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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Well that is it for now, a wonderful day, happy to have painted and composed my little cast of maquettes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
80 x 20 cm
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!
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.
Given that Holy Week has just passed, I feel that Limbo is a good metaphor for how I am feeling.
Like the Savior I have been spending the last few days in the land of uncertainty. This current painting has been a struggle, as I mentioned acrylic is challenging for me, it puts me on edge. Rather pitiful to be so easily emotionally influenced- by a little tube of pretty color.
Last evening, in the wee hours, the painting began to make sense, today I will begin in oil, the underpainting is complete, at least for my needs.
Good Friday was spent in the studio, I am not traditionally religious, but I am culturally Roman Catholic. Good Friday is my favorite holy day, the reflective quality of the day suits my temperament . I spent the day drawing Christ upon the cross. My pagan maquette of the Maize God serving as inspiration, I love how his neck looks so broken and defeated , the 3 pm moment.
The following are images of the painting thus far, as mentioned this is the underpainting stage.
The following is a detail of the underworld princess Xquic gazing upon the Maize God, Hun Hunahpu.
I like the demon.
The inspiration for the Gate of Hell is from the Parco die Mostri, for more info follow this link.
That is the progress so far, will begin painting very soon – after the breakfast dishes are tended to.
Take care, and thank you for all the kind words of support.
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.
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.