Screaming Into The Wind

I have just finished this oil sketch (18 by 24) of Philoctetes, post snake bite, post festering wound and most pitifully, post abandonment by his brothers in arms. There a several variations on how the snake came to bite the master archer, but what seems consistent is the fact that the stench from the wound proved too great an ordeal for his comrades to endure. In a startling act of betrayal, they abandon our hero on the island of Lemnos. Alone with a painful wound, Philoctetes’ rage festers.

It is this moment I chose to paint, one of impotent anger and resentment. 

Philoctetes
oil on cardboard
18×24

I painted this image on cardboard, a material I really enjoy painting on. The lushness of oil color on pedestrian cardboard really satisfies some aesthetic instinct. I love how the oil glides upon the surface, canvas no matter how fine, snags my brush. I love panels, but they are costly , with cardboard I can screw up with very little anxiety. I’m eager to try copper panels, as was the tradition during the Renaissance , but I know nothing about  their preparation. Until that  time, cardboard is readily available.

I was keen to keep this painting a simple sketch, I did not labor over a drawing in order to prepare. I am trying to be more free ( more brave?) and just lightly pencil my idea and begin the sketch.  There are of course flaws, most particularly concerning anatomy, I do not have a model, save my own reflection. It is quite difficult to twist and turn and sketch away. I have tried snapping an image of myself, but all I come up with is some sort of sordid image in front of the mirror.

Hopeless really, I need a model, must work on that.

I love to put together extensive preparatory renderings but at time that becomes burdensome. I decided Philoctetes could survive the experiment, he has been through a great deal already, one more trial could hardly cause much harm.


Dispatch from the Underworld, same neighborhood, different block.

I have switched gears just a bit, focusing on the Greek underworld of Hades instead of the Mesoamerican Xibalba.

It is most likely only a temporary distraction prompted by our  having recently purchasing a beta fish which we named Orpheus. He is a handsome fellow blue, pink and red and he inspired the palette a bit.

This latest watercolor (on paper , 18 by 24 inches) depicts that moment when Orpheus is so very  close to his goal, fleeing with fair Euryidice to the land of the living,alas he loses nerve,looks back and all is lost. It is a horrible story, made gorgeous by Gluck and countless visual artists.

Once again I try my hand at entering the visual conversation; once again I’m not sure what to think of the result.

My very dear friend Ken came to visit me this week, driving from LA to this underworld called San Diego. He felt I was depressed, for multiple reasons, but most particularly for my latest series of paintings. I’m not sure if I am depressed, but I do feel as if I am in a state of transition, a limbo not unlike that of Euryidice.

Difference being my limbo will most likely pass.

Orpheus and Euryidice
Orpheus and Euryidice

Doubt is imagined as a withered blue crone.

detail of Doubt, Orpheus and the unfortunate Euryidice

The following is a detail of the demon(ess).

detail of demon

The following is a detail of Mercury, reminding Eurydice she must return. I had forgotten Mercury was part of the narrative, happy he is as he is always one of the hottest gods around.

detail of Mercury

As I mentioned I was inspired by my beta fish for  some of the coloring; but as I found myself  painting the vegetation of Hades it began to resemble the Magic Rocks of my childhood. Those odd little bits of childish chemistry had somehow sizzled upon my decidedly unscientific little brain. Here they are popping out of the crevices of the underworld.

Although I had wanted to avoid hellfire, I hadn’t realized Magic Rocks came from Hell.

If interested and if you have 59 seconds to spare, follow this link for a video clip of Magic Rocks in action,

 Well I must go, it is Memorial Day weekend, a big deal in that David takes off for any holiday he can. So I must prepare.

Take care,

Leonard

Judas Iscariot, Man of Sorrows

I have just finished this small painting  (11 by 20 inches), in that it is watercolor and gouache it moved along pretty nicely.

