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.
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