Sunday, April 4, 2010

A time for REBIRTH
What's old is made new

As I intended when starting this art blog, I shall display some of my older artworks and, as they are made, I will showcase some newer pieces.
With any and all artworks, I will also write about the processes, thoughts and background of how they came to be.

However, since today is EASTER SUNDAY, I thought it appropriate to show some old, but beloved drawings of mine, from a "series" that I used to work on fairly annually at around this time of year.

Growing up as an artist in a religious Catholic household, I was always taken by looking at Renaissance artworks depicting the life of Christ and the various other personages of Biblical tales and history.

What struck me from the outset is that no one ever took it upon themselves to show these events from the point of view of Christ himself.
Perhaps the reason is as it might have been misrepresented as somewhat blasphemous by the overly controlling Church of those artistically tumultuous times. Nothing would have been less desired  by an artist than after securing a Church patronage to complete a religious work to then be paid with a beheading or imprisonment for taking "artistic license".

So, as there  was little chance of my being burned at the stake as a heretic in late 20th Century America, I took it upon myself to complete some works of that very nature.

As a starting point, I remember being inspired by a famous drawing from 1508 by Albrecht Dürer ; "Hands of the Apostle" (most commonly known as "The Praying Hands").

Nearly a decade before, as a high-school art class exercise, I studied and reproduced that illustration.

ALL images can be enlarged by clicking on them.

"Prayer for Peace"
April, 1985
a reworking of Albrecht Dürer's "Hands of the Apostle"
pencil on sketchpad paper
approximately 12 x 16

I've always been fascinated with the intricacies of the human hand and looked forward to having the hands of Christ be the only vantage point to his motions and/or EMOTIONS for this new series.

Due to my usually working on other projects as well, and in a hope to keep the drawings "inspirational", I thought it best to work on one per year - usually a day or two before or ON Easter Sunday (ensuring it to be completed on that day - which usually meant rushing back and forth between my studio and family dinner - to the consternation of everyone gathered).

Starting in 1992, I produced "Take My Hand" (an image of Christ's hand, nailed to the cross).

"Take My Hand"
April, 1992
pencil on vellum finish bristol board
approximately 12 x 16

You'll note that I placed the piercing nail spike in the wrist and not in the hand itself, as I had done some studying on the subject beforehand (no pun intended) and found that many experts believed that the weight of much of the human body that would be placed on the spikes would have caused the bones of the hand to break and allow the hand to tear away from the spike.
A spike placed in between the bones of the wrist would allow for more support and would keep a body in place.
However, I had extended the area of the palm a bit to allow for my placing the spike there, should I not like the way the wrist spike would turn out.
So, I have an extended-looking hand, which really isn't much of a problem, as I have seen people with longer hands than as is considered to be "the norm".

The meaning of the title "Take My hand" was intended as an invitation to better live a life of doing what was right, despite the possible negative ramifications of doing so.


I followed this up the next year with "And the Last Shall be First", a look at the scene from the Last Supper where Christ washed the feet of the Apostles, thus showing them to maintain proper humility.

"And the Last Shall be First"
April, 1993
pencil on vellum finish bristol board
approximately 16 x 12

I was most happy with the look of the wood grain of the wash basin and the rough texture of the drying cloth.
When drawing the drying towel, I actually dug into the paper with a very hard pencil lead (something like 7H) and caused many engraved lines to be etched into the paper. So that when I drew over the areas with the softer pencils, those areas would remain untouched, thus giving added depth and texture to the "cloth".

My apologies for the scan quality. The water effect on the left is lost due to poor lighting.
If I have an opportunity to do so, I'll rescan some time in the future. However, all of these drawings are packed away and I'm utilizing scans made several years ago.


1994 must have been an angry (or at least frustrating) year for me as I chose to depict Jesus' casting out of the money-changers and merchants from the Temple.

"Den of Thieves"
April, 1994
pencil on vellum finish bristol board
approximately 12 x 16

This drawing disappoints me on several levels.
I always regretted not taking the time to properly research the look of the actual Temple architecture, or any actual bird anatomy, instead just "winging it" and drawing everything from my mind's eye.
If I ever decided to rework this image, I'd make sure to do extensive research.
But, in this day and age of instant internet access, it would be a simple matter to pull up any number of sources for both bird and building.

For the look of the coins I just roughed in basic "ancient-looking" coin types and put a pseudo- Julius Caesar image on the front. I seem to recall thinking that coins of that era were sectioned so that they could be broken into "bits", allowing for smaller sections of coin currency to be used as smaller denominational portions of that currency.
Of course, like the Temple architecture, I know now that some research would have proven very beneficial to a more accurate illustration.

Also of note was that I long agonized over whether or not I should depict any other persons on the drawing.
Surely there should be some dove-sellers trying to recapture their escaping livelihood or others looking on in fear and anger at the one who was knocking over their coins.
Looking back at the sketches that I roughed out while working on this piece, I see that there were assorted merchants initially drawn in. But I opted to not include them in the final piece for whatever reason.

Either way, however, my true focus in the point of these illustrations was always the hands and what they were doing.
I made sure to show that Jesus was furious.

My "signature" is found hidden on the back of the coin at the far bottom-right, and if one were to look closely, there is the roman numeral for 1994 and smaller under it is one for 1995.
I seem to recall reworking portions of this image (possibly adding bits and bobs) to it the following year as I didn't feel it to be truly "complete".
I still have that feeling, much to the reasons that I have mentioned above.

However, I recall being discouraged by this (and other things going on professionally and personally at the time - I was soon to be engaged to be married and was working several jobs while doing pro-bono art for several new ventures - all of which were going nowhere due to lack of funding by those in charge of the projects) and not producing an "Easter" image for the next few years.


Jump ahead to the year 2000, and having emerged from a long stretch of unfortunate events, I was in a time of artistic resurgence, dedicating time to new works and feeling a new wave of creativity.

So, once again, I took up the "Easter" project and, in commemoration of my artistic "resurrection", I produced "Arise and Come Forth"; a depiction of Christ's raising of Lazarus from the dead.

"Arise and Come Forth"
April, 23rd-24th, 2000
pencil on vellum finish bristol board
approximately 12 x 16

Note: Christ's hands have some imploring and vaguely mystical positioning.
How exactly does one call a friend from the grave?

I also took a little artistic license with the overall appearance of the tomb-site, but this is one of my favorites of the set due to the bold clarity of the drawing and the enthusiasm that went into it.


The next year, 2001, after working up this rough version of what was to be called "Be Unafraid",  my wife and I relocated (yet again) and I would find little time to complete it.
Only a few months later the September 11th tragedy occurred and I would not return to the project since.

"Be Unafraid"
April, 2001
blue pencil on sketchbook paper
approximately 14 x 11

The scene of Jesus just seconds prior to his calming the stormy waters of the Sea of Galilee.
Again, like the hands of the Lazarus drawing, a more "mystical" approach was taken with the gesture, without going over-the-top into actual "spell-casting" styles.

I do like this image and would have liked to have completed the real drawing of it.
Still, I remember thinking that this sketch was fairly detailed and could, by all rights, be considered to be "complete", as a study, at the very least.


I truly can't say if I'll ever go back to this series.
Maybe one day.

For now, I'm content just to share these few images here.

Happy Easter, 2010!

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