Ulysses: #4 • Calypso


The fourth episode in Ulysses corresponds to the story of Calypso. It takes place at 8:00 am, at Leopold Bloom’s house. Upstairs, his lady sleeps, above her bed a reproduction of a painting called the Nymph’s Bath, a huge hint that she is the eponymous seductress in this chapter. Downstairs, Bloom puts down milk for his cat before walking to the butcher’s to buy a kidney for his breakfast.

According to the Gilbert Schema, this chapter’s colour is orange, the allocated organ is the kidney and its symbol is the Nymph. The colour is evoked in Bloom’s reverie of Molly’s native Gibraltar with its golden sunsets, and of his ancestral Palestine as he imagines it, laden with fecund fruit imagery “Orangegroves and immense melonfields north of Jaffa (…) with olives, oranges, almonds or citrons”

Orange is also the colour of the (full?!) chamber pot under Molly’s bed. Bodily functions related to the kidney are revisited later in the outhouse. Navigating impressively “between scatology and eschatology” – I read that somewhere – Joyce uses this chapter to draw parallels between the two protagonists. Backtracking to 8:00 am, it is breakfast time as in the “Telemachus” chapter, and the same cloud covers the sun reminding both men of death. Milk is being delivered in both episodes.

Bloom’s bondage to Molly is a result of his uxoriousness, unlike Ulysses who was held as a captive for seven years by Calypso, enthralled by her charms while still longing for his own wife. Interestingly, Ireland was styled as the original Calypso’s island, Ogygia as part of the Irish Literary Revival (nicknamed the Celtic Twilight), though Joyce never quite believed this. Gibraltar, Molly’s birthplace, is a more legitimate candidate for Homer’s inspiration of Ogygia, and I love the way he ties them together. Of course, being a cat person, I can’t shake the feeling that the real Calypso here is the cat. I mean,

She blinked up out of her avid shameclosing eyes, mewing plaintively
and long, showing him her milkwhite teeth.

tell me I don’t have a point!


Ulysses: #3 • Proteus


Stephen is hanging out on Sandymount Strand, he writes some poetry, he picks his nose. This chapter defies summarising because, although not much takes place, his thoughts shift wildly in a stream of conciousness. The first challenging episode, Proteus ought to be approached like the proto-matter that it is: images may jump out and grab you, or they may go right over your head. Do not panic. There is so much there to keep you afloat.

Just in time for St. Patrick’s day, the theme is green! Again, I am admiring the way Joyce evokes a colour rather than describe it. The puce gloves stand out, as is “sanguineflowered”, but they are there to complement. Bodily fluids, birth, death, umbilical cords, snake imagery, seaweed, sand, foam and live and dead animals. The gloves and the absinthe glass are Paris memories, and the green fairy is a stand-in for Eve and other female figures in his literary thought soup.

Ulysses: #2 • Nestor


Things I have learned while making this piece:

  • That it’s not so much the reading of Ulysses that’s proving a challenge, as the actual illustrating of every episode. I’ve read much further than Nestor, and am finding it quite immersive, enjoyable, and really not difficult! Too many irons in the fire, and wanting to get it just right are causing the delay…
  • That I love working in Adobe Draw. For this piece, I have used several layers and worked reductively, like an woodcut or scratchboard. It it immenseley satisfying, though time-consuming.
  • All about the Gilbert Schema, a kind of chart devised by James Joyce, that catalogues the themes running through the episodes. “Nestor” for instance is revealed as the unofficial title of this chapter in a letter Joyce sent his friend Stuart Gilbert, detailing the fundamental structure of the book. He lays out the episodes’ symbolism in their Homeric parallels, the classical Arts, colours, animals, organs and techniques. Gilbert would later publish this scheme – hence the name.

10 am at the school. The headmaster is counting Stephen’s wages in the study. History is the reigning “Art” of the chapter, and also the subject Stephen has rather aloofly been teaching this morning. The lesson dissolves amid jokes, baffling puns and riddles only he gets, distracted by his own recent history. The fox burying his grandmother under a hollybush.” 

