Sunday, October 31, 2010

Medium: Pencils 2H and B

Medium: Pencils 2H and B

Medium: 3B Pencil

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Brother Mutien

The patron saints of musicians are:

Benedict Biscop
Genesius of Rome
Gregory the Great
Notkar Balbulus
Paul the Apostle

The patron saints of teachers are:

Cassian of Imola
Catherine of Alexandria
Francis de Sales
Gregory the Great
John Baptist de La Salle


The patron saints of artists are:

Fra Angelico
Catherine of Bologna
Luke the Apostle
Michael the Archangel

While the Church has saints for certain causes, one is permitted to pray to any saint for whatever cause, as one feels so inclined. In light of the vocations above, there is one modern saint who would be efficacious in helping for all three - St. Mutien-Marie Wiaux of Malonne (1841-1917, Belgium). To my knowledge he didn't compose any great piece of music, had no natural inclination for teaching at all, and didn't paint any masterpiece frescoes, not having a natural talent for art either. But he nonetheless came to excel in teaching the disciplines of music and art to students - and to become, by persevering, quite competent in both.

He "excelled", in that whatever he did, he made sure to do it well. For Mutien, to do it well was also to do it with unwavering exactitude and discipline. This is how unwavering: late in Mutien's life, a brother once approached one of the senior brothers, Brother Maixentis (these would be the Christian Brothers, or the Lasallian Brothers, formerly known as The Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, the largest Catholic order of religious brothers devoted to educating the young, founded by Saint Jean-Baptiste de la Salle, patron saint of teachers), and asked him about something he observed Brother Mutien doing. He noticed every morning at 9:00 Brother Mutien went to the music room and practiced on the harmonium. After some thought, trying to remember something long in the past, Brother Maixentis suddenly realized that it was fifty years ago, when Mutien began as his assistant, that he had told Mutien to practice his music each morning, and that he had forgotten to rescind this order. Not once over those fifty years did Mutien bring this up to Brother Maixentis; never forgetting to perform his morning practices, never asking to have it rescinded, not even a casual, 'should I continue with the morning practices?'

And this is how Brother Mutien came to win over students, by being the example of what they themselves should be: submitting humbly and steadfastly to a discipline; to give oneself over to it as a means of one's sanctification.

(Forget the clever cold hand of some Picasso; I would love to see the drawings from this brother's earnest and diligent hand.)

He was almost sent away after one year of teaching a classroom of nine-year-olds (his first year of teacher training college) because he was too gentle and not disciplinarian enough; his class was, it seems, a disaster - hence the chapter meeting to decide whether to send him away. He was only able to make his first vows because Brother Maixentis, who taught music and art, asked to have him appointed as his assistant.

It looks as if Brother Mutien did not become any more of a disciplinarian than he was before, but as implied above, won students over by his patience and piety and through applying himself to the disciplines which he taught. He was always praying, was always seen with rosary in hand, often saying Ave Marias. He once said he had asked Our Lady to be always at his side, and that he was in fact aware of her presence.

In a letter he wrote these words, as though straight from the mouth of St. Louis de Montfort:

"If you wish to find a short and easy path to intimate union with Our Lord, go through Mary. The more you love the Most Blessed Virgin, the more you will love her divine Son."

Yes, and do not neglect your small tasks and duties, I seem to hear the humble brother say; because they are claimed for eternity and are of infinite worth.

Biographical information and anecdotes taken from Modern Saints: Their Lives and Faces, Book Two, By Ann Ball

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Medium: Pencils 2H and HB and charcoal and I think F but I'm not quite sure as the pencil was at the nub past the part that tells what sort of pencil lead it is.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Medium: Pencils 2H and HB

Garden Sprawl Friday

Amid the devastation of the tomato plants, the pepper plants continue to hold up well. Jalapenos and Hungarian hot yellow wax peppers.

There are also some Bull's Horn peppers. The Hungarians started getting wee spots on them with the onset of Fall, but they're benign and not rot spots, so they're still edible - edible in the sense that you can eat them if you like your mouth scorching. But they have a sweetness too that you can taste when first biting; the heat comes after.

