Tuesday, 30 December 2008
Now to tonight's first drawing -- another icon. This is another version of the Annunciation of the angel Gabriel to Blessed Mary that she was to be the Mother of the Messiah. I haven't put the Greek title on yet as I am debating exactly what I will put.
This icon has several interesting features. You'll notice that it uses some reverse perspective but you will also notice that Blessed Mary is at the high point in the foreground -- everything slopes away from her. This is the moment of incarnation when God took on human flesh in her womb. At the same time, you can see how she is startled by the angel's greeting of "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." As many of you know, these words spoken by the angel make up the first phrase of the Hail Mary.
Also, Mary is dressed more simply than usual in this icon -- all in blue -- instead of the usual red cape with golden tassels that we see in most modern icons. Remember that all these colours have special significance when used in an icon. In fact, there is nothing in an icon that is not part of the Scriptural message -- the Word of God.
This second drawing is a quick sketch of some flowers. A friend of mine in Alabama who takes beautiful photographs of flowers and other things, sent me a photo of this flower. The plant is called "Lucerne" and has a simple, delicate beauty that I really cannot capture on the computer. I wish I was still able to do watercolour for that would be the perfect medium, I think, to portray the beauty of this plant -- but there is no way I could hold those small brushes these days.
I am greatly saddened tonight by the news coming out of Gaza, the news of the recent deaths of so many young Canadians in Afghanistan and the terrible killing of women and children in a Catholic Church in the Congo. How I was hoping that we could enter 2009 with a sense of having made real progress towards peace in all these trouble spots, but that is not to be. I pray that some day soon the killing will stop and all the children can learn -- maybe for the first time in their lives -- what it means to live in peace.
As the Psalmist said: "May peace reign in your homes and in your palaces, peace." I wish you all a New Year filled with blessings.
Sunday, 28 December 2008
Anyway, here I am on the 28th with a few reflections on different things as we get very close to year's end.
The drawing above was done recently and portrays an "African mother and twins". Africa is so often what we think of when we think of poverty and hunger -- and rightly so for they do have very definite shortages in so many places. However, we need to also think of Canada and the U.S. where we and our elected representatives are still allowing far too many children to go to bed hungry each night.
I don't know the solution, but there has to be one and we need to find it as more and more families these days are having to use the food banks.
This next drawing is the 2nd one I have done using the photographs of Tanja Askani for my model (remember the one of the deer eating the snowman's carrot nose?). I'm calling this drawing "A Friendly Hello".
These two gentle creatures face many difficulties, like all wild things. Hunters would like to shoot them for "sport"; others might like to kill them because they consider them to be pests. Neither deer nor rabbits are in any danger of extinction in this country. The native peoples once killed them only as necessary for food and skins and they did not kill off the coyotes and wolves that kept the populations of rabbits and deer in balance.
We, in our greediness, have unbalanced nature so much that almost nothing works properly anymore. I wonder if Nature has some sort of revenge in mind? Just a thought.
This final drawing is of orange-coloured wild Azaleas in Florida. I am calling the drawing simply "Florida Wild Azaleas".
So many of the wild plants are now in danger of extinction due to destruction of habitat and the use of herbicides. We are in such a hurry to cover over the earth with concrete so we can make more money. How very tragic. Like the song says: "Pave Paradise and put up a parking lot."
I don't know what is going to happen, but I do know that we must work really hard to try to fix some of the biggest problems we have created -- like poverty and out-of-balance eco-systems, learning to treat the earth and each other with gentleness and respect.
May peace be with you all.
[P.S. Just in case you are wondering about the time this was being written, I will just say that my legs are bothering me a lot more than usual tonight -- so since I can't sleep anyway...]
Wednesday, 24 December 2008
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God..." Is.9
What a joyful time of year this is for Christians throughout the world -- even those who are being severely persecuted will probably give thanks for at least a few moments in the days ahead. Remember, Orthodox Christians won't celebrate Christmas until early January. I pray that all creation will know a measure of peace during this season of grace.
It is almost time for me to go and place the baby in the crib of my creche while the strains of Handel's Messiah will be playing in the background.
Monday, 22 December 2008
I spent a lot of time trying to give the faces expressions of puzzlement and confusion for they really did not understand what was going on!
In the icon we see Jesus washing the feet of Peter. At first, when Jesus approached him with the water and the towel, Peter said "Lord, you shall never wash my feet". Jesus then told him that if he did not allow him to wash his feet, he would have no share of the Kingdom. Peter then said, "Not only my feet then, but my head and hands as well". [In the icon you see Peter pointing to his head]. Jesus then told him that one who has bathed only needs his feet washed for otherwise he is clean.
