Saturday, May 5, 2012

Work in Progress
I'm on a painting spree right now, since one of the causes I'm involved in needs to raise money.  This wooden large jewelry-type box, once finished, ought to add a little to the proceeds.  Every artist has a different inspiration and process, so I thought I'd write a little about mine. I want to help other would-be painters and crafters get their creative juices flowing!

My original inspiration for this medieval ladies' picnic came from an illustrated history of music my mother had bought.  The figure on the left came from an early painting of Tristan and Isolde sharing a picnic.  I had some other attractive pictures of medieval ladies to make a completely new scene.  The top image was inspired by a Louis Read drawing of Queen Guinevere going a-maying.  When Borders went out of business, I got a wonderful book of King Arthur illustrations on sale.

The bottom image came from a book on manuscript painting - also one of my mother's.  This particular painting was rather a rarity - an illuminated translation of an Arabic book on medicine.  In the original, the lady is serving orgeat, a type of barley water, to a gentleman with heartburn.  That's probably one of the few medieval cures that's harmless!  The water-filled box beside her I found in a couple of sources.  Apparently this was the medieval answer to an ice chest.  You put your drink jars in a water filled box for outdoor eating.  If a stream was convenient to your picnic site, you simply set the box in the stream.

The fourth image required to balance the painting (and the picnic, since she has the food) is adapted from a photo of Maria Callas in the gentle La Sonombula.  I outfitted her in a costume from Il Pirata to look medieval.  Most folks don't know that Callas grew up in Occupied Greece during World War II and in her teen years often helped organize the bread distribution.

One thing about medieval costume - I was trained to be a stickler for historic accuracy in writing, but I've discovered you can't do that with costume.  No matter how many sources you consult, you can never find a complete set of costumes for any particular time and place in the Middle Ages.  One of the paintings I'm working on has a couple from the 13th Century dancing to the music of a couple from 1490.  Nobody will know the difference; they both look "medieval".  Likewise, literary illustrations and stage costumes depict whatever the painters and costumers thought was appropriate.  It's not necessarily accurate.

I don't worry about copyrights on any of my models.  Wherever I get my inspiration, the originals aren't cats.

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