Medium: 3H and HB

Thursday, October 21, 2010

None for Fëanor

"It was golden like the hair of her father and of her foremother Indis, but richer and more radiant, for its gold was touched by some memory of the starlike silver of her mother; and the Eldar said that the light of the Two Trees, Laurelin and Telperion, had been snared in her tresses. Many thought that this saying first gave to Feanor the thought of imprisoning and blending the light of the Trees that later took shape in his hands as the Silmarils. For Feanor beheld the hair of Galadriel with wonder and delight. He begged three times for a tress, but Galadriel would not give him even one hair. These two kinsfolk [Galadriel and Feanor], the greatest of the Eldar of Valinor, were unfriends for ever." --Unfinished Tales, J.R.R. Tolkien

"'There is nothing, Lady Galadriel,' said Gimli, bowing low and stammering. 'Nothing, unless it might be - unless it is permitted to ask, nay, to name a single strand of your hair, which surpasses the gold of the earth as the stars surpass the gems of the mine. I do not ask for such a gift. But you commanded me to name my desire.'

The Elves stirred and murmured with astonishment, and Celeborn gazed at the Dwarf in wonder, but the Lady smiled. 'It is said that the skill of the Dwarves is in their hands rather than in their tongues,' she said; 'yet that is not true of Gimli. For none have ever made to me a request so bold and yet so courteous. And how shall I refuse, since I commanded him to speak? But tell me, what would you do with such a gift?'

'Treasure it, Lady,' he answered, 'in memory of your words to me at our first meeting. And if ever I return to the smithies of my home, it shall be set in imperishable crystal to be an heirloom of my house, and a pledge of good will between the Mountain and the Wood until the end of days.'

Then the Lady unbraided one of her long tresses, and cut off three golden hairs, and laid them in Gimli's hand. 'These words shall go with the gift,' she said. 'I do not foretell, for all foretelling is now vain: on the one hand lies darkness, and on the other only hope. But if hope should not fail, then I say to you, Gimli son of Gloin, that your hands shall flow with gold, and yet over you gold shall have no dominion.'" --The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Medium: Pencils 2H and HB

Prayer Request

Dear friends, I do not often make prayer requests here, but someone could really have the prayers right now. If you could, pray for my best friend's wife.

Please, and thank you.

Medium: B Pencil

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gourd and Pepper - Medium: Pencils 3H and B

Medium: Brush Pen

Monday, October 18, 2010

Max Monday

Landscape with Balloon, By Beckmann

Meeresstrand, By Beckmann

Moon Landscape, By Beckmann

"My aim is always to get hold of the magic of reality and to transfer this reality into painting - to make the invisible visible through reality. It may sound paradoxical, but it is, in fact, reality which forms the mystery of our existence.

What helps me most in this task is the penetration of space. Height, width and depth are the three phenomena which I must transfer into one plane to form the abstract surface of the picture, and thus to protect myself from the infinity of space." --On My Painting, Max Beckmann

Locus Focus - Morgul Vale

'No!' said Frodo. 'But do not wander from your road. What of the third turning?'

'O yes, O yes, there is a third way,' said Gollum. 'That is the road to the left. At once it begins to climb up, up, winding and climbing back towards the tall shadows. When it turns round the black rock, you'll see it, suddenly you'll see it above you, and you'll want to hide.'

What was Minas Ithil, or the Tower of the Moon, in former times long ago, built by Isildur (who cut the ring from the hand of Sauron), is now Minas Morgul, the Tower of Black Sorcery. If Isildur built Minas Ithil long ago, it was very, very long ago; for when the Nazgul, the Nine Ringwraiths (former kings of Numenor), took it over and the valley about it (Morgul Vale), that too was long ago.

