October 28, 2012

Goethe Twice Cooked

During my protracted illness, there were two other things besides my drawing that kept me distracted from unpleasant symptoms: reading and watching videos. When my symptoms weren’t screaming at me, I was even able to tackle more complicated literature and used my disabled time at home to read some classics. I read My Antonia, first. Then I vaguely recall the Eugene O’Neil plays. The classic Russian novel, Oblamov, got me through the cruel winter. And Ann of Green Gables - the entire series made the 2012 spring of incessant muscle wrenching nerve firing survivable. When my concentration and attention span was quite poor, I read Tales from a Chinese Studio, since each tale was a page or less in length. And the wood-cut illustrations to the Tales, were small gems.

This autumn I am reading Goethe’s Faust. I still recall some of my German so it is fun to go back and forth from the German and English. I was quite taken by a scene in Faust that took place in the home of a witch. The scene described two Meerkatzen, or long-tailed monkeys, taking care of a bubbling cauldron of witch’s brew. It so happened that in one of my sketch books from my travels in Europe I had drawn two monkeys. I remember that they weren’t done from life but were from a detail in a much larger painting. I always loved the life in the margins of greater works.

Taking this sketch of monkeys, I fleshed them out a bit and gave them a new coat of fur. I added a cauldron and a background both gleaned from Chinese bronzes. And voila - they now illustrate a scene from Goethe’s Faust. I post it in celebration of Halloween week.

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