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”.
A ship sails into shore, a rusty well pulley moans
A blue plume of smoke on the rosy horizon
The image of a crane’s broken wing
Armies of swallows await to welcome the brave
Bare arms raised with anchors tattooed in the armpits
And a distant church bell saturates the sky with indigo
Amorgos, by Nikos Gatsos, 1943*
I’m glad I’ve been keeping sketchbooks. I wish I had painted more of these, but I am never going to wish I’d painted fewer. Some were done in cheap children’s water colours, some in fancy W&N. They are mostly from summers in the Aegean, and some from Cyprus. Here’s hoping the marine theme will get me in holiday mood. Two more days of school, for us teachers! Unwinding is a long process…
The translation of the poem (fragment) by Gatsos is my own. It’s from the rather long poem Amorgos. I couldn’t find the lines I wanted to quote online, so I translated as it suited me. Some of the vignettes here are scenes from Amorgos, the island. The cubist villages, geometric pigeon coops and stark whitewash around cobblestones,
…the eyes of the seaweed are turned to the sea
Big black sea with so many pebbles around your neck, so many gems in your hair*
We are all born talented.
I am not even going to qualify the above statement: I don’t care how talented, or whether there’s some hierarchy; creativity is part of human nature, some might say our most defining trait. We are not born skilled, this is why education is needed.
I am having these thoughts as I watch my students take their last exams. With one eye on the blue Mediterranean — 27°C today and the beach just a stroll away!— and the other on their concentrating faces, if I could distill an essence, it would be this: Stay Original!
Art education helps in this, when it instills the things it’s supposed to:
- Refusal to accept the first solution as the best solution. This is the quintessence of a creative life. To approach the same problem from another angle, and another, and another. Not just the opposite of Learning by Rote – it’s very annihilation! Amen.
- Organisation of projects and of self, understanding that creating is a process, and planning it out– what a life skill! I know many adults who will never grasp this. Courage in self-presentation and therefore accountability: if you are going to show your work and/or speak about it, you need to be able to justify your process. The rewards of accepting good or bad criticism are invaluable to a person’s emotional intelligence and growth.
- Eschew the Copy-Paste Mentality. It’s almost embarassing to repeat this, because it really should be covered by the other two points, but we live in a world where access online is practically a human right, and we need to understand the responsibilities that follow. The internet is a tool; we are the craftsman. We cannot blame it, disclaim it, or abuse it. Everyone goes online for help, verification, inspiration. We are still responsible for how we present to the world!
Graduates! Though they may try to stifle you, mislead you by example, swamp you with questionable facts and methods: Stay true, stay original, stay creative!
What an intense month it’s been (obviously not in my blogging activity, as you may have noticed)! I know I should be blogging about summer, and the beach, but soon enough. I’ll get to it!
Ages 17-18 (Third year of Lyceum)
Sping has been super busy -as usual- full of projects, paperwork as well as the Easter break. Catching up just as it is about to expire, here is one of the things that has kept us busy: a project we had been working with in my class of seniors (17-18 yrs).
Our piece began as an attempt to cut down costs: we couldn’t afford supplies, but wanted something large and three-dimensional. Using recycled materials isn’t just better for the earth, it’s cheap, and the materials are readily available.
Drawing from previous experience, we came up with the idea of creating animals out of plastic bottles and papier mache. We were given the subject “Bridging Cultures”, for which horses and their relationship to humankind seemed the obvious leap (no pun intended). Gradually we thought of a board to anchor the pieces to, so the idea of a modified chessboard came about, with horses form Art History painted in the squares. We kept the pieces to a minimum, with a castle (or rook), a pawn and a queen.
The art history influences were: cave paintings, pottery from the Archaic period in Cyprus and Greece, the Parthenon Marbles, Byzantine icons, Nordic carvings and Degas! The model for our Rook (formerly a large juice container) was Kolossi and other Cyprus castles. Our Queen was inspired by various paintings, and was meant to allude to any one of the queens of Cyprus, actual or legendary.
Plastic parts were put together with duct tape. Recycled printer paper was glued in strips to create volume, magazine paper and tissue paper for more delicate work. Tissue paper is excellent for creating a “skin” on top of the finished horses. The painting was done in acrylics, our only luxury!