I'm in the middle of moving across the city, and as always, medieval depictions of elephants come in handy for expressing what that's like. Luckily all my towers are in storage. Have a lovely week!
Because most of my work is based on myths, legends, and scriptures, I wanted to expand my references a bit, and picked up The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, by Barbara G. Walker. It's been a great resource and a fun read, and inspired a little Morgan le Fay illumination. It was a bit more difficult than the illuminations based on saints, which have convenient symbols, colors, and attributes to use. For Morgan le Fay, I went with some symbols typically associated with darkness, nature, and the feminine: a crescent halo, a raven, and a green dress. A clumsy effort on my part, maybe, but her varying roles as a goddess, antagonist, witch, and queen are all fascinating.
The text is a mishmash of nonsense words, inspired by the stirring (but meaningless) theme song to the first Berserk film.
"The man or woman in whom resides greater virtue is the higher; neither the loftiness nor the lowliness of a person lies in the body according to the sex, but in the perfection of conduct and virtues."
Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies, 1405
Recently got some new watercolors, and are trying them out on some Bosch copies (that's a link to a Bosch virtual tour, complete with eerie music!). I really liked it when Bosch came up in medieval and renaissance art courses, just because the papers we had to read on his work always seemed to come from art historians who were just as baffled as we were. What does the man carrying a fish mean? Why is the bird man pooping bubble humans? The Hell portion of the triptych is fascinating and appears on lots of psychology textbooks, but my favorite is The Garden of Earthly Delights. Is this meant to be Eden? Earth? Millennial Earth? Who knows! The fact that a single artist managed to have and execute such a wildly imaginative, original vision makes me very happy.
Based on a St. Dorothy woodcut, from Staaliche Graphische Sammlung, c. 1420. St. Dorothy is fun! She is the patron saint of florists, thus the roses, but...I'm not sure about the kid.
It's been a long hiatus for our friend Inger. With the show at Pottery Place Plus and illumination classes, she's been on hold while I focused on her medieval counterparts.
At the advice of Top Shelf, I've decided to start putting The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf online. You can see her here, and continue checking the blog for more updates as usual.
Misericordia eius in progenies et progenies timentibus eum.
His mercy is unto generations and generations on them that fear him.
Fecit potentiam in brachio suo, dispersit superbos mente cordis sui;
He hath showed strength with his arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart.
deposuit potentes de sede et exaltavit humiles;
He hath put down princes from their thrones,
And hath exalted them of low degree.
esurientes implevit bonis et divites dimisit inanes.
The hungry he hath filled with good things
And the rich he hath sent empty away.
After the horrible comments made about Muslims early on in this election, I wanted to work in the style of The Morgan Crusader's Bible, which started out as pro-Crusader propaganda and ended up as a diplomatic gift from a Bishop to the Shah. It's a beautiful symbol of the unifying power of art, and the stories Christians and Muslims have in common. Further, I wanted to do a series on The Magnificat for its beautiful message, that God lifts up the humble and fills the hungry.
It is hard to believe this after this election, because in this world the rich do win, the proud do succeed. And I understand that you could read these lines from the Magnificat either in celebration or for comfort depending on who you voted for. I think this is why Christianity and American democracy sometimes mix like oil and water; everything has many sides and many ways of reading.
Sometimes there is a fine line between "what I believe" and "what I tell myself for reassurance." Maybe there is no difference. But I believe in a God that is on the side of the weak and the humble. I believe in a God that turns the wheel of fortune, where the weak and oppressed do not stay that way forever, and where the proud and cruel do not get away with it forever.
Anyway, please forgive the doleful, ponderous tone...maybe I've been reading too much Latin! Peace be with you all.
Been working on the Nativity series based on the Crusader's Bible. I'm doing this project on Pergamenata, from the recommendation of Hillarie and James Cornwell, creators of Saints, Signs, and Symbols. Pergamenata is great: it's a plant-based product made to look, feel, and work like traditional skin parchment. The finished art is much more durable, and you can even scrape off mistakes with an X-acto knife. Vegetarian parchment? Sign me up!
Several online reviews recommended rubbing the entire surface with an eraser to prepare the surface for calligraphy. Parchment products (and their vegetable-based relatives, I guess) have a thin layer of oil that can lead to ink just pooling on the surface into big nasty puddles. Even then, my pencil lines smudged a lot, rendering the side of my hand permanently shiny and gray. Nothing a bit of soap and water wouldn't fix, plus this meant the material could take layers and layers of pencil without getting frayed or gouged.
Scratching off ink mistakes was something I had to do on just about every page (luckily usually just a wrong stroke, or a water drop that smudged some words), so considering how much work went into this series, I really appreciate not having to start from...scratch! each time.
