Monday, June 27, 2011


For a blog that's supposed to be about my studio practice, I've sure been light on the photos lately. Here are some now.

This is my studio, or at least, the wall of my studio where paintings happen. It's lit by Ott lightbulbs in this area. The easel in the corner is one I've had for years and the wooden thing in front of that is the nightstand half of a nightstand/dresser combo we got at the habitat for humanity store for ten bucks. I use it as a painting stool sometimes.The drafting table to the left is a custom build by my preferred carpenter and studio-mate. He also made the viking shield whose backside is visible in the low left. The folding chair was given to me by a friend.

I started some sketches for my grant project in a 3.5 by 5 inch sketchbook. First I had my photos printed and made photocopies. Then I cut the figures and props out of the photos and moved them around to make little temporary collages from which I did drawings.

I started with Jay and Abby Michaels, The Harper and the Minstrel.
Abby and Jay always wear green and their costumes include forest-y motifs like leaves. In the second sketch I tried a Jacob Jordaens style layout which included animals. I used photos of the Highland Cow and Rooster that I took at the Georgia Festival. I have three more sketches of The Harper and the Minstrel, and I am trying to edit them into the right composition so I can begin painting. I'll photograph and post the other sketches soon.

Finally, a lousy photo of a decent painting:

This is Lady Merrilee, resident courtesan at the Florida Renaissance Festival. Courtesans are interesting characters in painting and history because they existed for male viewing pleasure but tended to be well educated in music and languages, as well as occupying an important place in society. I was riffing on this idea when I made the painting, so in addition to my photo references, I looked at some classic Renaissance portraiture, and paintings of midcentury pin-up girls. The painting is not so glare-y in real life. But you get the general idea. I made this piece to experiment with black gesso and painting style. The chest and face are too overworked , I think, for the Baroque brushstroke I hope to capture. But it's a start, and I am pretty happy with her hands and costume. For the cord crisscrossing her bodice, I picked out just the highlights to paint, and i think it worked well.

Off to the studio now, for more studies.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fashion and Art

I was really interested to see this post on Jezebel today. It looks into high-end fashion photoshoots inspired by classic paintings.

Now, I'll warrant that I am a snob, but in every case I liked the painting more. I think its actually because the paintings are less pretty than the photos. The originals are largely paintings of beautiful women, and they've been re-imagined as photographs of beautiful women, which is really not that interesting of a premise. But the figures in the paintings are much more engaging- they represent the standard of beauty of a different time, and their bodies are more interesting because of qualities which, on the contemporary models, would be labeled "flaws". The paintings tend to tell a story that references religion or mythology, while the photos are just selling something.

The example that hit me hardest was La Tour's Madeleine à la Vieilleuse transformed from a meditation on repentance to a glorification of shoe lust. We talked about this painting a lot in class- it's a good example of La Tour's signature candlelight scene, and an emotional, reflective, tonal painting. In the photograph, Mary Magdalene has given up musing on mortality, sin, and redemption to gaze at a high heel. Kind of a disappointment.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Faire : An American Renaissance

If you want it straight from the source, here you are.

I didn't know what to expect from my purchase of Faire: An American Renaissance. As a small production, it didn't have a lot of critiques I could read up on. In fact, the only information I could find about the film came in the form of an debate on a Renaissance Faire message board. One board member attacked the movie, the other, apparently a former member of the faire featured in the film, defended it-- using the classic, "you weren't there, man" argument.

Oh well, I figured. It's worth the gamble. I'll bite.

I'm glad I did, because while the film's scope isn't as broad as I'd imagined, it really zeroed in on the experience of living a faire. The focus was on memories and the accounts of former and current participants. I found it an excellent exploration of what faire feels like, and what it means, and perhaps most interestingly, why it is so important.

Faire follows the development of one faire- and its sister faires- in California. Present-day interviews and film clips are interspersed with 70's vintage faire footage. I loved seeing video of the faire in decades past, because other than the grainy film, it could have been shot yesterday. Trends do come and go in the festival world, but nothing as dramatically as the everyday world.

The movie spent a lot of time looking to the past-- not just the historical past, but the history of the faire itself. In the early days, the faire was not for profit, much more focused on history and education, and, to hear the performers tell it, raunchier. It was pretty affecting to hear stories from crafters and performers who had watched their faire change into something unrecognizable, and ultimately, go under. One group bought their own faire, which is now entirely participant-owned. Everyone involved in the film seemed to share the sentiment that faire today is simply not as good as it once was- yet still better than anything else out there.

It seems to me that humans are hardwired to be nostalgic. So, is it true that faire was once better? Or does everything in the past seem somehow more worthwhile? It's sad to think that I've maybe missed the golden age of something I love so much. Or does it merely mean that my imagined memory of it can be more glorious than the truth ever was?

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I want to go back to a Faire, so badly.

When I wrote this grant proposal I was in the middle of a really interesting journey. As a Yarn Viking I was toeing the line between performer and audience for the first time. I was meeting the offstage versions of people whose personas had long since captivated me. I met the fabulous Starwind and her people. I am not saying I broke into this world, but even to be invited to look into it was truly something. Because of this project I spent my 21st birthday sitting in the crossfire of two harps, drinking homemade mead, listening to the music that means the most to me-- including the song that gave this blog its name.

I miss knowing that, come Saturday morning, I will be putting on the braids and the beard.

Summertime can be so weirdly lonely for a student, especially one who keeps my odd hours and can't do much socializing. So my brain goes back to forests and funny shoes and ancient music.

This is homesickness.

Every project has a stage between research and action which is a big struggle. When the research is this much fun, the struggle is that much tougher.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Studio Practice, Discipline, Barocity.

I have been absent from posting for a few days now, because I've been switching up my schedule a bit-- spending mornings working out, and the rest of the day at my nametag job or painting in my new studio, where I don't have internet access. Okay, so the studio is a converted warehouse space... but it's home now. I actually like not having internet, from a productivity point of view.

I think about my art practice when I exercise, and I think about my fitness practices when I paint. I wish I could switch it up.

Today during my bike ride I was meditating some more on my grant project, and the Baroque, and why I am so wrapped up in this particular kind of painting. I didn't find an answer but I did realize something kind of serendipitous. "Baroque" comes from the Italian "barocco", Hurlburt would tell us, which means "imperfect pearl". Something beautiful, given torque and energy and visual interest through its flaws. My name also means "pearl". I hope I can embrace this idea, borderline cliche though it may be, of imperfection lending character- in my painting and so many other facets of my life.