After Jesus had washed their feet, he said to them: "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord -- and you are right for that is what I am. So, if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet." In other words, we are called to serve one another.
You will also notice that there is a rooster crowing on top of a pillar. This is a reference to another conversation with Peter which occurred soon after the washing of the feet. Peter, always impetuous, says boldly to Jesus: "I will lay down my life for you." Jesus answers him by saying: "Will you? I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied three times that you even know me."
If the leader of the Church that Christ came to establish behaved this way, there is truly hope for us all!
I also have been spending time drawing another butterfly. This drawing is called "Pearl Crescent Butterfly on a Buttonbush Blossom" or maybe it should just be "Butterfly on a Buttonbush Blossom". Nice.
While I am writing this, I am listening to a CD I just received this afternoon as a Christmas gift from a very dear friend. It is called "Chant: Music for the Soul". It is Cistercian Monks from Austria "singing" Gregorian Chant and it is truly beautiful.
So, feeling more and more peaceful as I listen, I say to you all: Peace be with you.
Saturday, 20 December 2008
While I was working on this drawing these past few days, I would occasionally glance out the window at the snow. It gave me a great deal of pleasure to feel snug and warm and very thankful that I have a comfortable place to live in. While the flowers I was drawing made me remember that the snow won't be here forever and soon the time for the blooming of flowers will come again.
How grateful I am for the seasons of Nature and for the seasons of my life.
I have been watching miz k.d. a lot lately and noticing that she no longer jumps on many of the tables and window sills that used to be part of her daily round. Now, even when she wants to jump on something relatively low, she hesitates a couple of times before she gives it a try. She is getting older like me and I think she also probably has arthritis just as I do. All creatures pass through their own seasons of life -- some very short, some very long.
I was drawing a cat earlier this week -- a cat that looks to be in the prime of its life.
I came across a photo of an Abyssinian -- a beautiful breed -- and wanted to try to draw it. As usual, I don't feel I have done a proper job of drawing a cat.
Cats (and dogs) appear in some ways to be such simple creatures to draw -- but if you really want to capture their beauty and grace, you need to be a really good artist. However, I will keep trying and will hopefully gradually improve.
I see the snow has started again and is supposed to continue throughout the night. I pray that you are all someplace warm and safe.
Peace be with you.
Thursday, 18 December 2008
I have drawn several pictures of him, but my favourite remains this first drawing. There were several photos taken when he was learning to walk and using about three of them, I managed to end up with a really satisfactory drawing.
Daniel and his family drive to Florida every summer for a stay at the beach. Daniel loves playing in the water. This drawing was just a quick sketch I did in an effort to capture the pleasurable concentration evident in his posture. I needed to go back and really finish it but have never gotten around to it. One of these days...
Here Daniel is reaching for the cake and/or the candle. Fortunately, adult hands are there to prevent an accident. The man on your left is my nephew, Daniel's father, while the man on your right is one of Daniel's grandfathers.
Unfortunately, Daniel managed to get his hand into the icing after all and now mom is trying to clean him up. Like a typical boy, he is not the least bit interested in soap and water. "Aw, mom, I'll just lick it clean in a few minutes!"
I got all the details about his birthday party from my sister, his grandmother -- who, by the way, was so excited about her grandson's birthday that she forgot all about mine! Oh, well, a grandson turning 4 doesn't happen every day.
Tuesday, 16 December 2008
This first flower drawing is of an Hawaiian plant called Heliconia Angusto and reminds me a bit of the Bird of Paradise flowers.
A dear friend recently gave me some old calendars with photos of flowers of Hawaii so I have been having great fun looking them over. I am sure you will see several more drawings of flowers from that far-away American state in the days ahead.
This next simple but very beautiful flower is a plant found growing naturally in the State of Florida. It is called "Sabatia" and is a member of the Gentian Family
The wildflower that we are more familiar with, also called Sabatia is the Large Marsh Pink which grows in fresh-water marshes near the sea coast in places like Nova Scotia.
Finally tonight, I wanted to show you my latest drawing of a horse! I am calling it "A Horse of a Different Breed" since I normally draw quarter-horses, Tennessee Walkers, etc.
As you know, this breed has a reputation for being gentle and small so it is good for young children who are approaching a horse for the first time.
Recently, I heard about a farm that provides horseback riding for disabled people. I want to investigate this further as it would be so wonderful to be on horseback again even for a short time.
