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Sunday, June 26, 2005

and you wonder why mothers of young kids are half demented

Watching Sound of Music with Ella, who is four. We get to the scene where Maria comes to dinner and the children have left a 'gift' on her chair:

Ella: Why did she yell?

Jenny: She sat on a pine cone.

Ella: No, a porcupine.

Jenny: It wasn't a porcupine, it was a pine cone.

Ella (becoming passionate): It WAS a porcupine.

Jenny: No --

Ella: I SAW it MOVE!

What could I say? It did move. . .

Friday, June 24, 2005

Christian ecology

If we Christians truly treasure the hope that one day we, like Adam and the penitent thief, will walk alongside the One who caused even the dead wood of the cross to blossom with flowers, then we must also imitate the Master's art and make the desolate earth grow green.
Vigen Guroyan
Inheriting Paradise

What would the world be, once bereft of wet and of wildness?
Let them be left, O let them be left, wildness and wet
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

brilliantly sums it up

The snob's error is to put good taste before a good heart.

Joseph Epstein
Snobbery:The American Version.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Idea for learning calligraphers

Okay one last thing before I forget. A good way to recycle practice sheets of calligraphy, especially layout paper, is to use it as gift wrap! This way it's pretty even if it's full of mistakes. Even the paper you warm up on or scratch your nib on to check for blots can look cool reused this way. Better, more interesting and a lot cheaper than storebought wrapping paper.

And finally for today, a bit of Italic calligraphy. I enjoyed running out of space at the ends of the lines and having to deal with it! Pardon the atrocious capital 'B' in the fourth line -- I made a 'D' by accident and, well, that was my fix at the time. A Roman 'B' shouldn't look anything like that! Nice poetry though :-)

And here's the man himself -- my copy of Rossetti's drawing of. . .William Morris! He was one of the central figures of the English Arts and Crafts movement. No time to go into what that was; trust me -- it was a good thing! I don't usually draw people from other drawings (I prefer to draw from life if the subject is living, and even if it isn't) but I really liked this head and wanted to try it. . .

let's try that again. . .
One of my first attempts at combining lettering and foliage -- this was based on a William Morris design. I did it in gouache (pronounced 'gwosh'), a water-based paint which is opaque (ya can't see through it) as opposed to watercolour, which is supposed to be light and filmy. Anyway, this is pretty crude in the details but it's got a certain charm -- that would be the William Morris part!

A quotation from Chesterton-- always a good thing.

Nobody can imagine how nothing could turn into something. Nobody can get an inch nearer by explaining how something could turn into something else. It is really far more logical to start by saying 'In the beginning God created heaven and earth', even it you only mean 'In the beginning some unthinkable power began some unthinkable process.' For God is by its nature a name of mystery, and nobody ever supposed that man could imagine how a world was created any more than he could create one.

from The Everlasting Man

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Robert Bolt

Allow me to effuse about Robert Bolt for a minute. He wrote A Man for all Seasons, The Mission (yes, that great movie with R de Niro and J Irons was based on his novel -- there is lots more about the Rodrigo and his brother relationship in the book, if you're interested) and something else incredible that I can't remember here. Anyway, just make sure if you see the movie of A Man for all Seasons that it is the one with Paul Scofield (not C Heston -- I shudder even to contemplate it). Then sit back and feast your ears on the writing and acting, your heart on the profound moral integrity of its main character (Thomas Moore -- Samuel Johnson said of him "He was the person of the greatest virtue these islands ever produced") and your brain on the crackling wit and brilliance of the dialogue. Then go buy the play in book form, and die of joy all over again. 'Kay?

Ok -- a version of this straightened and with the metal rings cropped out, but I couldn't get it un-shadowed. Oh well. Anyway, I sold this drawing today! Yay!

One of many studies for an icon of John the Forerunner. I have now drawn him so much I feel I actually know him personally -- truly a fringe benefit of iconography!

Kid, the dog. This was done a few years ago.

Friday, June 17, 2005


Tonight I am working on the drawing for a St Barnabas icon (the companion to the also unfinished St John the Baptist. . .)
Two thoughts:

1) What oh what would I ever do without water soluble pencil crayons (especially Venetian red)?
They are God's gift to iconographers.

