Monday, June 22, 2020

St. Melangell and the prince

Wales.  6th century.
Melangell is praying in the woods where she lives as a hermit.
Prince Brochwel is hunting on his land, annoyed because he has been out all day without running across any game.
Finally, late in the day, the dogs catch the scent of a hare and give chase.  But what gives?  The hare is hiding in the folds of Melangell's dress, and the hounds, cowed by her peacefulness, refuse to do what they have been brought along to do: grab that hare.

The density of the greenery was fun to play with.  The dogs are taken from modern hunting dogs.  It is likely that sixth century hunting dogs would not have been as uniform in size and shape as the ones they breed now especially for hunting particular game.
The prince would have hunted with a bow and arrow, but would have had a knife, and possibly some other tools as well.  He seems not to have taken a servant with him on this expedition.

Melangell is a true woman of God, and her prayer is so deep that she is unaware of the dogs, or the approaching prince until he accosts her.

May I learn to pray like that.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

St. Modomnoc published in the Valyermo Chronicle

Modomnoc on his way to the boat that will carry him home to Ireland
It's nice to have some of my stories published, even if they are not exactly in the format I set them up for.  Fr. Aelred, who puts together the quarterly magazine for St. Andrew's Abbey, was asking one day if there were female oblates who had work to put into the magazine.  I happened to be there, and asked him if he would entertain the idea of stories, rather than nonfiction articles.  He said Yes, and to send them to him electronically.  When he received them he said he would very much like to publish one.  So that happened last summer.  Then before Christmas he said he would like to put another one into the Winter issue.  I had to scurry to get pictures ready, but a deadline is always useful.  I got this picture and one other done for the Winter issue, to go with the two pictures already finished.

The magazine arrived in our mailbox yesterday.  Considering that the format I planned on is a book with 8.5" x 10" pages, and the Chronicle pages are 5.5" x 8.5", the words and pictures came out quite well.

This is the story of St. Modomnoc, a 7th century Irish lad who goes to Wales to study for the priesthood, and is made beekeeper for the abbey.  He makes such a deep and loving connection with the bees that when it is time for him to go back to Ireland,  all the bees follow him there.   

This image is of a specific place in Wales, a beach near Menevia Abbey where Modomnoc studied. It seems like the most likely place where Modomnoc's boat would have left from. 

Saturday, January 25, 2020


Illustrating a story is different from making a picture, which is different from being a good draw-er.  I was always a good draw-er, so I thought I could illustrate.  It turns out that the essential skill is only the first step, and not even absolutely necessary at that.  In fact, it can be a detriment because a person who is confident that their work looks good may tend to lean too heavily on how attractive the image is, and not delve into the internal issuesof storytelling.  How does the picture express the feel of the story?  How does it tell something that the words don't or can't tell?  How does the picture fit into the placement of text on the page?  How many pictures does a story need?  What events in the story do you choose to illustrate?  How do you make each page beautiful in itself?  (That was one of Seth's main considerations when he was making his comic book pages.)

It has taken me ten years of struggling with the process and the discipline to even begin to formulate these questions.  Clearly I am a slow learner.

But little by little I am making images for the stories I want to tell, and putting them together.  It's only by actually DOING that a person learns these things.  Without doing it, I think you always think that the rules don't actually apply to you.  You think your work is above, or at least outside the rules.  Learning humility seems to be a vital part of this process.
Here's an illustration for the story of Martin de Porres and the mice.  Initially the picture did not have pots or shelves in the background, and Martin did not have the tonsure (that peculiar monk's haircut).  I was just throwing out pictures for certain segments of the story, without seeing how it all fit together.  But, then I reread a book I have on Martin, and rewrote the story so that it was more true to his life, and was going to toss this picture.  I did however like the structure of the picture, how his finger and the mice are all pointed toward one place, and decided I could still use it if it were altered.  
Now it seems to fit better as the final image in the story.  

From now on, however, I'd like to make most of the images blend into the page a little bit more, and not be so very rectangular.  That's Seth's influence.