Morgan le Fay

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.

Inger is back!

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.

He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart

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.

Pergamenata

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 SymbolsPergamenata 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!

A loving list of online archives

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. 

I used to draw horses

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. 

Inger, Inger, Inger

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!

Florid!

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.