2) I can really see how someone could become a complete drapery nerd. Drawing drapery is difficult (therefore bracing and character building) and endlessly complicated. I mean there are endless possibilities and levels of difficulty. I think this single phenomenon just /might/ have been responsible for the Renaissance.
Just a thought. . .

Thursday, June 16, 2005

chalky blogging

I live in a neighbourhood that is very walkable and relatively dry, so I like to go out to the main sidewalk and write quotations and poetry (not mine -- as I wrote to a friend earlier, I am not a sadist) for people to read as they pass by. They're just in chalk, so they wash away with the rain (the poems, not the people), but I write them very neatly and even illustrate them sometimes. It is really meditative. Anyway, I apparently have become a bit of an institution in the 'hood; I always get people coming up and saying "so you're the one who writes these out here!" Some of the folks are very emotional in thanking me for doing this, and tell me that it actually affects their lives. Anyway, a cheap way to publish! A chalky blog, it you will. I should mention that my criterion for what I put out there is only: is it beautiful, humane, ennobling. I don't put anything political or negative there; there is enough of that around. Though living mere blocks from the Parliament I can't say I am not tempted. . .

I also don't preach or teach, except very sneakily, through the texts. But rarely are they overtly Christian things anyway, though of course all beauty really flows from Christ! I would love it if others copied me in this practice (some have already told me they are going to start doing this), but I would really encourage them to keep the same ethos. Imagine the pain people are carrying around with them. Don't add to their burden, rather lighten it if you can; give them some profound beauty to comtemplate on their way to work, or whatever.

It is raining right now, so my Robert Frost (the sonnet 'she is as in a field a silken tent') is vanishing, making room for something else. I love the idea that people don't know what they are going to see next. I have chalked, to date: Bob Dylan, St Ephraim the Syrian, John Donne, Chekhov, Shakespeare, Terry Pratchett, Emily Carr, Vaughan Williams, Woody Guthrie, John Ruskin, CS Lewis, GM Hopkins, Frank Zappa, Auden, GK Chesterton, Shelley, Coleridge, Wm Morris, Wm Blake, Charles Dickens, Rilke, Vigen Guroyan (Armenian Orthodox who wrote an exquisite book on the spirituality of gardening called Inheriting Paradise) andBruce Cockburn. He started it all; drawing with Ella I idly wrote 'look how far the light came to paint you this way' -- one of his lines -- and I noticed later from the living room window that people would stop and read it, just have a moment to think about that lovely idea, and chalky blogging was born. (Although I have never called it that until right now, and I never write any of my own 'stuff' out there.) There have been many more I can't remember right now; I've been doing it for a year now, excluding really bad weather. I really enjoy scouting out what to put out there next -- it has forced me to read a lot more poetry than I would otherwise! You know how, strangely, sometimes you have to be forced to do something you actually love. . .

Elder Porphyrios

I am reading a beautiful book called Wounded by Love: the life and wisdom of Elder Porphyrios. It was translated from the Greek by a dear distant friend, Fr. John Raffan of Chania, Crete. I want to share a small excerpt:

The soul of the Christian needs to be refined and sensitive, to have sensibility and wings, to be constantly in flight and to live by dreams, to fly through infinity, among the stars, amidst the greatness of God, amid silence. Whoever wants to become a Christian must first become a poet. That's what it is! You must suffer. You must love and suffer -- suffer for the one you love.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

roughly -- the design for our iconostasis. There were some changes after this stage. . .

the "Apocalypse Lunch" poster image for a Bible study series at UVIC-- idea by moi, etching by Albrecht Durer, photoshop cheekiness by Fr. John

I love photobooths! Me n' Ella in '03

design for a little girl's bedroom wall

a quick but fun pic done for a Christmas card

well -- it's amazing what you can do with a potato if you really try. . .

wow -- an early pic of Ella with one of Mom's bees on her cheek

a cropped version of my logo illustration

An example of how one of my illustrations was used -- the cover of a wedding service booklet, designed by my husband. The plain picture is somewhere below. You may have figured out this so called blog is not in any particular order! I am abusing the blog format by using it as a sort of very sloppy portfolio/ photo album/whatever! If I were to try to get organized with it my head would surely explode. You wouldn't know it but I am actually a very tidy person (try to be) but when it comes to technology I am lost. Some day (like when my kids are in college) I will learn this stuff. . .

