The Warrior Scribe

When I'm not at the bench and not jetting around the country teaching workshops, I can be found at my drawing table practicing the ancient arts of lettering, painting, and gilding, combined with the more modern technique of collage. To push my artwork further, I've just completed the second set of workshops in a year long course with Reggie Ezell, and I have to say it's good to be a student for a change. Not only do I experience what it's like to be on the other side of the demo table, the structure and expectations of the class push me to do work that has long been in my head and not yet made it out of my hands.

For the last round of homework projects I lettered Shakespeare's Sonnet 29 in 1/2 Romans with gouache on Arches hot pressed watercolor paper. I scanned in the lettering and merged it in Photoshop with part of a collage I did a few years ago. If that sounds straightforward, then I've lead you astray. Not only did I spend an hour getting a better photo of the original collage to work with, I spent half a day cropping and formatting it to create the space in which the letters would eventually go and designing the colors for the gouache and then another 1/2 a day getting my fabulous Epson archival printer to match what was on my fabulous Apple LED Cinema Display. They were having a great deal of difficulty being on the same page, so to speak. Technology does not always make work go faster.

Once I knew where I'd be digitally when all was said and done, I began mixing the colors in larger batches, which took about 2-1/2 hours. Next came the actual hand lettering, which took around 10 hours. I felt like a Medieval scribe in more fashionable paint smeared attire. Finally I did the Photoshop magic to reduce the text and make it appear to come from behind the image and printed it on Arches hot press water color paper, coated with spray fixative and Golden's Digital Ground. Et voila. I plan to offer a very few edition prints soon.

For me the biggest challenge was to push my sense of design and composition, not to mention technical skills, to create works that didn't look like "student work," that is to say they aren't so recognizable as projects from someone else's class. Their both being final projects that were mostly created outside of class helped, but in order to justify the time involved and the need to constantly create new bodies of work and the need to keep me happy with my progress meant going above and beyond whatever was expected.

I began the original collage back in 2007 during a workshop with Nick Bantock. It's part of a series of collages based on the 4 archetypes of lover, warrior, healer, and trickster. The wolves are based on the warrior archetype. At least I think they are. I started with one wolf, which I soon discovered wasn't so much my idea of my ideal warrior but instead a projection of myself. Yes, well, I'd been a little short on champions up to that point in my life. I met my now husband 2 weeks after returning home from that workshop, and soon a second wolf's head worked its way into the collage.

Is it one creature with 2 heads, 2 minds, in a sort of serpent eating its tail metaphor for eternity, or is it one tough creature protecting the other? I'm never quite sure. I'm also never sure if this image's archetype is really the warrior rather than the lover. One thing I've discovered in working on the series, the archetypes characteristics are not as discrete as they might often be portrayed. As I began to ponder what text to use for the Roman lettering and bounce ideas off my other 'wolf', I found Sonnet 29 in Camille Paglia's book, Break Blow Burn, and thought how perfectly it described how I feel as an artist who is partner to someone who gets it.

Sonnet 29 by William Shakespeare

When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

No comments: