our wedding and we were able to see what a delightful child she was. She has certainly grown and I have missed many chances to see her develop. I’m hoping this package can be a  way of fostering an intimacy from such a great distance as it is difficult for a great many reasons for me to fly out and see her personally.

Grace and her uncle2008
Grace and her uncle


I am now eager to get back to painting, I have a few more bookplates to make. One for my niece-to- be Lulu, her mother went into labor this morning! Such excitement . Plus one plate for dear friends, but after that I need paint under my nails. 

Wishing all holiday cheer,

until next time,

take care,


Athena, fresh off the press


In the final weeks of my printmaking class we have been focusing on relief printing, so far using sheets of linoleum. Of all of the techniques this is the one I have most taken to. I have just finished working on a plate of St. Benedict of Palermo (the Moor); I am eager to run a test print.

Relief printing, contrary to my expectations is well suited to the way I doodle, not the way I draw or paint, but doodling.

I have countless class notebooks filled with my doodling marginalia, I have admired the spontaneity but when I have tried to translate the doodle into another medium the results have been disappointing. The spontainity had been lost and the result was too ironic, too self aware, verging on cartoonish, not at all my intention or desire.

But I have found that when I translate my doodling onto the linoleum block the loose line is retained. The quirkiness is an asset.

The following image of the Grey Eyed goddess was first a loose doodle from my mythology class.  I created her as a prayer card for our recent election day, carving the image quickly before class with very little alteration to the original 30 second doodle.  There are flaws but I like her.  She has an archaic quality that I do not usually explore.  She is reminiscent (at least to me) of an early political poster from the first democracy; at least that was my intention.

I’m heading to the frame shop to have two prints prepared as gifts for my two nieces, Grace Sophia and the still to be born Lulu.

Lulu is expected to burst onto the scene December 15th , she is eagerly awaited ; having Athena in her nursery seems a good omen.  

linoleum cut on paper
9 by 12 inches

Until next time,

take care,


“O” is for the Owl (& for Obama)

 I had been planning on owls for “O” from the beginning, mostly because they re so darn cute.The Mesoamericans however did not necessarily find them as adorable as our contemporary society seems to find them. According to my ever reliable Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya , owls were a mystical yet fearsome creature. Dwelling in dark caves, portals to the Underworld, owls were  considered guides to dark mysteries and ominous omens of what lurked in the shadows.

 As does western culture, owls were identified with the night, further cementing their connection to the supernatural.

To the Maya the owl represented fertility and death, this dual nature can be seen in the Popol vuh narrative: owls deliver the Hero Twins to the Lords of the Underworld sealing the Heroes doom and also guide the pregnant Xquic out of the darkness of Xibalba. This seems in keeping with the rather consistent duality of Mesoamerican mythic narrative.

The green owl was favored by the artisans of Teotihuacan, appearing in wall paintings, and according to the Dictionary over mirrors (I assume polished obsidian), the mirror itself representing a passage to the unknown. I was happy for the chance to use green as my accent color for this page of the Primer.

“O” is for the Owl
watercolor on paper
11 by 18 inches

I mentioned that “O” was also for Obama, this is because I had intended to work on this painting during the presidential election last Tuesday. I had expect a long anxious evening ; I had hoped working would soothe my nerves. It was a stressful evening, but at some point the dominoes of fate starting falling in Obama’s direction; in no time at all it seemed as if my president would be given a second chance. I began to just feel incredibly giddy, something I have not felt in months. This election has been particularly stressful , full of vitriol and mean spiritedness ; when Obama gave his acceptance speech the little green owl on the branch smiled- and that is how I left him.

Hoorah for Obama, that is the cheer of this chorus of wise little owls.

So “O” is for the Owl and for the president, I can now exhale peacefully.

One of my inspirations for my owls was a funny little Halloween decoration from the 50’s-60’s , very familiar to American baby boomers . I always liked his green and orange coloring and his funny wink, I wanted to squeeze a reference of him into the painting. I hope I captured some of his goofy spirit. 

Halloween decorations from my youth, mid-century.