Well, I have reached my limit for tonight. If there is anyone out there still reading my blog and not out Christmas shopping, let me hear from you -- things have been very quiet lately.
Peace be with you all.
Sunday, 14 December 2008
This first one is "The Resurrection" and shows Christ overcoming death -- the final enemy. This icon depicts several different actions as you may recall from the first time I showed it to you: the chaining of Satan and the emptying of Sheol -- the underworld.
The second mystery is the "Ascension of Christ into Heaven" -- and by Heaven we don't mean the sky!
The Blessed Mother and the Apostles watch as Christ is taken from their sight and they know he will no longer be with them physically, but will always be with them in the Spirit. Even knowing that she will see her divine Son again, the Blessed Mother is shown reaching after Him with such longing and desire.
This was the Spirit that Christ had told them to await. The Blessed Mother, of course, was already quite familiar with the Holy Spirit, but not the Apostles nor those they would lead to conversion. This is the very Spirit of God that would now enable St. Peter and the others to build the Church that Jesus Christ had founded. The signs of the Spirit are the flames of fire above their heads and the wind which shook the house they were in.
The fourth mystery is "The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary".
The Faithful have always believed that Jesus could not leave His Mother in the tomb and so soon after she was laid to rest, she was taken up by Him, body and soul, into Heaven. Left behind in her sepulcher were dozens of fragrant flowers. She was therefore "assumed" into Heaven.
I realize that this mystery is difficult for those who are not Catholic or Orthodox to be comfortable with, but this belief goes back to the days of the early Church. The belief that God gave His "mother" the status of queen of angels and men. She was the one, after all, who had to say "Yes" to God in order for His divine will to be done "on earth as it is in Heaven". This is all part of the great mystery that is God.
This is really what we have been talking about through all these "mysteries" of the Rosary. Each one is an event in the life of Christ and His blessed Mother that contains many elements which are beyond our limited, human understanding. As we meditate on each mystery while praying the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Gloria, we slowly grow in faith and knowledge and love.
Peace be with you all.
Friday, 12 December 2008
|Icon, The Woman at the Well (St. Photina) by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2008|
Tonight, I want to show you a new icon that I have just finished. It is called "The Woman at the Well". The Greek writing at the top of the icon says: "Woman at Well"
The story behind this icon is one of my favourite episodes in the life of Christ. St. John tells us in the 4th chapter of his Gospel about the meeting between Jesus and a Samaritan woman.
It seems that about noon Jesus and his disciples stopped at an ancient well in the area of Samaria. The Jews and the Samaritans kept themselves separate from one another for various reasons -- in fact, many of the religious leaders in Jerusalem considered them pagans although they had originally come from the 12 tribes of Israel just like the Jews.
Anyway, Jesus sits down by the well to rest while his disciples go off to find some food for them in the nearby town. While Jesus is sitting there, a woman comes from the village to draw water. Jesus would have know immediately that this woman had a bad reputation and was shunned by the other women since she came alone to the well in the heat of the day.
He asks her for a drink of water. She is amazed that he is speaking to her for she is both a Samaritan and a woman. He then leads her through a wonderful conversation about faith and morals without ever saying an unkind word. Finally he tells her to go back to her village and come back with her husband. She replies that she has no husband. Jesus then tells her gently -- the truth is that you have had five husbands and the man you are living with now is not your husband. Instead of being offended, she actually accepts Jesus as a prophet and rushes back to her village crying out: "Come and see the man at the well -- could he be the promised Messiah?
The townspeople rush out and before Jesus and his disciples have left the area, a number of the Samaritans have come to believe that Jesus is, indeed, the promised Messiah of God.
In Orthodox tradition, this Samaritan woman is called St. Photini (or St. Photina) by the Greeks and St. Svetlana by the Russians. Below is a statement from the writings of the Fathers about St. Photini and what happened to her.
According to Bishop Nikolai Velimirovch in The Prologue from Ohrid:
"This [St. Photina] was that Samaritan woman who had the rare fortune to speak with the Lord Christ Himself at Jacob's Well in Sychar (Jn. 4). Coming to faith in the Lord, she then came to belief in His Gospel, together with her two sons, Victor and Josiah, and five sisters who were called Anatolia, Phota, Photida, Paraskeva and Kyriake. They went to Carthage in Africa. But they were arrested and taken to Rome in the time of the Emperor Nero, and thrown into prison. By the providence of God, Domnina, Nero's daughter, came into contact with St Photina and was brought by her to the Christian faith. After imprisonment, they all suffered for Christ. Photina, who first encountered the light of truth by a well, was thrown into a well, where she died and entered into the immortal Kingdom of Christ."
