In the early dawn of the fourth day, Erran was awakened by a puff of warm air across his cheek.
He rolled over and found himself gazing into the dark eyes of a young woman. Waves of brown hair fell over her shoulders and around his face as she smiled at him.
“Good morning,” she murmured.
Well, the Circuit Minister finally arrived.
And so has Chapter 4, after a hiatus for backstage issues. It tells the story of Erran Fox’s roughest day so far – and was this writer’s roughest chapter so far as well. Questions fill Erran’s head as discrepancies emerge in the villagers’ claims, and the pressure on him mounts.
It’s been a while, so visit the Index to revisit the earlier chapters here: Index of Chapters.
Happy Year of the Water Rabbit, on the Chinese lunar calendar!
This morning, I finished my first art of the year, “Rabbit and Moon” (working title; I may change it).
It’s about 9 x 12 inches, on paper, mixed media – watercolor, graphite, and ink. The asemic writing in the upper right corner is actually my real, gloriously illegible handwriting, turned on its end. This time I’m quoting Robert Frost, a line from “Mending Wall” (1914):
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding to please the yelping dogs
In the verse containing that line, Frost talks about going out in spring with his neighbor to repair the damage that happens to their boundary wall over the winter, including the vandalism of hunters who knock down the stones to flush out their prey, because “they would have the rabbit out of hiding.” (Click here for the full text, off-site.)
That poem also gives us the famous line, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Frost’s neighbor repeats that saying, and the poet Frost wonders why good neighbors need fences at all. Shouldn’t they be able to rely on their mutual understanding?
Myself, I’m a little on the fence about that (har-har), but I do appreciate that, even though Frost might not like the barrier between people, by mending the wall, he’s evening the odds for the rabbits.
Jumping back from West to East, Chinese astrology says that the Water Rabbit brings in peaceful, patient, and creative energies and encourages us to rely on our inner wisdom and trust our instincts. We should approach this year’s challenges calmly and rationally, and be kind and considerate to each other and to ourselves.
Water Rabbit Year 2023 could turn out to be all about good neighbors – having them and being them. Just remember that the barriers that delineate our personal boundaries are best when everyone finds safety in them – us and the rabbits.
Three new abstracts I made this fall. Let’s take a walk through them.
Abstract Landscape 8
Watercolor and ink, half painting, half monotype print, 5 x 7 inches. I printed Prussian blue over a dilute Prussian wash, then incised color with a palette knife. It’s one of my more purely abstracted things, but you know me – I can’t really do abstracts. To me, this small painting suggests city lights reflected in water.
Abstract Landscape 9
Watercolor and ink. 9 x 12 inches. Definitely a seascape, to my eye, winter, the surf viewed through dried grasses. What do you think?
Abstract Landscape 10
Mixed media – watercolor, pastel, and collage, 12 x 9 inches. In this one, I altered the original abstract watercolor to pick out the image I saw in it – a pine forest, full of mist pierced by light.
My series of abstract landscapes get at the heart of my creative practice. They’re about following and exploring, not directing the process. They’re about finding the images that resonate most naturally with me, like a kind of Rorschach test to reveal how I see the world.
These three works will be in my shop in a couple of days.
Also coming up, Chapter 4 of An Alchemy of Dragons, and a gift for all of you, connected to a Yuletide painting in progress.
…woke Erran in the early dawn on his second day in Chesny Wold.
His meeting with the wyvern the day before had been brief, dominated by beak and teeth, colorful head frills, huge eyes rising above him on a snake-ish neck, and shrieks like a hundred raging harpies. Finding the human amongst the leftovers of its meal, the wyvern had sought no introduction, but lunged straightaway. Erran instinctively dropped down among the deer bones, rolled under the trunk of a fallen tree, and froze behind it.
The massive head did not appear above him, and after about a minute of listening to angry thrashing and growling, Erran took a deep breath and a chance. He jumped up and shot his arrow into the bushes. The beast’s head whipped around after the sound, and Erran took off in the opposite direction, leaving the wyvern entangled in brambles.
