Spring in Cyprus

MARCHSALUTATIONS

March is, proverbially, never absent from Lent. Easter Sunday is a movable feast, and Lent’s start and finish vary accordingly, but March is always in there, somewhere, on that you can depend. The smell of bitter-orange blossoms outside Nicosia’s medieval churches, as evening falls, is one of childhood’s oldest memories, and one I associate with Fridays, when the Akathist hymn is sung. Also known as the Salutations to Mary, they are the most feminine of ancient rites, melodious and exuberant, crammed with ancient poetry, a relic of Orphism and the classics.

The Salutations are sung on Friday, the Goddess’s day. In an older and hypothetically less macho time, Friday seems to have held a special place, which is why it is named after Frija, Freya or Frigga, the Norse Venus, in northern climes. In Romance languages the day is named after Venus: Dies Veneris, Venerdi, Vendredi. The noun veneration and the verb to venerate also come from this concept, which reinforces the idea that Friday was the original Holy Day!

SPRING

Compare and contrast:

Hail, O Star revealing the Sun. 
Hail, O branch of the unwithering Vine. Hail, O Land yielding the untainted Fruit. 
Hail, O Field bearing abundant compassion. Hail, O Table laden with an abundance of mercies.
Hail, for you make the meadow produce contentment.
Hail, acceptable Incense of intercession. Hail, Oblation for all the world.

– attr. Romanos the Melodist: Salutations
to the Theotokos, 
6th c.

Γαῖα θεά, μῆτερ μακάρων θνητῶν τ᾽ ἀνθρώπων, παντρόφε, πανδώτειρα, τελεσφόρε, παντολέτειρα, αὐξιθαλής, φερέκαρπε, καλαῖς ὥραισι βρύουσα, ἕδρανον ἀθανάτου κόσμου, πολυποίκιλε κούρη, ἣ λοχίαις ὠδῖσι κύεις καρπὸν πολυειδῆ, ἀιδία, πολύσεπτε, βαθύστερν᾽, ὀλβιόμοιρε, ἡδυπνόοις χαίρουσα χλόαις πολυανθέσι δαῖμον, ὀμβροχαρής, περὶ ἣν κόσμος πολυδαίδαλος ἄστρων εἱλεῖται φύσει ἀενάωι καὶ ῥεύμασι δεινοῖς.

All-Fertile, All-Destroying Gaia,
Mother of All, Who brings forth the bounteous fruits and flowers,
All variety, Maiden who anchors the eternal world in our own,
Immortal, Blessed, crowned with every grace,
Deep bosomed Earth, sweet plains and fields fragrant grasses in the nurturing rains,
Around you fly the beauteous stars, eternal and divine

– Orphic Hymn to Gaia, 6th c. BCE
(T
ranslated by Virginia Stewart)

I am she
that is the natural mother of all things,
mistress and governess of all the elements,
the initial progeny of worlds,
chief of powers divine,
Queen of heaven,
the principal of the Gods celestial,
the light of the goddesses:
at my will the planets of the air, the wholesome winds of the Seas,
and the silences of hell be disposed;
my name, my divinity is adored throughout all the world in divers manners,
in variable customs and in many names

– Lucius Apuleius: Metamophoses
or The Golden Ass, 2nd c.

Analog Back Catalog

x-girl

Want to feed your artistic imagination? Start with a little observation!

Each time we revisit life-drawing, we are different. We bring something new to the experience, and we get something new from it, too. We are never too old to draw from life.

This sketch from the archives caught my eye for its spring-ish colours, and its somewhat post-carnival mood. Last day of February today, and the beginning of Lent.

Promise of Spring

almond

[Mythistorema, 23]

A little farther
we will see the almond trees blossoming
the marble gleaming in the sun
the sea breaking into waves

a little farther,
let us rise a little higher.

G. Seferis
(translation  by E. Keeley & P. Sherrard)

Kids’ Parade

 

carnivalFirst Sunday of Carnival is Kids’ Day. Come join the parade, in Nicosia or Limassol!

masque1

masque3

 

Positive-Negative Masks

masks4

If you live in a part of the world where Carnival is celebrated, you’ll know that this is the time of year we think about disguise. Young and old dress up and go out playing pranks on each other, much like Halloween, except in Feb-March! Carnival is like a last hurrah before Lent, the austere seven weeks that precede (and prepare for) Easter. The spirit of Carnival is decidedly pagan in its origin though, very dionysian in its exuberance.

Especially if you happen to live a city that is carnival-crazy, as I currently am, it’s a good time to experiment with the idea of identity with students. Get them to jot down some ideas about what disguise really means: do we reveal something more than our day-today persona when we adopt a disguise?

kids

These notan-like masks were made by kids in the 13-14 age group. Half the mask was cut out of a dark (in this case black) piece of card. The pieces were carefully cut whole with a cutter, and saved in a plastic sleeve until time came to paste. Important: lines must be thickened to shapes so we can cut them out, and this is the greatest challenge (I’ve taught a version of Notan to different ages for 12 years.)

When all the pieces have been cut, it is time to glue them onto the background. This should be double in area. For instance, if the dark piece is A4 then the lighter, background piece of paper should be A3.

masks2

Sketches are a must, not just because it builds good habits, but because the concept of positive-negative can take some getting used to.

masks3

Key vocabulary: symmetry, reverse, balance. Bright, contrasting colours can be used as well, to great effect.

masks

Halcyon Days are over

ios

A good fortnight of clear skies and sunshine has just ended, and winter is back! Halcyon days, they were, but now they’re over. Today is going to be the coldest, or so they say. Already I’m hearing about snow on the outskirts of Nicosia, which doesn’t happen every day!

Thank god it’s Friday! Thank god for sketchbooks, too: this is a watercolour sketch, made from life many summers ago, on the island of Ios. This was the most amazing little break on an unexpectedly dazzling little Aegean island. Good friends, coffee and backgammon on the beach after dark, cross legged under a thatched awning. Food everywhere was spectacular, as I recall.

Sketchbooking is a practice I never stop trying to cultivate in my students. Not just because it provides an illustrated sort of diary full of vivid memories for a rainy day, but mainly because it is steady input into our visual data base. Observation and cultivating skills are the best way to stay creative and inspired.