So now you know who St. Photini (Photina) was just in case you were interested!!
Come Sunday, the 14th, I will post the remaining five icons of the 20 Rosary icons. I may be really late in posting as Sunday is my birthday and I plan to have a very enjoyable day and evening.
Peace be with you all.
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
This first drawing is of "Dwarf Dogwood" -- also known as Bunchberry because in the fall, the blossoms are replaced by red berries and the leaves become red and purple. They are usually found growing in the mosses of the deep forests.
This second drawing is of the "Paintbrush" plant. They tend to grow primarily in the Rocky Mountains.
Two very interesting things about this plant: the roots are semi-parasitic, stealing nourishment from the roots of neighbouring plans. Secondly, the true flower is that light green tube seen sticking up from the "flower" not the pinkish petals.
As I was drawing these flowers, I was thinking a lot about silence and how flowers grow in silence -- even at their most beautiful, they still never say a word. Yet, a field full of wildflowers in bloom in a meadow seem to shout out their beauty. And when you suddenly come upon a group of delicate wildflowers deep in the forest, caught for a moment in a beam of sunlight, you may feel stunned by their beauty yet they are silent.
There is a verse in the Psalms which reads: "Be still and know that I am God." I like to take that verse sometimes and just think about the first part: be still and know. When I am still what do I know? In my silence does anyone ever see my beauty?
Most of our lives these days are spent with almost constant background noise. It keeps us from having to know, from having to be aware of ourselves. Try it sometimes for yourself. Find a quiet place and then be still and see what you know.
Peace be with you.
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
The first Sorrowful Mystery of "The Agony in the Garden" is represented by the above icon I created by combining two separate drawings. You may recall me talking about the technique at the time I posted it. In some ways it is even more traditional than the ones in last night's post.
This drawing is another version of the fourth Sorrowful Mystery "Christ and the Carrying of His Cross."
I posted this one some weeks ago and then drew the version I posted last night. You may recall me saying at the time that I preferred the 2nd drawing as it clearly showed the connection of the Blessed Mother to the Passion of Christ.
At any rate, you may also like this one better than the one from last night. If so, please let me know. Any comments about any of these drawings will be greatly appreciated.
Please don't feel that because you don't know anything about art, you shouldn't speak up. You should. In fact, you know what you like and what you don't like and I would like to know.
Monday, 8 December 2008
Anyway, the first Sorrowful Mystery is "The Agony in the Garden". There are two versions of this icon. The first is the one I feel inclined to use as it is more traditional -- the second version is actually my favourite because it has the chalice visible.
As you may recall, in this mystery, Christ is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to his arrest. It is Thursday evening and he will be crucified the next day. He has gone off a little way by himself, taking Peter, James and John with him. He asks them to stay awake and pray with him. Jesus then goes a few paces further and falls to the ground where he prays so fervently that he begins to sweat blood. He knows full well the terrible ordeal that he is facing.
He prays: "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not my will, but your will be done." In some translations it reads "chalice" rather than "cup". This reference is why I like having the actual cup in the icon. WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Not only is a crown of thorns jammed onto Jesus' head, but his bloody and terribly wounded body is covered by an old purple robe. Thus crowned and dressed in royal purple, the soldiers and bystanders bow before Jesus, calling him the King of the Jews, hitting him with his "royal sceptre" and then spitting in his face. In this icon, I have also shown the trumpeter, the cymbal player and the drummer as well as the court jester all of whom are mocking the "king".
Finally, Jesus is condemned to death and made to carry his own cross to the place of his execution. This mystery is called "The Carrying of the Cross" and is the fourth Sorrowful Mystery.
As you may recall from earlier postings, I mentioned that because Jesus keeps falling under the weight of the cross -- he is so weakened by the loss of blood from the scourging -- that a man from the crowd is grabbed by the soldiers and forced to carry the cross for Jesus.
We know from Scripture that Our Blessed Mother, St. Mary Magdalene and St. John accompanied Jesus all the way to the place of the crucifixion and stayed with him until the end.
This is demonstrated in the fifth and final Sorrowful Mystery -- Blessed Mary, St. Mary Magdalene and St. John are gathered beneath the cross as Jesus -- now nailed to the cross he tried to carry -- dies from loss of blood and asphyxiation.
After his death, Jesus is quickly taken down from the cross and laid in a new tomb nearby -- a tomb donated by one of his wealthy followers -- as it was nearing sunset and soon the Sabbath would begin.