An inverted Nestor, Mr Neasy collects paintings of horses and harangues with unsolicited advice. The episode’s key colour is brown: base, earthy, heavy, ancient. Even the dark, old smell of the room is brown, “drab, abraded leather”. The brownness overrides the treasure motif: money, gold, silver, and even a “treasure” trove of seashells, all lose their sparkle in it. Collections on the sideboard are all somehow tarnished: a set of Apostle spoons are “faded”, antique coins in a case are but the “base treasure of a bog”, the shells “an old pilgrim’s hoard, dead treasure, hollow shells” and “symbols soiled by greed and misery”. Mr Neasy thinks highly of History and money. Stephen plainly does not. Like the headmaster’s murky study, both are brown, conservative and base, a “nightmare” from which he is “trying to awake”.


Ulysses: #1 • Telemachus


And here it is! I am proposing to read James Joyce’s Ulysses, to the end. So far – I have to say – it’s not as hard as it’s made out to be! Now I understand this may gradually change, as daily life gets in the way, and momentum is lost. But I’ve also decided to create an illustration for every episode I read, which could either prove to be a great motivator, or the worst idea ever…

Though its published chapters were untitled and unnumbered, we know from Joyce himself that he created his monumental novel using a tight scheme, with each chapter corresponding to an episode in the Odyssey. In case you didn’t already know this, the book is a kind of inversion of Homer’s epic: it takes place over the course of a single day in Dublin, rather than a ten year romp around the Mediterranean. It’s divided into three parts: the Telemachiad, the Odyssey and the Nostos.

This first chapter is named after Ulysses’ son Telemachus: in this case Stephen Dedalus, a young writer feeling oppressed by his roomie Mulligan during a pre-breakfast meetup on top of the Martello tower they are renting in Sandycove. Tension is caused at least partly by a cruel remark Stephen has overheard Mulligan making about his recently deceased mother, and from the fact that Mulligan has invited an English student, Haines, to stay with them. Usurpers are a theme of this episode – a reference to the suitors threatening to usurp Ulysses’ kingdom – as is the sea, bodily fluids, bereavement, ghosts, Hamlet, colonialism and most memorably an allusion to Irish art as symbolised by a razor across the cracked lookingglass of a servant.




I had such great fun making this illustration on my ipad. It’s an (idealised?) amalgam of various designs I have seen on cypriot sgraffito ceramic plates and fragments. In the early 1200’s –medieval Cyprus being a Crusader kingdom under the rule of the Lusignans– a new kind of ceramic art appeared, sporting these distinctive and very appealing decorations in brownish yellow and green glazes. Α surprising number of these bowls, wine cups and plates survive, which perhaps attests to their popularity and widespread usage.

Part of their charm has to be the colour scheme, a result of copper and iron oxide glazes painted and fired on top of lines scratched through the light coloured slip, so that the natural dark colour of the clay shows through. The subject matter is sometimes just decorative patterns, but often there are figures as well: delightful damsels or pages, couples, or single male and female figures engaged in genteel pastimes, such as wine drinking or falconry!

Exhibits at the Cyprus Medieval Museum, Limassol Castle 

I’ll leave the rest to the experts: here’s a quote and link to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge where some of these can be seen…

Cyprus has a long tradition of producing both hand-made and wheel-made pottery in an exuberant range of colours and styles of decoration that goes back to the Bronze Age. The technology of the Medieval wares shown in this exhibition was practised in many parts of the Byzantine world, but the Cypriot potters exploited their own excellent clay sources and native ingenuity to develop their own distinctive local styles.

Decorated glazed ceramics are mostly tablewares, used on a daily basis by a large section of the population in the towns and villages. A large number of ceramics are found in graves. This is probably connected with burial customs that still survive in Cyprus today, in which the priest pours oil from a vessel on to the body in the grave and then throws the vessel in on top.


More of my pics from the Cyprus Medieval Museum, Limassol Castle 

Inktober 31


Re-entering the blogosphere after several weeks can have quite an impact. Struck by what I have been missing while toiling away at other endeavours, I rush to squeeze another post out of the expiring month. It’s Inktober after all!

Here it is, without further ado, another pumpkin offering, inked by hand this time. And great spooky fun it was too! #inktober31