It had been encounter enough, though, and he had spent most of that night in the caravan in the stable yard of the Old Ram, going through his books and crafting spells.
Now, summoned by the incessant knocking, he climbed from his bed, shaking papers from the blankets, and stepped out to find most of the Chesny Council with more questions and complaints.
He could at least tell them what kind of dragon it was.
“It’s a blood wyvern,” he said, rubbing his eyes.
“A what?” was the chorused response.
Things go downhill from there for Erran Fox, Ranger of the Beast Goddess.
The illustrations for An Alchemy of Dragons draw on traditional Celtic patterns and Medieval illuminations. I got on a bit of a roll this month, and also added another illustration to Chapter 2, along with ornamental section separators in all the chapters, copied from 14th century French manuscripts.
Chesny Wold was a soft land of green meadows dotted with flowers. The undulating terrain rose and dipped like waves in motion. They had landed near one of the Temple’s shrines, a water hole circled by standing stones carved with Nimrie’s symbols. All creatures might stop here as they pleased and be blessed by the place’s sacred aura. Yet no beasts grazed these pastures, as far as Erran could see.
Nearby in one direction, a line of trees marked a road, and in another, a soft sound and a fresh, earthy smell suggested a swift-running stream. Over one hill rose a faint haze of chimney smoke. On the slopes and ridge of another stood a dark mass that seemed to resist the dawn. Shadow and tension radiated into the air above it like a different kind of smoke.
“I would keep clear of that place, brother,” a voice called out.
News! I was recently interviewed for The Somerville Times by poet, publisher, and arts editor, Doug Holder. We touched on my personal history, my creative process in art and writing, and my sources of inspiration.
It’s perhaps a little more of a glimpse behind the curtain than I often give out, and I’m excited to share it with you all. It’s drawing me out of my burrow, as it were, just a bit.
I’d like to thank Doug for his kind interest in my work and for asking wonderful questions that made it easy for a recluse like me to talk about myself.
Pareidolia is the tendency to see specific, meaningful images in random or ambiguous patterns.
I like to pick out order from chaos. And I like to go a-wandering, and find random things of meaning.
Uncontrollable media like water are good for me because the randomness breaks my perfectionism. They force me to cede some control and to find a rapport with accidental occurrences and effects. They make me listen and look. Rather than obsessively planning every detail of an artwork – and I can get real obsessive – by following the movements of fluid media, I feel like I am receiving art brought to me by the universe.
It seems the universe brings me a lot of landscapes. I guess I have nature on the brain.
Here are four new abstract landscapes in watercolor, all 9 x 5.75 inches. In all of them, I randomly messed about with paint, water, brushes and tools, and then considered the results from various angles to find the views that emerged in the drying. Two of them work so well in different orientations that, rather than pick one, I signed them on all the sides I liked.
Maybe a seascape – waves on a beach? I enjoy the play of color and the storminess of it.
Definitely a seascape. Is there a figure, perhaps walking along a sandbar at low tide?
Two for one. In one orientation, it’s rolling hills, with perhaps a pond, and distant buildings. In another orientation, it’s a forest.
Abstract Landscape 4a, b, c, d. Four! Count ‘em – four coherent images on one piece of paper. I see a sort of darkening, perhaps twilight, marshy view, then a forest, then heavy rain over what might be a farmhouse, and finally another forest view.
Drop a comment and let me know where these images take you. And how do you feel when something random – a cloud, a pattern of light through curtains, whatever it may be – suddenly connects with you and tells a story?
This one is about the gifts the universe sends us, the treasures we pass by on the road.
The moon was particularly beautiful over Somerville last night, when the storm clouds parted. It was bright enough to light my room, overcoming the street lamps. The wet air smelled of spring.
By the way, we call April’s moon the Pink Moon, not because it looks pink, but because it’s the month for pinks, the flower, to bloom. Indeed, my city is filling up with flowers now.
I repurposed one of my blue landscapes for this collage. Sometimes an image has more to say, and I will often revisit older pieces that seem like they want to go in a different direction. In fact, I won’t let go of a piece until I’m sure it is what it wants to be.