Still life with a Mexican candelabra and rosary, and Christmas greens in an Egyptian brass jug.
Doing a drawing like this is as much a psychological exploration as anything. It started with the painted ceramic candelabra from Oaxaca, which had been on our mantle at Christmas. The leftover greens in the brass jug need to be thrown out. The holly is dried up, but the evergreen branches are still all right, and so I've left them. When I put the two objects together I felt there was some affinity between the little holly berries and the hanging "dingleberries" on the whimsical candelabra. I needed another object and this Huichol rosary suggested itself: more round things, and also from Mexico. On the glass tabletop, the candelabra was slightly in front of the jug, but when I drew them, I somehow placed them standing side-by-side, like married couple. I thought that was odd. I noticed the liveliness of the little birds on the one, and the greenery and berries on the other, and then across the front, the wooden "berries" of the rosary. I'm not Catholic, so I don't use a rosary, but this one called to me when I saw it at a stand in a Mexico City market; the vendor told me it was carved by the Huichol Indians. For some reason, it touches me, and I always keep it on my little meditation shrine.
This is just an exploratory sketch, but it's interesting to study pictures like this. Why did I pick these particular objects? What are their affinities in terms of form and color; what can be exploited and emphasized, what should be changed? Do they suggest an idea, or set of ideas, or relationships? Can they tell a story? Which objects seem to want to be dominant, which are bridges or connections? How could they be rearranged to say something different, or to convey an idea more forcefully? What could be added or taken away? How can I change the colors to create a different emotion or mood that helps speak of the relationships in the picture?
In my own home, there are many objects that have personal significance, and many things that suggest place, people, relationships. Perhaps dominant among them are thigns that represent my anglo-saxon heritage, and my husband's in the middle and near east, but there are also objects that sound echoes of my personal search for meaning, that I have kept for a reason even though thos ereasons may not be obvious to me, even yet. Drawing and painting these things helps me see myself and my path more clearly, like thinking back over a significant dream.
A while back I placed some Cycladic figures in a Quebec landscape. This Christmas, I did a relief print of a star over an iconic Quebec mountain. Combining objects with landscape is another way to explore relationships and personal movement - both physical and psychological; I've learned a lot from seeing how Clive Hicks-Jenkins has done this in his own work.
So, in the above drawing, there is the start of something, perhaps, about New and Old world expressions of religion, and there's also a contrast bewteen the live greens and berries in the old jug, and the ceramic depictions of flowers, fruit, and birds in the Mexican candelabra. For the time being, the round forms of the bulbous jug, the base of the candelabra, and the multiplicity of berries and balls are what interest me artistically; the color needs to be simplified, and the rosary may or may not need to be replaced with something else.
All of this works better in the drawing I posted a few days ago, partly because the color is handled better, but also because that particular assemblage of objects has been consciously evolving on my desk for a long time. Anyway - it's a curious way to approach still life, but far more interesting to me than just sketching the forms and shapes and colors.