Today’s drawing : “Vivisection of the Seraphim “, pencil and gouache on toned illustration board, 15 by 19 inches .
A friend recently mentioned that she didn’t believe in the existence of the Soul . This set me back a bit , I’ve heard this argument before , heretical from my position , that the soul, not actually something sacred but instead an entanglement of the nervous system. This materialistic perspective nonetheless upset me a great deal, leading me to uncomfortable rumination. Given its Holy Week and reflecting upon the soul appropriate, this image ultimately made its appearance.
The cold , hard science worship of our age with its mechanical “logical” detachment, cannot adequately discern the essence of a soul . For the Trust-the-Science crowd , such close scrutiny of the sacred would be as fruitless and as brutal as dissecting an Angel – you’d be left with little aside from disenchantment and some bloody feathers .
The soul is ineffable , wilting under the demands of the empiricist , but I have faith in it and the fact that you cannot be an artist without one.
Speaking of the intangible , the conventional depiction of the Seraphim , here illustrated from the Petite Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry, conveys the fragility of their nature. I attempted to capture that shredded-butterfly-wing tragedy in my drawing.
New work on paper , just off the drawing board. Inspired in part by our bumpy ride from LA to Chicago, the final move of all our worldly goods in a bladder destroying rented truck. From our high perch (which is cool, the big rig-ness of it all) David, Viola and yours truly drove through some majestic landscapes. However the bleak desert landscape between LA and Las Vegas has proven the most inspiring .
Forget the imperial mountainscapes frosted in white, the red stone canyons, the luminous sunsets (and rises) , what seeped into my brain (and pencil) were ice cream cone shaped stands, forlorn and abandoned in the sands, galleons left adrift amongst the chaparral , and the countless “Jackrabbit” shacks/homesteads, built with such enthusiasm and abandoned with such a heavy heart. Neon glitz and sham popped up like unwholesome mushrooms we approached Los Vegas. From my bumpy perch I made short handed doodle-notes which trigger memory and move my pencil along.
The following, an album from that four day trip, late July, early August 2023, I think the quick snapshots convey the nihilistic neon of this fascinating wasteland:
I wasn’t able to capture these peculiar and abandoned ice cream shops, but a google search revealed their history.
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).
Moments ago I finished this four sheet drawing The Desert Quartet: The Temptations of St. Anthony . I have been working on it off and on over the last few weeks . Putting it aside now and again , most recently for a trip to London but I am now back and I was determined to finish it so as to explore new work inspired by my trip to that most marvelous city .
The following images are details of what I admit is a very dense image, which may be difficult to read from an iPhone photograph . I will need to have this drawing professionally documented.
This drawing is a continuation of my Anthony infatuation , it began as the briefest of doodles . Not a particularly good one but one that has provided inspiration for some reason . I’m about to translate this doodle once again into my stitched paper dolls . I think it will be effective as a wall hung work, projecting out here and there, constructed mostly of cardboard, paint and embroidery flow . I hope to convey movement and articulation, very animated I hope .
I will post progress shots as it progresses . But until then, good wishes from Babylon.
“I should never have made my success in life if I had been shy of taking pains, or if I had not bestowed upon the least thing I have ever undertaken exactly the same attention and care that I have bestowed upon the greatest.”
I recently finished listening to an audio recording of Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop. Dickens is a favored studio companion, his intricate, well woven tales can keep me engaged for days on end. He was a master storyteller and when Curiosity Shop came to its conclusion, I marveled at the care and dedication to detail he lavished upon even the most seemingly insignificant innkeeper, scoundrel or parlormaid. It is a great treat to become so well acquainted with all of his characters, the experience is so rich and gratifying.
Such attention to seemingly insignificant details is my delight at the easel as well. I am aware that a broader brush or a simpler stroke might just as effectively convey a desired message, but it wouldn’t be fully my own, or frankly of any interest to me. I take great pleasure in works that are convoluted, those possessing complicated compositions with seemingly infinite opportunity to discover detail upon detail. I recall the northern Gothic painters, where the doorknob of some distant castle sparkles as brightly and as prettily as some fair maiden’s jeweled bodice; where every tree is embroidered with countless , meticulously rendered leaves. Many find such works frankly too rich in detail, too time consuming to comprehend, not at all suited to our contemporary world’s blunt (brutal?) aesthetic and ever-increasingly limited attention span.
I however stay the course, trying as best as I can to stay personally true, and as Dickens stated, taking the pains necessary to develop the work fully to my satisfaction. The following images are of works in progress, one a rather large oil painting, hopefully nearing completion, the second a work on paper. Both seem to be expanding in scope as each studio comes to a close. But I am increasingly confident that they will let me know when they are finished…fingers crossed, soon.
In my new studio I find myself increasingly drawn to pencil work. I hurt my hand with the rather manic sewing for Fairyland, so that is on hold until it heals. I am painting however, pain free , and when committed to the task, quite happy at it . But the pencil is what is calling me presently and most immediately and most pain free. These two drawings are my latest .
The Wanderer’s Tale
Sanguine and colored pencil, white charcoal on toned paper
18 by 24 inches
Sanguine and colored pencil, white charcoal on toned paper
18 by 24 inches
It is I think the immediacy of drawing , that and the ability to really noodle down with detailed fine line work that so appeals to me. Line is everything to me, and I think it is this instinctive preference that separates me from painters in general – for even with a brush in hand I feel as if I am drawing .
Tomorrow I head back to the easel, I have been working on preparatory drawings the last few days and now feel ready to put brush to canvas. But for now , calling it a night .
In my ongoing examination of sacred work, an extension of my own feet-in the-ground-butt-in-the-pew spiritual experimentations , during the past Holy Week I spent my studio time with the Way of the Cross. I have resisted attending Catholic Mass for decades, I’ve attended Episcopal services off and on for years, and while I have felt welcome, I personally felt ill at ease, a nagging longing that something was missing-no matter how High the service. So I did experiment, I attended Good Friday services at a pretty little church in Eagle Rock, and it was sweet to see the devout earnestly visiting each Station, uttering by rote their own passionate pleas. But the service itself, a public forum , where congregants, in the manner of our Protesting brothers and sisters were proclaiming their own gospels. It was too much for me to bear, and shamefacedly, halfway through, I slithered out of my pew and back to my studio. I haven’t given up yet, but in many ways my studio is my temple. The following drawing is my own fervent desire to Walk the Way of the Cross; on my own path.
In this synoptic composition, from left to right, I have depicted our Lord as the Ecce Homo, the terrible mocking rabble, Pontius Pilate, the Holy Fool Lazarus, the Fishermen’s boat, the Blessed Mother as the Dolorosa, the Baptist, the Crucified Lamb and Veronica with her Veil.
Relating to this theme is a recently recieved image of The Anchorite’s Cross , part of my Embodied: St. Anthony & the Desert of Tears installation.
The Stations of the Cross are rarely out of sight, for decades this Victorian Station, Station V, with Simon willingly or begrudgingly helping the staggering Lord, has hung over every drawing desk since meeting David 26 years ago. This is how it looks today.
In addition to Christian themes, I have tackled classical themes such as my well explored affair with Herakles, like Christ, I find him irresistible.
Orpheus another tragic hero that inspires me.
And of descending into the Underworld, Christ’s own Harrowing of Hell.
I’m actually supposed to be drawing instead of posting so I must complete this post but the view from my new studio is distracting me delightfully.