Wednesday 25 March 2015

Old Sketchbook Portrait Drawings

When I was looking for the cityscape sketches in my old sketchbooks prior to painting "Fractured City", I came across loads of sketches of people (family & friends) where I had used a variety of media. Here is a sample:

This is a pencil drawing of one of my sisters from a 1981 sketchbook. Her bed was next to mine, so I have loads of "Sleeping Dee Dee" drawings.

This is another sketch of my sister Dee Dee, this time awake. It is done in bue pencil crayon, perhaps I wanted to be atmospheric - but it is the only time I have ever used blue pencil crayon to sketch! The sketch is dated Aug 6 1981.

This pen sketch of my brother-in-law, Paddy, is dated May 16 1981, and was drawn while in the back seat of the car on the way to Pearson Int'l Airport in Toronto. One of my older sisters, Geni, her husband and baby daughter, Jesse, were returning to Ireland to live (at least Paddy & Geni were!).

Using a regular pen I wanted to show the form of the cat, Yoko, in my friend Sandy's arms. The sketch is dated July 21 1981.


This is a watercolour sketch of my friend Jay, June 27 1983.

This sketch of my (now) husband James was done in our first home in Ireland, Darby's Bridge, Co. Kerry in April 1994. Since I abhor "brown" I doubt I was using pencil crayon, more likely conté.

A pencil sketch of my husband from August 2001, reading in bed, at our first home in Bray, Co. Wicklow.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Fractured City - painting finished!

As I posted in early February that I was going to paint a cityscape on the large composite canvas, I got to work on it! Here it is in the early stages with the composition blocked out.

I applied metal leaf at an early stage of the painting.

I really enjoyed painting this cityscape, for the most part quite loosely. There is some randomness in the way the drips reacted around the various bits of texture which I had applied before getting into the swing of painting (newsprint, cloth, string, rough burlap and metal leaf). You can see some of this in the detail -- here is a detail from the bottom right corner of the painting.

This is a detail from the mid-left side of the painting.

This detail shows some of the rough burlap texture in the sky area.

This is the finished painting: Fractured City, mixed media on canvas, approx 122 cm x 169 cm, 2015.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Rome 3 - Basilica San Clemente

Before my first visit to Rome in 1999, I had read about Basilica San Clemente and put it on my "must see" list. It was not a disappointment and a return visit definitely a requirement of my recent trip. In the late 1600s the basilica was granted to the Irish Dominican order because of religious persecution in Ireland, and this still seems to be a Roman pilgrimage site for the Irish to this day. Further information on the basilica and its history can be found here. The upper level, "modern" church is beautiful and has an outside garden area. There are several frescoes or beginnings of frescoes -- elegant line drawings on a wall towards the back of the church. Photography is not allowed in the church and my postcard of one of these drawings will not show up in a scan. I was unable to find images of these under drawings online  (there are 2) so please do take my word for it!

Below the newer basilica is the older 4th century basilica! It is very thrilling to walk back through time by walking downstairs. Much of this hallway was familiar to me from my previous visit, but I was amazed at how much had been newly excavated in 16 years.

I love the walls where finds were placed willy-nilly after excavations in the 1800s. I am sure this earlier way of dealing with finds horrifies contemporary archaeologists, but I think it makes for a fascinating display.

In 2005 apparently, a number of frescoes were restored in the old basilica so they were totally new to me. There is now better lighting (still atmospherically dim), footpaths and didactics to explain what is on view. This is a depiction of the Descent of Christ into Limbo/The Harrowing of Hell and is believed to be a portrait (left) of St Cyril. The tomb with which this fresco is associated is believed to be St Cyril's tomb.

The didactic to this fresco told a very complicated and funny story of a Christian visiting a home and the master of the house (who was later converted and became a saint) was infuriated at this religious transgression and called the Roman guards to remove him from his home. Everyone got confused and the soldiers struggled to arrest a column. The master of the house told them to "put their backs into it" while the Christian made his escape. There was another fresco with an equally amusing story of a hermit who returned home to work as a servant for his family who did not recognise him till he died. Meanwhile, he made his home with them for many years, living under the stairs.

On the level below the old basilica lies the Mithraeum. One is not allowed in this room so viewing is from a window structure. It would be nice to get a closer look at the altar and the sculpture behind it. The Mithraic temple's footprint is smaller than the basilica, but there is also wall evidence of other buildings and in one of the "rooms" one can hear the water running from a still-working Roman aqueduct.

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Rome 2 - ruins

You cannot go to Rome without seeing the vast history overlapping itself and modernity. Though the forum is more crowded these days (put a price on it and tourists will flock?) one cannot help but be fascinated. On the Via Sacra, the main road going through the forum, the very large facade of the Temple of Antoninus & Faustina is clearly visible. You can see that there was a church built onto it later.

The Basilica of Maxentius is so impressive, especially when you consider that these large arches would have been to the side of the basilica. This basilica can easily be compared to St. Peter's, Vatican City, for scale. I have a book that I bought on my first trip to Rome which is really helpful for visualisation: photographs of sites have flippable overlays which illustrate the site as it would have appeared in its heyday! I love this book!

All that remains of the circular Temple of Vesta in the forum. I was a bit disappointed that there are barriers to go along with the better footpaths in the forum, so I didn't have the freedom to wander among the ruins as I did on my first trip. But perhaps "disappointed" is too big a word, as walking this close to these ruins will always be an amazing experience.

I was taking a good look at the Arch of Septimius Severus and was curious about this "angel" with the soldier's uniform on a stick, My daughter had the interesting suggestion that it could represent soldiers doing the will of the gods, like puppets. Another possibility is that it is Victory (Nike figures in Roman iconography have wings) displaying the armour of the vanquished. On the bases of victory columns (such as Trajan's Column, the Column of Marcus Aurelius, etc) the armour of the defeated armies is depicted. I went back to the other arches in the forum, the Arch of Constantine and the Arch of Titus, to find that the same motif recurs.

On another day it was lovely to stroll by some other ruins which have had some reconstruction work done. There are two remaining temples from the original Forum Boarium, one of the earliest Roman river port facilities (Portus Tiberinus). This circular temple is often attributed to Vesta but  apparently research has shown that it more likely the Temple of Hercules Victor, dating from the 2nd c BCE. When taking a closer look at the nearby rectangular temple (also in good nick, restoration/renovation work having been done) I noticed part of a modern sign visible through a window. I could read "ecola" and wondered if a university "school of archaeology" had access to the buildings. They were clearly locked with modern locks.

Walking further up this road (parallel to the river, between the river and the forum) one comes upon the remains of the Theatre of Marcellus (begun by Julius Caesar and finished by Augustus; Augustus dedicated it to his nephew & heir, Marcellus) and three columns of the Temple of Apollo. The beauty of this site is its easy access, and as you can see by the photo, the rarity of tourists.

Continuing a stroll, in the direction of Campo de Fiori, is the Area Sacra. This forum is below ground, with limited access (only at certain times) and is a cat sanctuary. Apparently Rome is famous for cats everywhere, but we only saw two at the Colosseum and counted thirteen here; we saw no others. One of the four temples at Area Sacra is the site of Julius Caesar's murder and wreaths are still lain in his memory.

Sunset is a lovely time to view the Imperial Fora (across the road from Forum Romanum, aka the forum).These fora were built by/dedicated to Julius, Augustus, Domitian, Nerva and Trajan. There is limited access to Trajan's Forum at certain times, but all fora, including Trajan's Column, can be viewed from street level (i.e., looking down into fora and in the case of Trajan's Column looking both down and up!).