The evil of this place is such that to look upon it can drive a person mad. There is a perpetual and penetrating watchfulness, as though the city itself were a person. The city of the Morgul Vale is, one might say, an anti-Lothlorien. It is a "paradise" of superior evil grown unabated as an enclosed garden over countless years, that you suddenly come upon, after you "turn round the black rock". Frodo who comes near this place with Sam and Gollum feels himself both loathing it being drawn toward it, sucked towards its very gate, which Tolkien likens to a mouth. Faramir tells about the history to Frodo:

'The valley of Minas Morgul passed into evil very long ago, and it was a menace and dread while the banished Enemy dwelt yet far away, and Ithilien was still for the most part in our keeping. As you know, that city was once a strong place, proud and fair, Minas Ithil, the twin sister of our own city. But it was taken by fell men whom the Enemy in his first strength had dominated, and who wandered homeless and masterless after his fall. It is said that their lords were men of Numenor who had fallen into dark wickedness; to them the Enemy had given rings of power, and he had devoured them: living ghosts they were become, terrible and evil. After his going they took Minas Ithil and dwelt there, and filled it, and all the valley about, with decay: it seemed empty and was not so, for a shapeless fear lived within the ruined walls. Nine Lords there were, and after the return of their Master, which they aided and prepared in secret, they grew strong again. Then the Nine Riders issued forth from the gates of horror, and we could not withstand them. Do not approach their citadel. You will be espied. It is a place of sleepless malice, full of lidless eyes. Do not go that way!'
Morgul Vale is so awful in part because it was so beautiful before it became the dwelling of the Ringwraiths. The evil is seen in how it twists and perverts the former beauty:

'A long-tilted valley, a deep gulf of shadow, ran back far into the mountains. Upon the further side, some way within the valley's arms, high on a rocky seat upon the black knees of the Ephel Duath, stood the walls and tower of Minas Morgul. All was dark about it, earth and sky, but it was lit with light. Not the imprisoned moonlight welling through the marble walls of Minas Ithil long ago, Tower of the Moon, fair and radiant in the hollow of the hills. Paler indeed than the moon ailing in some slow eclipse was the light of it now, wavering and blowing like a noisome exhahalation of decay, a corpse-light, a light that illuminated nothing. In the walls and tower windows showed, like countless black holes looking inward into emptiness...'
And again:

'Wide flats lay on either bank, shadowy meads filled with pale white flowers. Luminous these were too, beautiful and yet horrible of shape, like the demented forms in an uneasy dream; and they gave forth a faint sickening charnel-smell; an odour of rottenness filled the air.'
For all the shudder-inducing vividness, the unforgettable character of this place, Tolkien does not take the reader inside the city of the Morgul Vale. And why would he?

Will he be slow to answer them?

From the priest's homily:

"Neglecting to's self-abuse; it is to abuse yourself."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Medium: Brush Pen

Medium: 3B and others that I can't remember

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pumpkin with Candle - Medium: Pencils 2H and HB

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Note in Passing

Watching Eric Stoltz play Marty McFly is like watching Tom Selleck auditioning for Indiana Jones - it's just weird.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Father Patrick Peyton - For the Month of the Holy Rosary

Servant of God, Father Patrick Peyton, CSC ("The Rosary Priest") - Medium: Pencils 2H, 3B and charcoal

"The family that prays together stays together."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Locus Focus - Goli Otok

A bar of light is crossing the floor.

"Do you see?"

Josip shakes his head.

"Surely you see", says the man.

"I see the light, but the walls imprison it."

"The light has entered the prison. Nothing can keep it out."

"If there is no window, the light cannot enter."

"If there is no window, the light enters within you."

We were specifically made for transcendence, and there is no sadness, loss, suffering, pain or trauma that cannot be transcended. The true understanding of this though, has not so much to do with the "power of the human spirit" or "the will to endure" alone; it is about every suffering, fully experienced, being enwrapped or engulfed in the larger movement of God (Who suffered as one of us), like strains being taken up into a larger orchestra - and thus finding our own free movements therein. The "sea of being" in which we have our own being is infinitely too large for us to sense, apart from faith: it can be experienced as either a horrific abyss or as God's very containment of us, which is perfect freedom.

In his historical novel Island of the World, Michael D. O'Brien uses the lunging and rising of the swallow as this image of transcendence. And if the novel has transcendence as its overarching theme, it by no means avoids passages that are extremely difficult and distressing to read. I have not read another novel that has, quite literally, brought me to my knees to thank God for my life and everything in it, good and bad, and to ask forgiveness for having ever complained and despaired...
"From the wharf the prisoners are marched up a rocky path to a cluster of low cement buildings divided by a paved avenue leading into the hills. More guards are waiting there, in two lines, a dozen on each side. Many are smirking in expectation, as if to welcome the prisoners. Truncheons are in the hands of all. The pavement is splotched everywhere with old stains, bleached by the sun."
Josip Lasta, the central character, is taken captive for being involved with an underground publication resistant to the Communist government of what is now former Yugoslavia. His wife and unborn child are taken from him the same night he is captured. Josip, after days of brutal interrogation, is taken to an island of which nothing that goes on there can be seen from the water.