A rather beautiful shot from Holy Friday

Pascha night -- after the services. What a mess! And that is one tired little girl! I am holding a red egg. It took me awile to figure that out -- I was so tired I don't remember this photo being taken at all!

some of my choir homegirls on Pascha night -- they posed in the middle of the service! It was meant to be a candid shot! Aieeee. . .

Saturday, June 11, 2005

a page from a sketchbook --working out the design for our parish logo. Note the daunting quotation from Coleridge at the top!

a smudgy but nice drawing of Three Hierarchs Chapel in Crestwood, New York.

a sort of weird drawing from inside the Meadows, Edinburgh (I think we would call it a park in N America, but it's also a real thouroughfare in the city. My home, place of work, University, Church and favourite cafe all bordered on the Meadows. They are transected by many walkways, and on sunny days you can view the fishbelly white legs and arms of Scottish office workers sunning themselves, flat on their backs, at lunch hour.

a page from a sketchbook showing some of the process of creating a logo -- this one is for the Orinda, California church (Antiochian); the finished product is pictured below. I am personally fascinated by things-in-progress, so I thought I would throw a few roughish pages in

A doodle, but a nice one. (I am somewhat philosophically opposed to doodles, but sometimes you can't help yourself. I am also against stacking text in this manner. What came over me I can't say) The combination of stars and flowers is incredibly persistent in my work -- I have been strangely enchanted by this combination for as long as I can remember. . .

copy of a medieval drawing

I think this was my first attempt at drawing knotwork. I still love it; I don't practice as often as I should. . .

poor birdie.

some heraldic stuff. It is so beautiful and disciplined -- not this lame pencil copy, but the real stuff. Check out the FSSI -- the Fellowship of Scribes and Illuminators -- incredible.

another copy -- just an exercise. An underemphasised skill in the visual arts these days -- seeing accurately! This is quite bad. I was rusty from not having drawn in ages. But doing the work is what counts.

a copy of a medieval picture. They are much more sophisticated and difficult to master than they first appear! much like Byzantine iconography in this respect. . .

practicing some knotwork. medieval art and calligraphy saved my sanity in Scotland when I dropped out of my academic degree at the University of Edinburgh. . .I was sort of lost and God steered me back into art (really my first love) via a fascination with medieval manuscripts, which were not hard to come across over there. That led into learning about the Arts and Crafts philosophy, and then I realized I needed to learn iconography. I had been Orthodox for many years, and an artist even longer, but it took a lot to make me make the connection! Go figure.

a couple of apples -- obviously. The 'adacd' stands for 'another day, another crap drawing' -- it is motivational. The idea is that you have to draw every day (or write, if you are a writer, etc) and not worry about the quality. Worrying about quality undermines your ability to work. The idea is: do the work and let the quality worry about itself. Totally liberating! For more read "The War of Art" by Stephen Pressfield. It was life-changing for me. I refer to it as 'the Screwtape Letters for artists'.

looking along Dallas road breakwater -- my neighbourhood!

scanned crooked -- I am really bad at this stuff -- anyway, another view from down the street. You can drink coffee in a glassed-in deck while you look at this! The distant hills are in the US Olympic peninsula.

a lunch hour drawing (did I realize how lucky I was?!) in Greyfriar's kirk yard, Edinburgh. I was working at the Museum of Scotland gift shop. A cool job when it wasn't stultifyingly boring. Love the museum though -- if you are going to Edinburgh don't miss it! It is extraordinarily terrific!

a pretty naff drawing of New College, Edinburgh -- I am fairly uncomfortable still drawing architecture, which is unfortunate because I love it. As William Morris said to his wife Jane, "I love you but I cannot paint you".

a swooshy drawing of George IV Bridge in Edinburgh

a spectacular tree outside Victoria -- I drew it while waiting for Ella and her dad to go around the Observatory/star museum thing

an attempt at an Arts and Crafts treatment of -- well, a bush

bluebell study

carnation study

a dried-out branch I drew at the Essex monastery -- started my whole plant-drawing thing

slightly abstracted bluebells -- or something

some plant I drew while living in Moncrieff terrace in Marchmont, Edinburgh -- note Tesco spice jar!

apple blossom

petunia study

rose study

Thursday, June 09, 2005

a little apple blossom (I think) study

the beginning of an icon -- or rather the middle, since this drawing took forever!

a blurry shot with the family, awhile ago now!

just a little design for a Christmas present -- based on the adorable, unaffordable Bronxville streets!