Saturday, 21 April 2012

Two Hand Reel

sketch "Two Hand Reel"
© Teresa Newham 2012

By now the days are lengthening fast and the increased amount of daylight urges me towards watercolour.  But this year I've had a particular dilemma - apart from my little Easter card, I haven't painted in watercolour since last July.  And what to paint?  Lack of practice means loss of technique, which leads to loss of confidence.  Then I remembered a sketch made in Ireland two years ago - and some photos - all involving figures which I'd intended to use to develop paintings of people.  I dug them out, and went in search of the piece of cardboard I pin my "inspirations" to.  During the house move this had been shoved in with a pad of tinted watercolour paper bought when I attended a life drawing in colour short course at Central St Martins, and never used.  The same short course which had prompted me to make that sketch and take those photos . . . !

source material & colour try-out
© Teresa Newham 2012

 I was clearly on the right track.  Aware that I'd not used this paper before, I chose some colours I thought might be appropriate and tried them out on a sample of oatmeal paper, using a photo taken at the same set dancing session as a general guide to the colour (the girls in the sketch are in the background of the photo).   Then I soaked the watercolour paper and taped it to a board to stretch and dry it.  This was really going back to Central St Martins basics, and felt extremely satisfying! 

Two Hand Reel - the finished painting
© Teresa Newham 2012

To get the figures right, I enlarged the sketch on my printer and traced it onto the paper, realising as I did so that I would have to introduce more figures to put the original two in context.  Rather than having the dancers suspended in mid air, I tried to give a sense of the floor of the community centre in Portmagee, and the bunting hanging from the ceiling.  And because it is only a study, I managed to lay the entire thing down in one session!

Two Hand Reel - cropped
© Teresa Newham 2012

However, it wasn't until I took some photos of the finished article for this blog, that I realised the top and the bottom of the picture aren't necessary.  Cropped tight it looks completely different - and cropped tighter even more so.  Guess I'll have to think about that one!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

a reflection for Easter

Jesus said to her "Mary."
John 20:16
original watercolour © Teresa Newham 2012

For this year's Easter card I turned to John's Gospel. It takes a different approach to the other three Gospels - they tell Jesus' story  as it happened, stressing various elements for their particular audiences: followers of Jesus amongst the Jews (Matthew), the Romans (Mark) and the Gentiles (Luke). John was writing in the contemplative tradition - his Gospel was known in the ancient church as the "spiritual" Gospel, and is full of rich imagery.  John also - albeit discreetly - tells us that he is an eyewitness to the events of Christ's life, passion and resurrection.  He has enough standing within the Jewish community of Jerusalem to be allowed to witness Jesus' trial;  from the Cross Jesus charges John with the responsibility of taking care of His Mother (by implication extending God's family beyond natural blood ties to encompass us all).

The other Gospels tell us that on the first Easter Sunday some women came to Jesus' tomb.  John chooses to focus on Mary Magdalene.  Arriving at the tomb, she sees that the stone placed there to protect it has been rolled back, and hurries to tell Peter and John.  For those of us brought up on the story of Jesus, it's easy to forget how they must have felt at this point - we know what is going to happen.  But Mary and the disciples have had their world shattered. Jesus himself - whom they had seen do such loving and wonderful things, and who had given them such hope - humiliated and put to death for political ends.  Their own lives in danger.  What does Mary's news mean?  at this point, do they recall Jesus's words at the Last Supper: "A little while, and you will see me no more; again a little while, and you will see me"  (John 16:16)?

Peter and John running to the sepulchre on the morning of the Resurrection
Eugène Bernand 1898 - original at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris
This beautiful painting by Eugène Bernand perfectly depicts their situation.  They don't know what's happening.  John (traditionally beardless) is clearly praying as he runs. Can it be true?  Peter's sense of urgency is palpable.  John outruns Peter and arrives first at the tomb, but in deference to Peter's authority waits for him to go in first (allegorically Peter represents faith and John understanding; morally they represent the  active and contemplative missions of the church).  Jesus' body is gone. The grave-cloths are still there, so the tomb has not been burgled; grave-robbers would have taken the cloths and left the body.  What is happening? what should they do?  John tells us that the disciples went back to their homes.

Mary, however, stays behind, weeping.  Her love for Jesus leaves her rooted to the spot where she last saw His body;  she sees two angels sitting where the body had been but doesn't understand the implication of their question: "why are you weeping?" because Mary does not yet realise that there is no need to weep.  When Jesus appears to her she thinks He's the gardener and begs Him to let her have the body, convinced that she will be able to take it away and deal with it herself.  And then . . .

. . .  Jesus calls her by name, as He does each one of us.

Mary responds by crying out "Rabboni!" (Teacher) - this is how she has addressed Him in the past.  He replies "Do not hold [on to your old idea of] me" - because he is no longer as he was before - and sends her to tell the disciples that He is ascending to His Father in heaven.  So, according to  John, the first person to see the risen Christ is Mary Magdalene - a woman, and moreover, a woman with a past.  And when she returns to Jerusalem again, she is the first person to deliver the Good News, when she tells the disciples "I have seen the Lord".  By now, she knows who He is.

Easter blessings to you all!