The theme of Judas is one I want to explore. On Good Friday I did a study of the Deposition, I want to develop that image. Before I leave this earth I want to have painted at least one Deposition, all of my favorite painters have painted the scene,and I want to add my feeble version to that visual conversation. My thought is to add Judas to the scene, perhaps replacing the fair and lovely Evangelist John (perhaps not). The Theotokis will still be present, a mother’s love would never allow her to leave the side of her child; but adding Judas is my attempt to play upon the theme of Redemption. I am not speaking exclusively of Christian redemption but of redemption as understood by a humanist. “Everyman” as a wretch needing succor.

In fact I have painted my Judas not heroically as is my tendency but as “Everyman”; in many ways it is a self portrait.

The First Martyr, Judas Iscariot

I’m going to return to my oil paintings this evening, I have three going in various stages of completion. Judas will be on my mind, his  frail humanity, his failures and his weaknesses. All attributes I understand and can relate to. I want to redeem this man, so hated that it is difficult to even bring him up (particularly amongst the traditionally faithful).

But I want to, as a boy I would secretly weep for him during  the Passion service.

I still feel for him.

Take care,

LG

Update from the Underworld

It has been a bit since I last posted, it isn’t that I haven’t been painting, but I have been hesitant to post the progress.

Insecurity perhaps.

I had started a new painting in anticipation of a show in LA, a show I have participated in before devoted to work on paper. Most of my recent work aside from the maquettes have been oil on canvas. The following image is something I am considering submitting. I believe I am close to finished, perhaps some enhancements here and there, but for now, finished.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins has repeatedly suggested to consider all work as a basis for another, scraps of random sketches proving a rich resource for more developed work. I believe him, most particularly when I see his own admirable sketches. Alas, my own scribbles are  often merely that, scribbles. But some do prove inspirational. The following painting was inspired by a very random “scribble-note” taken in a class devoted to Mesoamerican art and culture. That class has been the original impetus for this latest body of work devoted to the Popol huh;the admittedly  clumsy scribble  acting as a  guide for several paintings, this one in particular. 

Memories from Teotihuacan
detail from Memories of Teotihuacan

In this image we have the Hero Twins redeeming the honor of their vanquished father the Maize God. The Lord of the Underworld taunts their valiant effort, but he will indeed suffer the consequence of his hubris. The mother of the Hero twins Xquic looks on.

detail of slain Maize God

As noted this is a detail of Hun Hunahpu, the slain Maize God. In actuality the sacrificial gash would have been horizontal for those nerdy enough to care upon such Meso-minutia.

The following is the sketch that I was speaking about.

I happily spent yesterday in LA, I know I have been trapped in the boondocks a bit too long when LA seems the epicenter of urban sophistication. Such snarkiness aside, LACMA is one of my favorite museums and a really marvelous show devoted to women surrealist living in Mexico is soon to close, for more info, follow this In Wonderland link. It was a truly spectacular show, Leonora Carrington is my new idol, I knew her work essentially from one painting at the Met; having experienced so many of her paintings I am a convert to her cult.

All praise Leonora!

Another show I was eager to catch was Children of the Plumed Serpent, the Legacy of Quetzalcoatl. It was as I had hoped spectacular. It was very rich in luxury goods traded amongst different Mesoamerican people, polychromed pottery, dazzling gold work, mind boggling micro mosaics. Stunning. This funny little fellow, a censer is crafted to resemble a scribe, I figured  visitors to this site would be tickled by his pen and little shell holding pigment. He is in remarkable shape, 30 or so inches,  a handsome little bugger.

Effigy Censer, Maya, AD 1200-1500

The following is a fragment of a censer, he is so grave and  impressive.  I was very drawn to him, he will feature somewhere , somehow in a painting or drawing .

Censer Fragment, Mayan, AD 1200-1500

Although I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent in my old hometown, I am happy to be back in the studio. My little pug-dog Rose was quite peeved with my audacity-how dare I leave her in the care of her nanny? all day!  It has taken most of the day for her to “speak ” to me again, I’ve promised her I will lock myself in the studio, a slave to painting and to pugs.

Take care and have a marvelous weekend,

LG

Onward in the Underworld

Today I was trying to ready some images of my maquettes for Clive Hicks-Jenkins. The making of the maquettes is great fun but I feel a certain hesitancy in posting the compositions, fearing they might  not be just right.As we all know a composition is meant to be fussed with and developed. The compositions I submitted will most likely look very different when paint goes to canvas.

