Friday, June 19, 2015

Seila in Living Color

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you a colorized version of Seila, lovely odalisque of the Enochite underworld. It's a companion to my Zilla painting; both illustrate characters from my novel Dragonfly.

Painted in watercolor on Arches hot-pressed, mostly with my trusty Winsor & Newton 0000 Cotman round, it measures three and a half by five inches, hence is probably smaller than seen in your browser. I continued to listen to the stories of Clark Ashton Smith as I painted it; as a matter of fact, I was listening to "The Theft of the Thirty-Nine Girdles" as I painted the girdle. I'm starting to regard these audiobooks as much material as pigment, paper, and memory.

(Incidentally, I very highly recommend the CAS audiobooks put out by Night Shade Books; I'm picky about narration, and have enjoyed them thoroughly.)

So, my plan to begin illustrating my stories proceeds apace.

Because I paint on such a small scale, it amuses me to examine my work up close. For me, the final step of scanning and zooming in is an integral part of the process.

When I was in high school, and (as my art teacher and I thought) a future artist, I was often chided for working on too small a scale: I would take a big, 16" x 20" sheet of paper and make a tiny drawing right at the center. At the time I coped with Mr. Jones' demand to embiggen things by dividing the paper up into a square grid and filling in one square at a time. Now that I'm an independent adult, I simply make tiny little paintings. This is convenient for practical reasons, in that I have a tiny little studio and a tiny little bank account.

Mr. Jones would also sometimes circle the lower extremities of my figure studies, with a derisive HUMAN FEET??? scrawled in red ink. Hands, however, I had always excelled at. In fact, on the first day of sixth grade (I took art from Mr. Jones throughout both junior high and high school), our assignment was to draw our own hands, and mine was so realistic that he hung it up at the front to shame his advanced high school students. It was literally the first time I'd ever drawn anything from life; I've read of similar incidents in the lives of other people with autism disorders. Other body parts came less easily, but under his sarcastic tutelage I progressed steadily.

Now, throughout high school, as one advanced in the ways of art, I was suffered to work independently, and generally did pretty much as I pleased. My efforts were directed exclusively toward art, though a variety of extracurricular activities were pursued by my classmates. The art lab was in the vocational building, i.e., the outlands; it had once been a shop class, and possessed various storage rooms, locker rooms, and other dark and secret little corners. Among other things, the loft, up above the drop-ceiling tiles, was known as a good place to take a few tokes.

One day, when I was a freshman, Mr. Jones told me to go into the locker room, where freshmen were seldom allowed. Obeying, I found the ceiling lights turned off, and a pretty girl wearing a ruffled black-and-white polka dot bikini enthroned at the end of the room, brown hair pulled back in bouncing curls, basking in the glow of spotlights that set out her contours in warm chiaroscuro. She wasn't in our class, but had been commissioned, so to speak, for my personal instruction that day. She was a couple of grades ahead of me, just to add a little extra spice to the experience.

We were alone in the room the entire period. As far as I can recall I said not a word to her, though she tried to engage me in conversation several times. I'd drawn more male figures than I could count, but I'd never drawn a female. I was pleased with the result. The girl came over afterward and examined my work. She was less pleased, and complained bitterly to Mr. Jones.

He laughed heartily and said, "Yes, Raphael draws what he sees." I still don't know whether he was commenting on me or the girl.

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