Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What's next

Well, maybe never mind hiatus. I kind of feel like chatting with y'all.


Woke up late this morning, and realised that I had been unconsciously waiting for my little furry alarm clock to come in and walk on my head and demand her breakfast. The first moments of waking up are going to be confusing and difficult for a while.

Am I being dumb that I can't stand the idea of putting away her food dish?

For the last few months, Winnie had been having trouble jumping up onto the armchairs and sofa, so I built a little cat-ladder by piling cushions next to her favourite spots. I had become so used to straightening and restacking the cushions next to the chairs that I just found myself doing it again. I've put them away now.

Honestly, I feel terrible. And I feel dumb for feeling terrible. Not very British all this maudlin mooning about over a cat. (Though I think most British people would agree that cats are usually nicer than people.)


So, I've had quite an offer. The monks have said that I can sell my saint-paintings in their gift shop, and have even offered to let me collect some of the old (five hundred year-old) ceramic tiles from the ruined monastery they own and are slowly renovating and use them as the canvases for extra value-added awesomeness. I'm told the tourists will eat them up like chocolate pancakes. I am not going to call them icons, since icons are a very specific process and style that I know next to nothing about. They're just paintings of saints. With local wildflowers in the margins, like a manuscript, and maybe some local landscapes... with monks.

The fact that I haven't actually painted any saint-paintings seems not to have deterred Fr. Directore Spirituale one bit who seemed to be quite enthused about the idea. He said he'd seen my drawings and had every confidence. (And of course, if I can't do it or they're dreadful, they have the option of not putting them in the shop.)

Maybe it will just be tourist kitsch, but I'll do my best to make them nice. And if I practice long enough, and learn enough skills as I go along, maybe some of them will be thought of as art some day. But they will at the very least be genuine devotional items. Really made by an oblate of the monastery while praying and thinking about the saints and God and whatnot. He said that we can pitch them as being "by an oblate of the monastery who came to Norcia to live a more contemplative, semi-eremitical life." The tourists/pilgrims all have very romantic notions about monastic life, and think of hermits in the way you and I think of fairies and elves. I hope the reality doesn't disappoint. I'm working on my levitation skills.

I've been looking at and copying the saint-paintings of some of the medieval and early Renaissance masters. I think I like these better, for all their technical primitiveness, than the later polished glories of Leonardo and Michelangelo (and who has time for the silly overthetopness of the Baroque?) so I'm sticking with the medieval frescoes, of which, fortunately, there are quite a number all over town. Frankly, I see nothing wrong at all, at least at the beginning, with straight-up copying them. I've always loved miniatures and the lively and bright little paintings in the old manuscripts. I don't expect I will ever rise to the heights of the sublime Daniel Mitsui or the incredible technical prowess of Randy Asplund. But the thing is to get started. To paraphrase Bilbo, you never know where the road is going to take you.

I'm not sure what sort of materials one uses on ceramic and terracotta tile, but I figure I can try a few different things with what I've got in the art-cupboard and just see what works best. I've been up to the old monastery a few times, and the tiles are all over the place there, half buried in the soil, so there's no shortage of them to work out the details. But of course, I'm ready to hear from the experts. Now that I've not got Winnie to care for, I can take a little trip down to Florence to visit the Greatest Art Supply Shop in the World. I'll take a tile with me and just explain what I want to do and buy whatever they tell me to buy.



gracem said...

So very sorry about Winnie!!!

thetimman said...

Miss White,

I've enjoyed your writing for quite some time, and have also enjoyed the artwork you have shared on your blog. I'm a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart, the Third Order analogue of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. One of our primary co-patrons is Saint Benedict, and if you are willing I would be interested in a small devotional piece for our home altar.

If so, just let me know the best way to contact you privately. If not, accept my best wishes and prayers for your work.


Gerald said...

I'm particularly fond of the painterly photo of a certain monk on a certain chant CD being released this month...

I'm excited about this opportunity for you, Hilary. And if you need inspiration, check out the Umbrian school, whose masters are so dazzlingly represented in Spoleto, Gubbio, Todi, Assisi, Perugia and elsewhere. Drop me an email if you need advice getting to any of these places via public transport.

Dorothy B said...

I think I can safely guess that you gave your Winnie a really happy life. That’s a lovely memory to comfort yourself with. I hope you will not feel there is an “approved” way of getting over this sad event. There’s a great deal to be said for adjusting in as slow and piecemeal a way as you choose. Everyone is different in this.

What a fascinating new venture! Just the thing, both in its own terms and as a tonic.

a Christopher said...

Teracota sounds like a natural substrate for frescoe.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...


it kind of does to me too. I'm just going to take some of the fragments, give them a good scrubbing, dry em out and paint them over with gesso. See what happens.

Louise L said...

"Am I being dumb that I can't stand the idea of putting away her food dish?"

No way. I had difficulty posting on here the other day and you might not have got my email. But I have prayed for you because losing a pet is very sad. And life is hard enough as it is.

Louise L said...

I hope you have much painting success!

Maureen said...

There is nothing wrong with mourning the death of your cat. It is the right thing to do. I hope you will feel better soon.