British Mythology/Folklore – Art Project

I’ve structured my days now to help me with my efforts to self-teach different aspects of the art that I wish to learn; the aspects that I have decided to learn are anatomy, figure studies, drawing in many aspects such as observational, still life and drapery, perspective, architecture, and again human form. I also spend time trying different techniques with watercolour paints and I’m slowly experimenting with oil paint; which ultimately will be my medium of choice.

I also have more theoretical subjects to learn and my rotor for those at the moment consists of symbolism in art, colour theory and artist research. Those are the artsy theoretical readings, I’m also always researching history, reading about the ancient Romans in particular and I’m presently reading a book about King Charles I which I will review once finished; as well as Greek mythology, these last few are more for inspirational reasons.

However the reason for that two paragraphs of information is that every month I intend to issue myself a project to work on alongside these other subjects to keep me motivated in creating my own work rather than just all work and no play, I therefore intend to create at least one final work for each project I give myself. I’m thinking ahead a bit here as I don’t intend to issue myself this project until 5th July; that said though, I can here announce my umbrella theme which others will fall under.

My main theme, the subject of artwork that I intend to create for the foreseeable future is British myth, legend and folklore. As an enthusiastic reader of the work of J.R.R Tolkien, it’s my understanding that he created his body of literature around the basis of giving Britain a mythology of its own, one to rival the Greeks and even outdo them in the long run (let’s face it, we’ve all heard of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf and Gollum; how many average people can name four Greek deities). This thought process inspired Tolkien to create the most incredibly well crafted epic fantasy saga that was bursting at the seams with richness and remains the most influential piece of literature of the modern age (that’s my opinion I’m not certain how it stands nowadays with Game of Thrones growing as much as it has). I am of a similar vision, but what I intend to do is bring to life and recreate the existing British mythology and interpret it into a series of visual narratives, both figurative and landscape and breathe new life into our forgotten history.

There is already a wealth of subject matter available to me to work with, more than enough to ensure I’m kept busy for the rest of my life in fact, and who knows, one day I may even start writing my own mythologies and legends of British history, but that’s an idea for a time in the far off future yet. My main inspiration for British myth/legend/folklore/history is the Arthurian legend. Some historians say he lived, others say he didn’t, most scholars deny his existence because of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s fabrications. I stand in an area where I do believe he existed, just that the story of his existence has been contorted somewhat over the centuries since his age, akin to Chinese whispers these legends grow and have bits added and taken away to the current point where some people are expecting Arthur’s second coming; elevating this long dead king to the status of the son of God. The most convincing and realistic telling of the Arthurian legend, albeit a work of historical fiction, was the brilliant saga of books written by Jack Whyte A Dream of Eagles (original series title in Canada) or Camulod Chronicles (USA series title) or Legends of Camelot (UK series title). Without going into too much detail about this incredible series of books on this post, here’s the link to a short review I wrote about them previously.

With Arthurian legend being my main source of inspiration however, I don’t intend to just limit myself to being known as a painter of Arthurian legend, like I said I want to revive as much of British mythology as I can so I’ll also be focusing on other areas as well, it’s just the that Arthur story is the one I am most drawn to.

All that said then, my next post will probably be before my scheduled post, and will be to announce the exact nature of the project I intend to create. I will post everything related to my project including sketches, research, thoughts and such and then follow all that up with the final piece that I create. So if you have happened to stumble across this post, then please check back every fortnight or so to see updates and some new artwork.

Until next time…..

JG

Featured Image: Edward Burne-Jones – The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon – 1881-1898

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Regular Posting – Every Other Wednesday

After some deliberation and creating a structured layout of my days and weeks I have now claimed every other Wednesday to be a day for me to regularly post on here. This will begin as of this Wednesday when I add a post that I’m yet to write.

I’m aware that the blogger 101 posts say that posting about posting or not posting is usually not a done thing, but this is for my benefit more than anything else really as now that I’ve stated it, I am more inclined to commit to it.

So…. Expect a post from me every other Wednesday beginning Wednesday 24th June!

JG

The River Seine – Paris

The River Seine - Paris
The River Seine – Paris

After everything had quietly sifted through my head a great peace came over me. Here, where the river gently winds through the girdle of hills, lies a soil so saturated with the past that however far back the mind roams one can never detach it from its human background. Christ, before my eyes there shimmered such a golden peace that only a neurotic could dream of turning his head away. So quietly flows the Seine that one hardly notices its presence. It is always there, quiet and unobtrusive, like a great artery running through the human body. In the wonderful peace that fell over me it seemed as if I had climbed the top of a high mountain; for a little while I would be able to look around me, to take in the meaning of the landscape. – Henry Miller

February 20th 2014, the day after me and my better half were wed, we headed off on the Eurostar to Paris to spend a few days in the city of romance; the beauty of this place is absolutely undeniable and it’s a place I will definitely visit again before long.

We did the usual tourist stuff, going up the Eiffel Tower, visiting the Musée du Louvre (obviously), Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame and the various other attractions that must be visited when in this city; but once place that I became totally besotted with is this simple river, the Seine. The reality of it is that it’s just a river, quite polluted albeit not as bad as the Thames of the Tiber, but at the end of the comparisons in many people’s eyes it’s still just a river. For me it was more than that, something about the way this particular river flowed, the way sunlight glimmered off of the surface, turning “just a river” into a body of fluently flowing beauty and elegance.

