The pilgrim soul

pilgrim-soul-blog

The Pilgrim Soul (32 cms x 24 cms mixed media 2017)

Here’s a picture which started life as an exercise in combining paint and collage. Taking its cue from the line about ‘the pilgrim soul’, the suggestion of landscape and a path through it was used to imply movement, an emotional journey from one place to another. It isn’t by any means a finished picture, but more a work in progress. I might even, as I learned to do in my Seawhite Studios workshop, paint over the whole thing and start again!

Inspired by a number of fellow bloggers’ art journals,  Claudia McGill’s enigmatic postcards and Cy Twombly’s almost white paintings with words scrawled on them in his unique handwriting, I took lines from a number of different poems in an anthology and reassembled them as follows:

Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,/ Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,/ Yet knows its boughs more silent than before

One man loved the pilgrim soul in you

 

Rosy lips of such ecstasy

 

Words at once both true and kind

I have not a crumb of comfort, not a grain

Remember, in the eyes gazing at you

Quickened so with grief,

Slow and sweet was the time between us

There could be a whole short story in the inscription, written inside the book (below). Note the date and wonder what happened to these two, and why her gift ended up among the reduced stock of an online book dealer. Let’s at least hope that the time between them was slow – and sweet.

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Poems by Edna St Vincent Millay, W.B. Yeats, C.P. Cavafy, Yehuda Amichai and Robert Graves.

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I must remember…

cobnuts-blog

I Must Remember (24cms x 20cms ink and watercolour 2016)

When I was younger no-one talked of seasonal affective disorder: a cynic would say that giving something a name enables someone to sell you something to alleviate it. Whether it is real or just a way to pharmaceuticalise that feeling that winter may never end, it is the case that many of us endure winter rather than enjoy it.

Where I live, with its typical northern European sea climate, the peaks and troughs of the seasons are somewhat levelled, but when I was growing up in the north of England and later, living in the south of Germany, the seasons were more clear cut.

And winter brings its own rewards. What could be better than a crisp morning with the frost on the grass and a thin mist hanging in the trees; or that peculiar silence when you wake to discover that it has snowed overnight; or even a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon with a log fire and a DVD of The Big Country or that book you’ve been meaning to read?

I saw these cobnuts and thought their papery husks would lend themselves to the looser approach to still life painting that I’m trying to develop. The words, taken from The Thrush by Edward Thomas:

I must remember

What died in April

And consider what will be born

Of a fair November

actually refer to memory, language and perception, but could easily be a call to mindfulness, to living in the moment, to appreciating the seasons as they arrive with their gains and losses. After all, what else is there to do?

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Without a home

Recently I discovered the work of Hans Bötticher (1883-1934), who wrote under the pen-name Joachim Ringelnatz. Although for much of his life he worked as a kabarettist – a sort of satirical stand-up comedian, creating a bawdy mariner character called Kuttel Daddeldu – what remains of his work these days are numerous poems and a small body of paintings and drawings.

His poems are strange and witty, often bordering on the absurd. There was Once a Boomerang, for example, goes like this: The boomerang’s design was wrong -/ Just a little bit too long./ Off it flew on maiden flight/ And promptly disappeared from sight./ Spectators lingered with concern/ For hours, awaiting its return.

When I read the poem below it begged me to illustrate it, to which I generously agreed. If you can read the German version please do, as I feel the English translation makes too many concessions to the rhyme scheme. Of course the ending also has to be different because guinea pigs in German are known as sea pigs, even though they live on the grassy plains of South America (but they were brought across the sea to Europe, hence the name).

Ringelnatz blog

Heimatlose (A4, ink, 2016)

Heimatlose

Ich bin fast

Gestorben vor Schreck:

In dem Haus, wo ich zu Gast

War, im Versteck,

Bewegte sich,

Regte sich

Plötzlich hinter einem Brett

In einem Kasten neben dem Klosett,

Ohne Beinchen,

Stumm, fremd und nett

Ein Meerschweinchen.

Sah mich bange an,

Sah mich lange an,

Sann wohl hin und sann her,

Wagte sich

Dann heran

Und fragte mich:

“Wo ist das Meer?”

 

Homeless (Translated by David Cram)

I thought that I would die

From fright

There was I

In someone’s guest-room late at night

And suddenly I heard

A clunk

As something stirred

Behind a trunk

Beside the toilet door

And there I saw

A thingamajig

A guinea pig.

It eyed me worriedly

But unhurriedly.

And then it neared my bed

And in a tiny, tinny

Voice it said:

“Which way is Guinea?”

The model for my guinea pig was one of the fine, noble creatures described in The Pawsey Piggy Troupe blog.

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