Whenever I want to relax, I turn on the Science Channel to watch Unearthed, or Mysteries of the Abandoned.
I have two magazine subscriptions (Archaeological Institute of America, and Current World Archeology) and look forward to them like a kid waiting for his Captain Midnight Secret Decoder Ring to arrive in the mail.
On my last vacation I brought books to read and some drawing materials. One book in particular grabbed me and wouldn't let go; The Sutton Hoo Story by Martin Carver. I felt moved to produce drawings inspired by what I learned and saw.
I find myself so fascinated by archeology that, at some point, I may create an entirely new body of work. It's all very speculative, but it is very exciting for me, and I wanted to share it now.
What is Sutton Hoo?
It's a burial site in England, with many types of burials, from royal barrows to gallows graveyard, dating from the 6th to 7th centuries. They appear as mounds on a flat landscape, next to the River Deben. There is a really great movie based on a novel, both called The Dig that dramatizes the excavation of Mound 1, where some of the most impressive and beautiful artifacts ever found in Britain were discovered.
But while I like jewels and treasures, it is the dirt and bones that really intrigue me.
My next sketch was of another, very different type of grave.
After the region had converted to Christianity, this sacred ground, populated with rich burial mounds for esteemed community leaders, was used as a place to execute convicted criminals. A gallows was erected on one of the mounds, and the site is littered with shallow graves of the disgraced and condemned.
But the thing that makes it all the more more fascinating, is that there is actually no body there at all. The acidic soil of the area consumes organic material.
It's sad, it's haunting and it's beautiful.
This is a rough idea of what I might do. It is a composite image of things from the famous Mound 1. Below the sketch are images from the book that I have woven into the sketch.
Mound 1 was covering a large ship. Within the hull of the ship there was a wooden burial chamber, containing a coffin and body, and many stunningly valuable grave goods. It is one of the most famous archeological finds in history.
But, like the "sand men", the actual ship, chamber, and body have long since dissolved. But the wood of the ships hull, again, changed the make up of the sand, and what was left was a ghostly impression of a ship, along with the corroded iron rivets, in long, graceful, curving lines.
The third image is a schematic map of the area, with black dots depicting the location of various burial mounds, and the three hypothetical routes by which the mourners transported the ship from the River Deben, up the bank, to the burial site, to inter the deceased.
I'm really not sure where this is headed. It's very exciting and a little scary.
I will continue with my current series of art based on film noir until it feels right to commence on this new path.
Maybe I never will get to it, or maybe I will start next week.
I'm on vacation, and I'm having a wonderful time. It's a paradise. Beautiful room, white sand beach, gorgeous view.
And yet, I find myself having a difficult time relaxing entirely. I'm relaxing, but not completely relaxed. I find that I am suffering from a case of the "Shoulds".
Here are a list of my "Shoulds":
- I really need to take advantage of my time here!
- I should make a drawing or painting everyday.
- I should keep posting and staying engaged on social media.
- I should NOT post, and disengage completely.
- I should go I to a deep state of contemplation so I can start developing concepts and imagery for my next body of work.
- I should start collecting words and images for my next body of work.
- I should do paintings of the coastline so I can include coastal scenes in my next body of work.
- Furthermore, I should barely eat anything, so I will still feel okay in my bathing suit.
- I should drink less/more.
- I should swim in the ocean.
- I should go for a hike/sample authentic local cuisine/learn to paddleboard...
Get the idea? So much to ponder and worry about.
I heard a while back that the word "should" can be very toxic. It is a good exercise to replace it with the word "want" and see what happens.
Actually, I have done a number of my "Shoulds", because they seemed like fun at the time.
But what have I done mostly?
Mostly, I have gone on a deep dive into some really nerdy books on archeology.
Yes, archeology is my way to relax.
- I have two magazine subscriptions (World Archeology and The American Institute of Archeology Magazine).
- I am a fan of Patrick Wyman's podcast, Tides of History
- I watch archeology themed shows on TV and YouTube incessantly. (My favorite, which is not exactly about archeology, is Mysteries of the Abandoned on Discovery)
So I'm on a geek-fest, learning about how the Proto-Indo-European language, a theoretical language that became extinct around 2500 BCE, was the root from which most of the languages spoken in the world today evolved from.
What can I say? It's what I want to do.
A bibliography of my vacation:
Three Stones Make a Wall, by Eric H. Cline
The Horse, the Wheel, and Language, by David W. Anthony
Tales of Valhalla, by Martin and Hannah Whittock
Beowulf, translation by Seamus Heaney
The Dig, by John Preston
This past month I had a particularly enlightening trip down memory lane, inspired by the sale of a favorite piece from a previous series.
When in college I did a series of art based on Shakespeare’s Richard III- I was so enamored with Sir Laurence Olivier’s movie I decided to create paintings with the characters in different contexts and times.
When in my 30’s, I created work based on mythology from ancient Greece and pagan Europe.
I love and enjoy observational painting, but I seem compelled to tell a story with my art, to create a narrative. I am driven to explore and share the landscape of my imagination. The sale of Athena Stays the Dawn brought back memories of all the ways I have used art to tell stories. It seems that the act of telling a story is more important than the trappings of time and place and specific characters.
For now, I am entirely caught up in the dark labyrinth of film noir. But who knows what stories my future art will tell?
If you are interested in seeing my work based on The Odyssey, visit this page on my website.
If you want to read posts about it, here are some links to my blogposts about it.
My husband and I took a trip to a place I've wanted to go for a long time- Greece! We visited mainly Napflio and the Peloponnes Peninsula, the island of Hydra, up to Delphi, then Athens.
Some of you may remember that I love ancient history, and that I did a series of art based on The Odyssey. It was sensational to be in and around the place where The Iliad and The Odyssey was conceived, sung, shared, and eventually written down. In fact, we visited the ancient site of Mycenae, which was the palace complex where Agamemnon himself lived and ruled.
Being in Greece lent depth and richness to my understanding of The Odyssey. One experience I had was the realization that my conception of the space and atmosphere was generalized and lacking in sensitivity. It was fanciful, but vague.
Here are the hotsheets with the sordid details, the true confessions, and the inside info on my artistic process. Learn how it all happens right here!
Not seeing what you're looking for? My previous blog on blogspot can be found HERE.