These are truly such sorrowful mysteries, but there is something that Catholics say that puts it all into perspective for me: "Lord, by your cross, death and resurrection, you have set us free; you are the Saviour of the world."
As you hopefully noticed, I am asking for your advice about the first Sorrowful Mystery. I realize that the two icons are so similar that it probably doesn't make that much difference to most people. However, if there are any of you reading this with an opinion as to "chalice or no chalice", please let me know what you think. Thanks.
It's late and I am tired. May we all have a peaceful night.
Saturday, 6 December 2008
This next drawing is the first non-Rosary icon I have done in some while. It is called "The Immaculate Heart of Mary" The Greek abbreviation for the Blessed Mother is on the left while the words on the right are Greek for "immaculate heart".
The heart symbol has flames of fire at the top, a sword through it and is encircled by a crown of roses. Remember, Our Blessed Mother was told by Simeon when she and St. Joseph brought the 8-day-old Jesus to the Temple that "a sword would pierce her heart" -- which it did figuratively at the time of Christ's Passion and death.
This is not a true icon but is really an icon-type drawing based on the western Catholic image of the Immaculate Heart. So often you will see holy cards of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. You will still find these traditional Catholic drawings in some people's homes -- side by side. When I was much younger, every Catholic home had these two pictures hanging prominently somewhere in the house.
Here is what the Immaculate Heart of Mary looks like in the tradition of western Church art.
It has been a very cold day and is supposed to be even colder tomorrow. Please stay warm and safe.
Peace be with you.
Thursday, 4 December 2008
The first one is "The Baptism of the Lord". Jesus, unlike the rest of us, did not need the cleansing waters of the baptism of St. John the Baptist, his cousin. John's baptism was a baptism of repentance for sin and, as Christians believe, Christ Jesus was totally sinless. So, when Jesus came to the Jordan to be baptized, John tried to prevent it and said: "I need to be baptized by you."
Jesus replied: "Let it be so for now for it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness."
The second Luminous Mystery is "The Wedding at Cana". Once Jesus had arrived with all his disciples, the wine began to run low!
As you may recall from my previous comments, the mother of Jesus told him that the young couple was about to be terribly humiliated because they were running out of wine. She then told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to.
He told them to fill the jars with water and then to take some of the contents of the jars to the steward of the feast. The steward then exclaimed to the couple and their families "most people use the best wine first and save the poorer wine until later when people have had a bit to drink, but you have saved the best wine until last!"
The mystery is about Jesus proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom of God with the call to conversion and the forgiveness of sins.
In Mark's Gospel we read: "Now some of the scribes were questioning in their hearts: why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
Christians believe that these scribes actually answered their own question -- God alone can forgive sins and Christ Jesus is both true God and true Man.
The fourth mystery is "The Transfiguration of Christ Jesus on Mount Tabor".
The Gospels tell us: "Jesus took with him Peter, James and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them -- and His face shone like the sun and his garments became white as light. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to Him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his [death and resurrection] which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem."
As you can see from the icon, Peter John and James were somewhat terrified by the whole experience!
In John's Gospel we read: "Jesus said to them, Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life within you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day."
And in I Corinthians, St. Paul says: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."
So here you have the Luminous Mysteries. I was thinking about choosing another icon -- the one with Christ and the children -- for the proclamation of the Kingdom, but decided to go with the one of Jesus teaching the crowd.
Unlike the Joyful Mysteries, there is no need to vote on which one to use.
By the way, I ended up getting four votes regarding the icon to use for the Nativity (or birth) of Christ. The votes are all over the place so I guess I will have to make the final decision myself after all.
Peace be with you.
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
And here I am back with some flowers and another attempt at drawing horses! One of these days I am determined that I will actually draw a horse that I feel satisfied about.
This first drawing is of a vine called "Common Allamanda". It turned out looking very shadowy -- the way some vines look when they haven't been cut back for a long time. I like the look of it -- dense growth with yellow flowers.
This next drawing is of another flowering vine (I'm fixated on vines lately). This one is called "Bengal Clock Vine". I would be very interested in knowing how on earth it got that name. I will have to do a bit of research and see what I come up with.
And finally we have the horses. I am calling this one "Horses Running" -- see, I haven't lost my touch for creative names!
I truly believe that if I keep working at it one of these days I will get the feet and legs exactly right. Time will tell.
By the way, I am still waiting for comments about which of the four Nativity icons (see Nov. 30 posting) I should use. So far I have received two votes. I am really hoping I will get a few more to help me to make up my mind.
Peace be with you all.