In the Beginning

Starting a painting is tough for me, I thoroughly enjoy the sketching, and thinking, planning and drafting; but actual brush to virgin canvas can send me into a tizzy. This new painting is not an exception. I vacillated between medium, initially favoring watercolor, going so far as to buy expensive paper. But now I lean towards oil.

I’m blocking out the painting in acrylic because I can cover a lot of ground with fast drying mediums. All well and good, but acrylic gives me a headache, it is sluggish in my hands, fighting me most of the way. The images that follow are just the germ of what I want this painting to be, but I am determined to post even if it isn’t where I want it to be at the moment.

For someone of my controlling temperament a big step.

I look forward to moving onto oil, but I have a lot of work to do before that;  I probably will not bring out the linseed oil until next week.

First day of blocking in.

So there we are, looks a bit rough, quite rough. The Maize God needs to be blocked in , as do the infant Hero Twins. I haven’t even added the Underworld Princess. I need to sketch her out, will do that tonight.

But for now, with an aching back, I’m calling it quits.

Until tomorrow,

take care,

LG

Composition Thus Far

Now that I have cobbled together a few maquettes (eager to make a few more), I feel I have sufficient a crew to compose a composition . I am hoping to depict that fateful moment when the princess Xquic miraculously finds her self with child – twins actual, the Hero Twins. Making use of the World Tree maquette along with the Maize God and Xquic, I spent much of yesterday just arranging little paper dolls , it was a great deal of fun. Last evening and much of today was sketching out ideas. Two, thus far, are beginning to pass muster. The rest, well it is safe to say my garbage can runneth over. 

I was trying for a rather sickly, Underworld palette  without relying heavily upon hellfire and brimstone.

detail of Hun Hunahpu, the Maize God

I think I like this composition of the Maize God, it is a bit blatantly sensual, but I also feel it conveys the vigor of a corpse that is able to miraculously impregnate the virgin princess without ever actually touching her. The Hero Twins are seen being transported to the motherland; an idea lifted from early Renaissance representations of the Annunciation. Red snakes in Aztec iconography represent sexual love- World Trees, Virgin mothers, dead Saviors, why pass on yet another Judeo-Christian reference?

The following is another compositional option.

In this composition I really play upon the princess’s lineage to the Underworld, albeit with a strong nod to Dante. I like the princess in this composition far more than the first. I had wanted a placid virgin, but the first just looks insipid. I’m loving the Maize God a bit less. I will pull the maquettes out tomorrow and fiddle around some more. Until that time here is a detail of the Princess.

Detail of Princess Xquic and her demonic cousin Ralph.

Until next time,

take care,

LG

A Fateful Encounter @ the Axis Mundi

The Axis Mundi, also referred to as the World Tree, is according to legend found at the very center of the world.

For the Maya the Axis Mundi was the yaxché,the Ceiba tree which is the national tree of modern Guatemala. It is a spiny  tree of spare beauty, little foliage but gorgeous orchid like flowers. I know this tree well from my time living in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

According to the Popol huh,the head of the slain Maize God was placed upon the branches of the Calabash tree where it nestled in amongst the gourd-like fruit.

This maquette is my attempt at depicting the Axis Mundi, that fateful moment when the slain Hun Hunahpu meets and miraculously impregnates the Underworld princess Xquic.

The construction of the World Tree proved to be quite complicated, I had hoped to post it last evening but I was still snipping away; it “branches” out to almost 36 inches. But after using many brads I have put together the first tableau. 

Maize God ensnared within the Axis Mundi

Tradition has only the head of the Maize God placed upon the branches, but I chose the full figure ( at least for this composition). The visual reference to another slain Savior was too difficult to resist.

Fateful encounter at the Axis Mundi

Please pardon the terrible quality of the image, my I-phone is not the best tool for recording, but it is readily available. This image is of Xquic looking upon the Maize God.

Princess Xquic ensnared.

As I mentioned the Ceiba tree is considered to be the inspiration for the World Tree. It is a beautiful tree, one I would love to illustrate, but I chose an abstract tree, all prickly spines and entrapment for the very reason that I want to avoid just illustrating the tale. I would be a very happy camper to create a botanical drawing of the tree but the Popol vuh  is a cosmic tale and I wanted to represent that sense of timelessness.

I will soon begin a painting (deciding upon medium) , I will also continue to create a few more figures ( I want to rework the owls for instance); but creating this tableau is satisfying.

Until next time,

take care,

LG

The Resurrection of the Maize God

The Maize God Hun Hunahpu suffers a great many indignities , he is duped by treacherous Underworld Lords, ceremonially sacrificed and ultimately beheaded. His head, like  the head of sacred Jokannan  an object of ghoulish veneration ; for the Maize God, instead of a silver platter, his severed head is placed upon the branches of the calabash tree.

From this perch the severed head impregnates the Underworld Princess Xquic.

I’ve decided this is most likely the scene I will depict , using my maquettes as inspiration.

I am fast creating a cast of a thousand, Cecil B. De Mill beware.

This maquette seems particularly flexible, perhaps I am beginning to better understand construction.

His tattoo of sprouting maize is typical when depicting the maize god, tripartite ornament, particularly in the god’s brow can be found early as the Olmecs. I must confess the ornament is not usually placed in such an erotically charged part of the body, but he is a fertility god after all.