The Pergamenata did buckle a bit under the gouache, and too much scraping or water would bring out the stringy plant fibers. Still, I really liked having a warm background for the miniatures, and having something that not only looks but feels medieval is exciting. Plus, this work contains zero baby cows! That's a plus.
Have a happy week!
Edward Burne-Jones' illustrations of the works of Geoffery Chaucer
The Crusader Bible in excellent, zoom-in-able resolution
The Book of Kells, again in excellent, zoom-in-able resolution.
More to follow, I'm just really excited about what the Internet just has for the taking. Thank you to all digitizers, all archivists, and all librarians who direct me to sites like these.
Practicing using gouache for an upcoming Nativity series. It's tough, but looks a lot better with the gold than watercolor. Hooray!
Glad we still use certain herbal cures for colds and cramps, but left this one behind.
Ah, my favorite page! That took way too long to research!
Again, "The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf" is a bit unique for its meta-fairy-tale narrative. Part of Inger's torment in the underworld is hearing what everybody is saying about her and her loaf-trodding ways. After all, what is a worse punishment for someone who regarded everything and everyone with contempt than...being regarded with contempt?
To use very contemporary terms, Inger loses control of her image. To show this, I wanted to show Inger's story being told (and illustrated) in different ways throughout the history of illustration. Arthur Rackham, Yann Legendre, Edward Burne-Jones, Virginia Frances Sterrett, Walter Crane, and Kay Nielsen.
Have a nice weekend!
There's a point in the show Peaky Blinders in which a character remembers how he used to draw horses. We all used to draw horses, we all thought at one point, "Maybe I could be an artist!" But as Lynda Barry put it, "by the fifth grade we all knew it was too late." Man, I want drawing horses to be the birthright of mankind. Maybe we spend our days up-selling purses or answering phones or filing forms, instead of, I don't know, baking bread or making shoes or building shrines in ways that let us feel like our skills were good and useful and beautiful. So when we stop drawing horses, and know that we won't have a gallery, or a studio, we gave up entirely on that part of ourselves.
When I was working in a faith-based arts program, a big part of believing in God was believing in a creator God, who in turn had made creative humans. "Creativity," as it's so gallingly called, is a part of our created souls, part of our ability to be "fully alive" in the same way as our five (plus) senses. Of course it feels useless and like a waste of time. I didn't start making art I liked until I was willing to feel like I was wasting time, but at least I was wasting time on paper instead of on the Internet. It's a muscle in your soul that needs exercise, whether it makes you money or no. Go draw horses.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, the patron saint of bakers, lacemakers, and the homeless, was the daughter of the King of Hungary and renowned for her care of the poor. She was caught sneaking some loaves of bread to the poor, which miraculously turned to roses when they were revealed.
I have a soft spot for "bread alone" narratives, and the imagery of good, practical bread turning into good, beautiful (but not practical) roses warms my artist heart. Maybe that's the explanation for her connection to lacemakers?
But the roses+bread+princess+religious imagery thing came to mind during this season's finale of Game of Thrones, making me think of a certain princess associated with roses, saints, and the poor...
Time for beer with the Marsh-Wife!
加油，Jia you， means "add oil", and is an encouraging phrase I heard all the time in Chinese class. Don't let that fire go out! Add oil! Keep going!
Inger, The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf, is almost ready to be sent out! It’s been a long, exciting, nervous process, picking out pages to send in, writing and re-writing the synopsis, and trying over and over again to articulate why this project, why this story.
Again with Bruno Bettelheim: In The Uses of Enchantment, Bettelheim argues that people have favorite fairy tales that appeal to them for psychologically significant reasons. The family situation in the story might be similar to their own, a character’s struggle might be a fitting metaphor for their own, and so on.
I grew up in church, and terrified of Hell. So my first reaction to The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf was horror and disgust. But it stayed with me, and when I wanted to make a fairy tale comic, I chose this one. Why?
Here’s an excerpt from the cover letter for my proposal:
This is a story that needs a visual interpretation, both to balance out some of the horror with beautiful images, and to give parts of the story more weight. The first moral of this story is straightforward: don’t show contempt for good things like bread. But the second part, where a little girl hears the story and prays for Inger to come back, has a complicated moral of its own that is easy to miss. Inger only changes when someone feels sorry for her without mentioning her mistakes and faults. Shame and punishment do not change people, only love does.
What’s more, in most stories about Hell, its existence is justified, or rationalized, and there is no room for the reader to condemn divine justice. In this story, however, the reader who is horrified at Inger’s treatment in the story is immediately supported by one of the characters. This is an easy part to overlook. I want to give Inger’s redemption visual representation, beautifully drawn and beautifully colored, both for the reader, and for myself.
Go, go, Inger!
Because I have been making the images and words separately, I had a bit of an issue making speech bubbles that wouldn't look pasted-on.
Not sure if this is the solution, but it sure is fun.