Another shot of the Seine
Another shot of the Seine

We came down to this particular spot for a little while everyday that we were in Paris; our hotel being only a 5 minute walk from the Eiffel Tower made this location very easy to get to. To spend time here was an experience that I’ll never forget, it made me feel at one with the environment and in tune with the natural elements of such a built up area; unlike the millions of tourists flocking around with cameras constantly glued to their faces, sometimes it’s nice to take some time and appreciate a place, take in everything around, the view, the smells, the sounds and let your brain record that information. This makes a much stronger more vivid memory than just a photograph; but they obviously help for a visual recording of what you have seen and to make one able to share a memory or the view of a memory with others as I am doing now.

On our last night in Paris we decided to take a river boat cruise as the sun was setting, it was a 2 hour cruise along the Seine and as a person that’s not overly keen on boats or ships I was in my absolute element; this was without a doubt my favourite time on water that I’ve ever experienced; an 8 hour voyage across the North sea during winter season being the worst.

I’ll add some photographs that I took now to show the aesthetics of the river cruise.

River Cruise, Seine, Paris - Photograph taken by Josh Glover

The Eiffel Tower looking absolutely amazing when it's lit up
The Eiffel Tower looking absolutely amazing when it’s lit up

Seine at Night - Photograph by Josh Glover

The Louvre from the Seine - Photograph by Josh Glover

River Seine at Night - Photograph by Josh Glover

Not being a photographer and at the time these photographs were taken I hadn’t had any lessons in photography, combined with the fact that I just used a standard Fujifilm Finepix digital camera; the photographs that I took were not of the best quality and it worsened as it got darker. Truth be told though I spent more time using my senses than the camera and that’s how I prefer to capture a moment, but these photographs can still show the beauty of this place and it’s somewhere that’s got to be visited at least once in a lifetime.

JG

Coffee Comes to Europe, 1615

Coffee Comes to Europe, 1615 - Coffee on Canvas Board - 16" x 20"
Coffee Comes to Europe, 1615 – Coffee on Canvas Board – 16″ x 20″

By the 17th Century, coffee had made its way to Europe and was becoming increasingly popular across the whole continent. The opposition were overly cautious, calling this new beverage from the Arab lands the “bitter invention of Satan”. With the arrival of coffee to Venice in 1615, the local clergy immediately condemned it; causing a controversy so great that Pope Clement VIII was asked to intervene. The Pope decided to try the beverage before making his decision and he found the drink so satisfying that he gave it Papal approval.

In relation to my identity and following the theme “Who are you?”,  I wanted to create a piece of work that not only told a story, but also related and described my own personality through symbolism, thus creating an artwork with two meanings.

The painting that I created is a narrative piece and was painted entirely using coffee as my medium. It depicts when coffee first came to Europe, arriving in Venice in 1615 aboard a merchant ship, awaited and opposed by the clergy. This entire piece is full of symbolism pertaining to who I am and my identity, so I’ll have to break it down into further parts.

Coffee as a medium Every single morning of my life is centred around one very important, and never-changing ritual, coffee. It begins every single morning of my life and continues on into the day. That being the case, plus with the exhibition being set up on a table in the college Atrium Café, it made sense to me to use coffee as my medium to paint with. In my research of coffee I delved into the history and discovered plenty of opportunities to create a narrative painting, which is my favourite form of art, art that tells a story.

Venice I decided to base my narrative in Venice as this is where coffee came into Europe and the story behind it really appealed to me to create a narrative scene of. Also, I have a very deep fondness of Italy and it is intrinsic to a lot of what I do, to the point that my love of Italy is almost an obsession, this made my choice of story to tell very easy and enjoyable at the same time. My scene is based at Riva Degli Schiavoni, with the isle of San Maggiore faded in the distance across the entrance to Venice’s Grand Canal.

The Clergy – The clergy, depicted standing on a small jetty, in opposition of the merchant ship bringing coffee to port, are symbolic of the opposition I feel I face with artwork, whether real or imagined it seems that in the Contemporary art industry, traditional painting and values are frowned upon and neglected, whilst Conceptual art, Installation and challenging conventions is what is the art that wins awards and sells.

Whilst the clergy show how close I feel to opposition, the distant view of the church San Giorgio di Maggiore shows how far I feel from salvation, not in a religious sense but a metaphorical one, in the industry I’m entering.

Myself – I depicted myself literally into this painting as well; situated to the right of the narrative scene I am sitting in a small boat, sketching the scene before me into a book. This shows my personality, my introversion, close by and very aware of the events unfolding around me and sketching what I see; at the same time situated solitarily, alone but comfortable to be so, concentrating on what I’m seeing and analysing it onto the paper.

This is the first piece of work that I have created entirely how I want to and have been able to project a narrative through which not only tells a story, but describes aspects of myself within it.

This work was exhibited at the Atrium Café for the day in my first real exhibition and the feedback that I received was incredible, very encouraging comments were made and a lot of interest was shown in both the work itself and the meanings behind it.

JG