As I noted Hun Hunahpu is quite flexible, when the poor fellow needs to be beheaded, a simple unfastening of the brad does the trick nicely.

Well that is much of today’s output, ended a bit early; toying with retiring to the study with Vasari, I should paint, but I feel a bit weary.

Until next time ,

take care,

LG

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,

LG

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

The Most Blessed Virgin Xquic

Roman Catholics aren’t the only folks with virgin births of Messianic proportions, in the Popol vuh a young princess from the Underworld (Xibalba) gives birth to not one Messiah but two!

In this tale as I discussed before in earlier posts ,the young  princess, Xquic encounters the freshly sacrificed head of the apparently still quite virile Maize God, Hun Hunahpu. His head, now perched upon the branches of a calabash tree greets our fair maiden quite crudely. The Maize God spits into Xquic’s hand resulting in the miraculous birth of the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque (earlier post).

Today’s maquette is of this Virgin Mother.

This was a trickier maquette in that I wanted her clothed, not nude as I have been working with. I am still working out  having Classical drapery flow when fastened by brads, clumsy, but I’m working on it.

One of my goals was to depict the Virgin Mother not only draped but with a vision of her miraculous twins. With a small brad pivoting to reveal her treasures I was able to accomplish my goal.

Not unlike an early anatomical mannikin.

My resource for costume was Professor Manuel Aguilar-Moreno’s indispensable Handbook to Life in the Aztec World. The following illustration taken from that book (365) is of an Aztec noblewoman. Aguilar-Moreno, quoting Fray Bernadino de Sahagún (responsible for the Florentine Codex) informs us that Aztec women used an herbal dye that “…produced a purple shining in the hair.” (368).

Hence the purple coif.

Aztec noblewoman

Well that is it for this evening , another long day, must start afresh tomorrow.

Until next time,

take care,

Boondocks Babylon

Heart of Sky, Winged Serpent of Heaven

The Feathered Serpent, Quetzalcoatl is a recurring figure in Mesoamerica going back to the Olmecs. Essentially this deity is a hybrid of the rattlesnake and the lavishly beautiful quetzal bird. Depictions of Quetzalcoatl are found pre-Aztec at Teothihuacan  as a snake covered in feathers; as he is depicted with images of rain (which in of itself is interesting as rain is frequently depicted as many little micro-phalluses, referencing fertility) it is believed to be regarded as a rain spirit.

The following is my  first stab at depicting  Quetzalcoatl , I will most likely return to him from  time to time as I have multiple ideas as to how best  imagine him.

I added articulated flames, far more Western an approach, but I couldn’t resist. The project is from a Western perspective after all.

Once again the image of the heart is prominent , I had planned on an outer cover, which I created, but upon construction I preferred the feathered-serpent exposed.

With the cover,

What I found so surprising with this figure and some of the imagery was the very apparent cholo influence. My last studio being downtown LA, right down the street from a very cool low rider garage, I saw plenty of very interesting graphics. I hadn’t realized how much I have become influenced by that genre. Most notable with the flames.

I must confess I am quite exhausted, annoying Daylight Savings Time always causes me to be a bit loopy for a few days, even the pugs are loopy.

Until next time,

take care,

Boondocks Babylon

The Sacred Heart of Hun Hunahpu

In my ongoing appreciation of the Popol huh Creation myth, I am increasingly aware of the similarities between the imagery of the Roman Catholic faith and that of the indigenous people of Mexico. It is of little surprise that conversion to the new faith met surprisingly little resistance- bloodbaths aside of course. In many ways it was picking up one mantle for another. Such is the case with this recent watercolor (finished last evening).

The Sacred Heart of Hun Hunahpu


2012

watercolor

Briefly, according to the Popol huh, Hun Hunahpu,  the Maize God and his brother Vucub Hunahpu descend to the Underworld. There faced with the duplicitous Lords of Xibalba pitifully fail challenge after challenge. The price for there failure is sacrifice, ritually depicted here as a horizontal gash to the chest with the still living heart removed. Hun faces further humiliation in having his head removed and placed in a fruit laden tree. This tree with its ghoulish bauble attracts the attention of Xquic a goddess of the Underworld. Approaching the head, Hun spits into her hand impregnating her. The result of this union being the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xblanque ( depicted in an earlier post). The Hero Twins will go on to avenge their father’s sacrifice.

One can easily see similarities between the two great religious traditions, Virgin births, Sacrificial Saviors, Sacred Hearts, even severed heads reminiscent of John , reminding one of  the Messiah’s arrival.

Difficult for this floundering Catholic to not be drawn to the material.

detail of Hun Hunahpu

This is an image of the Maize God in the throes of defeat AND impregnating the Xibalba princess Xquic. Delacroix and Blake being obvious influences.

detail of the Lord of Xibalba and the Princess Xquic

 In this detail I wanted to illustrate the life sustaining attributes of sacrifice, in this case the chest cavity opened and the still living heart seized upon by the greedy Underworld Lord. The blood of the young virile Maize God acting as a cosmic Viagra for the craven demon-god. And yes I am well aware that my depiction is juvenile and  bit titillating,  I promise I WILL mature, but later. His daughter clutches the Heroic Heirs close to her breast, out of the reach of her sinister father. She will soon enough be banished, but that is another tale…

Until that time,

take care,

Boondocks Babylon