I have been receiving notifications concerning the Alphabet Soup deadline at the end of this month; I thought I would enclose the following for inspiration.

Until next time, take care,



Out of the Mouth of Hell

I’ve missed making maquettes, so as my painting was drying I decided yesterday’s rain provided a great opportunity to clip away.

I chose as my subject a place as opposed to a character . I chose Hell Mouth, the mythic entrance to the Underworld.

There isn’t any reference to Hell Mouth in the Popol Vuh, but what the hell (pun intended). What is mentioned is the characters entering and leaving the Underworld through a cave-like portal. The device of the Hell Mouth, as I mentioned in an earlier post has many incarnations: Medieval and Elizabethan Morality plays, monastic manuscripts, Renaissance pleasure gardens, examples are found in Asia, even in Mesoamerica. I am cobbling together a post on this hellish topic on my other blog, Babylon Baroque, link found on side bar.

Update: new post on Hell Mouth up and running, check out Babylon Baroque, link in sidebar.

My own vision of Hell Mouth is more Morality play theatrics than tasteful Renaissance grandeur, I have taste as subtle as a train wreck. My vision may lack discretion but boy can it articulate.


 I’m not sure if it is clear but the lower “jaw” of the gate is fastened by a brad allowing it to be raised drawbridge fashion.

 Dancing Demons on the lower jaw of Hell.

One part of the narrative is when the underworld princess Xquic is told to leave the Underworld by her Maize God spouse; pregnant with his children,the Hero Twins, she flees the sulphur aided by three owls (one depicted). As can be seen I had a bit of fun putting the tableau together.

The Flight of Xquic

As I mentioned the lower jaw raises to better trap snarling demons and intrepid Hero Twins. Detached it provides a dandy bit of stage setting as can be scenes above in the ghoulish disco.

 Entrapment at the Gate of Hell

Details follow, I like the wrathful demon and the little articulated gargoyle, the lower jaw of the gargoyle moves as does his body, not very necessary but fun to play with.

Well that is it for now, I may put together the aforementioned post or I may return to the studio. The spouse returns tonite, I might not return to these pages until next week, until that time, take care.


Odd Owls

Last week I finished off with an abstracted owl taken almost line for line from original source material. This week I wanted to finish off the trio with original designs. I’m not altogether convinced they work-any of them. I may very well end up creating naturalistic owls, they are fantastic enough, peculiar little creatures. but I am happy I played about with the design. I favor the crimson and gold owl, my nod to the Spanish Baroque.

In addition to my funny little owls which may all be for naught, I have been crafting one of the main characters, the Maize God. He should be ready by tomorrow. I rather like him but when the photo popped up on I-photo he looked awkward, I’m going to need to do further revision. But for now my eyes are tired and my dogs restless, eager for me to retire.

Until next time,


A Green ( and Orange) Owl

Given that Saint Patrick’s feast day is around the corner I thought I would focus on a green owl.

The Popol huh mentions three owls (including one identified as Skull Owl )acting as assistants to the nefarious Death Gods of Xibalba.

It should also be noted that owls help lead the quite pregnant Princess Xquic (previous post) out of the Underworld and into the land of the living.

Owls occupy a complicated place in Mesoamerican culture,one of fear and respect; seen as messengers between the spirit world and that of man. Because they occupied the dark and  dank caves they  were also associated with death, most particularly the Death Gods of Xibalba.

A green owl is not such a peculiar choice, the aforementioned Illustrated Dictionary informs that “Green owls commonly occur in the art of Teotihuacan…” (128).

Hence my desire to present a very green and orange (only seems fair) owl for one of my favorite feast days.

The source material for this owl is from the Codex Borgia (found in the same Dictionary, pg. 129). I tried to be as true as possible to the original. A bit challenging as the original  is extremely graphic;but I think he works nicely , a funny little fellow.

Just a few more poses, he is a flexible little bird…

In closing just a frankly very appealing owl, I couldn’t resist.

Wishing a very happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

I most likely will not post until next week-family time.

Take care,

Boondocks Babylon