This is true with the painting I am working on now, the progression from maquettes, to sketches, to proposal rendering has seen my figures twist and turn until I feel relatively satisfied. I have a bit of work to do still but I am closer to vague concept I had in my head.

But for now, for tonight, I will just show unfinished snippets.

Princess Xquic encountering the slain Hun Hunahpu

As I said, still working out details but closer to what I had imagined. The following is of the sacrificed Maize God. I’ve been enjoying painting the wild clouds of Xibalba, my years of decorative mural painting comes in handy at times.

Slain Maize God, Hun Hunahpu

As I mentioned I sent some images to Clive, one of the maquette compositions might  soon be realized as a painting. It is an idea I have been toying with and sketching out for some time. It is the Resurrection of the Maize God, his sons the Hero Twins having redeemed his honor, the Maize God like a vibrant shoot of corn erupts forth with vitality ( and a certain degree of virility). With this grand gesture, Man has a chance to survive. 

Resurrection of Hun Hunahpu

As can be seen it it a simple trinity composition, the Hero Twin Hunahpu to the left, his brother Xbalanque to the right, their father Hun Hunahpu front and center, savior like. The composition is loosely based upon a Late Classic Mayan bowl, the image is unfortunate, but one can get the idea.

Scene from the interior of a Late Classic Maya bowl.

Well that is it for now,  a wonderful day, happy to have painted and composed my little cast of maquettes.

Tomorrow, back to painting.

Take care.

The Wrath of the Hero Twins

I’m winding down (for now), on the creation of  my pantheon of gods, demons and beasties. I spent much of yesterday and today finishing up the Hero Twins, central players in the Popol vuh.

My very first maquette, link, was of Xblanque, one of the Maize God’s sons, I wasn’t very happy with him from the start but after a few revisions (mostly a spray tan) I’m happier. I ditched his Roman warrior helmet for one of Olmec design. I also added jaguar markings as he is traditionally depicted with patches of jaguar skin.

His brother (in my mind, the younger, slighter, prettier Twin) is Hunahpu, the Spotted One, I have just finished up.

The paint is a bit tacky.

Now that they are complete, I look forward to creating compositions, most particularly revenge upon the Lords of Xibalba for sacrificing their father the Maize God, Hun Hunahpu.

It really is a bit like playing with paper dolls.

Hunahpu the Spotted One- the cuter of the two.
Xbalanque the Jaguar Spotted

I am taking satisfaction with the fact that due to my great many characters I can now cobble together multiple compositions with increasingly complex narrative, in this case Hunahpu  menaced by the wrathful Quetzacoatl.

The Menace above.

 Clive had asked for some images of my process of creating maquettes, I confess I have never taken photos of the “before”, too much adrenaline to slow down. When creating my figures I am biting at the bit to see them come alive-I’m beginning to understand God’s delight in playing with mud.

With that pompous comment floating about, the following is an image  of the uncut royal headdresses  which are based upon Olmec design.

Uncut headdresses for the Boys.

The design from which I drew inspiration is from an Olmec altar stone depicting an acrobat in motion. Upon his head he is wearing a headdress notable for its reference to the Maize God. Most striking is the tripartite, curiously phallic shaped maize emblem which crowns the headdress. The three part maize emblem occurs time and again, the emerging corn symbolizing fertility and abundance. The acrobat, most likely in a frenzy due to hallucinogens and ritual blood-letting, is recreating through dance, the narrative of the Maize God’s ritual sacrifice and rebirth.

I  find this all terribly fascinating, I hope it doesn’t bore  reader to tears.

Carved Altar

Carved Altar

600-300 B.C.

Stone

80 x 20 cm

Olmec

Museo de Arte Precolombino, Guatemala

So far, this has been great fun, I have been painting, but the images are blurry due to the intimate size. After the pups have their walkies I will return to a quiet studio to paint-demons await me!

Rose (left) and Viola patiently waiting for their evening stroll.

Good night folks.

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.

HellMouth

 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.

LG