Friday, August 13, 2010
Man! It has been a rough couple of weeks! After submitting my Saint Hildegard for approval with GCU, I began looking at Halloween categories I might have missed, and decided to make some Halloween party invitations. Then I began researching what kind of Christmas theme I wanted to pursue. I wanted to have a theme so I could make a bunch of cards on one subject, kind of like illustrating a story. I decided that since I neglected the faeries for Halloween, it would be neat to have a faerie theme for Christmas.
I noticed it was taking a while for my Hildegard card to get approved, but I had read on the forum that a lady had over two hundred cards pending approval and I figured that this was the hang up. It didn't occur to why she would have so many pending. Then someone else complained on the forum how long it was taking for their cards to be approved. I should point out at this point that it is rare for someone from GCU proper to respond on the forum unless they are addressed by name; so when someone asks a question, it is usually answered by other artists who have more experience (hopefully) than the questioner. This time the response was that cards were taking a long time for approval because of the holiday season. What?! I thought starting on Christmas cards in August was being ahead of the game! Well, if you consider Halloween, and Thanksgiving part of the holiday season, I guess I am still ahead of the game; however, I realize that the vast majority of total cards sold are Christmas cards so naturally I began to panic. I went from being ahead to being behind without even noticing it! Crap!
Well, what can I do but proceed? I actually already have a few Christmas Cards posted. My great idea was to have faeries lighting a Christmas tree with their little halos. I know, right? Great idea! Well, I am now on my second attempt. My first attempt was too complicated and too small. I tried to draw each faerie and make their glow different colors on 7"x10" watercolor block. I used a device of having a closer faerie heading toward the tree to make it more obvious that the tree was lit by faeries. This way I could detail one faerie, and the tree. It was just too messy.
My second attempt is on a 8.5"x14" (10"x15" cropped). This time the faeries on the tree are shining orbs with a faint faerie silhouette. Also, the glow is uniformly golden. I still have the device of a faerie closer to the viewer to convey that faeries are lighting the tree. Also, in the new version, she looks over her shoulder at the viewer and beckons us in. In each case, I also have faeries topping the tree and they are a little bigger.
I also wanted the trees to be covered with snow. To make the lights seem bright, I had to set the scene at night, right? So, I decided to make the snow a light blue. Trying to make snow look like snow and still have the lights be the lightest part of the painting turned out to be challenging. (when I was a kid, "challenging" meant "motivated one to try harder" now it is applied to every situation that is difficult; some kind of political correctness cross wire.) The trees just looked blue. Luckily, you can add yellow to blue and get green; the color most people expect fir trees to be.
The biggest challenge of the new painting turned out to be the glow of the main faerie. In the first painting, I left the paper white for the faerie glow. This is the recommended way to achieve light in watercolor: use the white of the paper. Using white paint is frowned upon. In the first painting; however, all the halos were too sharp edged, particularly the lead faerie as she appears against the night sky. On the new painting I thought I would try leaving the sky light around the lead faerie but not white. The whole sky came out funky though. Kind of patchy as the paper dried before it could paint the whole sky. On a second pass, I wet the area to be painted first but this created puddly splotches.
When it came time to paint the glow around her; let's call her Noel so I don't have to keep calling her the lead faerie, putting yellow on top of purple didn't work so well. So in with the white paint!
OK, this might be a good point to talk about Christmas music. I thought it might be a good idea to listen to Christmas music while I was working on this project, to help create the proper mood. I listen to Pandora which is usually great. I'm kind of picky about my Christmas music though, and the thing about Pandora if you aren't familiar with it, is: you set parameters, and they pick music according to those parameters. This way, they get to try to sell you some music you weren't expecting. First I picked "Christmas music" rather than a genre like "blues Christmas", "Jazz Christmas," etc... I wanted some Jewel, some Anonymous4, some Mormon Tabernacle choir, and I put this into the parameters, but Christmas is a stronger parameter, and I got Bing Crosby, Dean Martin... like that. That's fine, but it is August remember? I used to work at a craft store and the manager would put Christmas music on in September (to go through January) and it drove me crazy. Well I switched my station to "Classical Christmas" and put in my parameters. after three straight days of listening like 8 hours a day they have yet to play one specific artist or song I put in, and I doubt they are going to. I like the classical Christmas, but I have a resentment now that they are not playing what I asked them too. They can't get Sufi music down either, but that's another story (they keep playing dance music: whirling dervish? I don't know. there. that's the story)
Any reader of this blog will quickly come to the conclusion that I have a lot of ideas that I voice and then seem to abandon. Sometimes, it gets put on hold for pursuit of a new idea, and I return to it later. Sometimes I do abandon it because while it might have sounded good in my head, it doesn't work out in reality. We'll see what happens to the "Faerie Christmas." Even if I start doing line drawings of Santa Clause and Nativity scenes (both of which are in the works) I still want to do more faerie Christmas.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
There is certainly no shortage of paintings of saints in the history of art. The Church has been a major sponsor of artists throughout its existence. In fact in pre-renaissance times, art music and writing had to dedicated to the church or the reining monarch of the land. Of course there was art created that was not and we call that folk art. folk art is usually considered less refined and less valuable than fine art.
With the rise of the merchant class and education among the laity, the demand for secular art rose. Then further, with the advent of Protestantism, even representation of religious subjects evolved. Landscapes became metaphors for creation and holy things. Religious wars caused a reliance on coded paintings; ie, lilies represented the Resurrection, and roses were a symbol of the Virgin Mary. These symbols existed previous to these times but became more prevalent due to religious persecution and the evolution of art in general.
As art continued to evolve throughout the ages, religious art changed accordingly; the baroque through modern times have their own symbols and styles specific to themselves. In today's post modern world, I open art magazines and visit galleries and museums and it seems that artists are free to follow their preferences. I see no overarching movement that artists have to conform to or be part of to ride the popular wave of the times.
My paintings are generally in watercolor, though I often then run them through photoshop, their style is simply marked by habits I have formed through years of painting. As I said I research the subject and try to put it in the proper time; ie, costumes and the like. There is a long tradition of clothing biblical characters in contemporary clothing and local scenery and ethnicity. Sometimes I might employ these techniques for the purposes of making a point to the viewer, but in general it seems like you're doing your homework if you take pains to use proper context, and you're not if you don't.
As for my new painting of Saint Hildegard, I decided to do another saint painting as a friend of mine has expressed interest in having a collection of them. St Hildegard was a lady who lived in the early 12th century. She had seen visions since she was 5yrs old. as the 10th child and perhaps because she was sickly (her visions were accompanied by migraine headaches) her parents tithed her to the church (they get a 10th of everything you own, you know). She became a Benedictine nun when she was 14, and became abbess when she was 39. When she was 42, her visions commanded her to write them down. She also was an herbalist, and a composer of sacred music. This was all very prolific for a woman of her times. I first heard about her through a recording of her music made by Anonymous4, a favorite group of mine. At a sacred book shop, I stumbled upon a book of her work; Scivias, just as I was looking for a new project. I was blown away by the poetry and beauty of the imagery.
I set the painting in a forest near the first abbey she was stationed at and depicted her as a young woman. She is usually depicted as older because that is when she began to chronicle her visions, but she had been a nun since she was a teenager, and a visionary since she was five, and I felt like this period of her life is often glossed over. She is shown in the midst of an ecstatic vision, and the forest represents one of her major themes; green nature. my reference material is actually of the forest her abbey Disibodenberg was situated in.