""Skin the rabbit!" shouts one of the guards. Josip is last in the file of prisoners, and he sees what is coming. One by one, each prisoner is stripped naked, then shoved between the guards.

"Run, rabbit!"

The first prisoner staggers forward. A hail of truncheon blows fall on him from both sides. He stumbles, cannot rise, and is kicked again and again until he gets up on all fours, then crawls onward under furious blows. When he is through the gauntlet, he collapses on the pavement, blood seeping from beneath his body.

"Run, rabbit!"

The next prisoner refuses to move, falls to his knees, sobbing. Immediately, the guards converge on him and beat him. Blood spatters everywhere, the thumping on human flesh does not cease. They stand back. The man is dead. Two guards drag the body back toward the wharf by the ankles.


The next prisoner runs--and ends like the first. Now it is Josip's turn.

"Run, rabbit!"

He is propelled toward the truncheons with a kick to his backside. Staggering forward, he feels every strike upon his body as the storm hits, sees his own blood splattering ahead of him, his blood flowing into the blood of others, all mingled.

"This is a strong one! A big one too!" Laughter.

Now his progress is slower, each step purchased at the price of countless blows. Everything is exposed, everything receives its portion. He staggers, falls; the guards step close to finish him off. He pushes himself up on hands and knees, then rises. His feet slipping on blood, he lurches forward a meter, then another.

Now he is through the lines and collapses beside the other prisoners.

"Let's send him back again."

"No, don't waste an ox like this. He'll be good for work!"

"Let's see what he can take."

"Back you go, rabbit!"

They drag him to his feet and spin him around until he is reeling from dizziness.

"Run, rabbit!"

He staggers back the way he came, one step, another step, under a rain of truncheons and boot-kicks. He collapses onto the pavement where he began. They converge on him.

"Finish him off! A big lunch!"

"No, no, look at him. He can keep going!"

"One more time, rabbit!"

Slowly, slowly--rising on hands and knees--then wobbling upright. Again the blows rain down.

"Last lap!"

Shuffling forward, centimeter by centimeter, bending under the down-striking blows and the up-striking blows. A rib cracks. His mouth is gore--teeth are broken, and he spits them out.

Finally, he is down on his belly and cannot move--he wants the guards to complete their work, send him out of this life--please, please kill me! But something inside him will not permit it. He can no longer rise on hands and knees. He slithers forward through pools of blood…"
Such is the introduction to this hard place. Later, after long recovery, Josip gets a more detailed measure of the area:

"The compound contains several barracks grouped around larger administrative buildings in the bottom of a wide ravine, all enclosed within chain-link fences. It is surrounded by rocky white hills, not very high, but sufficient to hide it from outside view. A few stunted bushes cling to whatever traces of barren soil hide within crevasses on the slopes. Otherwise, it is a lunar landscape.

"Nothing grows here", Josip says in a puzzled tone.

"This is Goli Otok", says Propo, "the naked island."
In Goli Otok the prisoners labour in the limestone quarries; food and water and rest are absolutely minimal:

"The atmosphere is one of constant fear and subservience, obedience and exhaustion. Humiliations are part of the day's routine. For example, the prisoners must wash their own excrement out in the yard and sort from it bits of undigested grain, which is then reboiled and eaten. All are disgusted by this practice, yet few refrain from eating the results.

"It's a degradation", explains Prof one evening. They are standing by a window gazing out at the yard as the sorting and re-cooking is in process. "They do not let us forget that we are animals owned by the State."

"Lower than animals", says Scova with a scowl.

"We are not animals", says Tata.
For a Scary Setting, this barren place of hardship and cruelty proves to also be the forge for resistance, sanctity, the facing of the hatred in one's own soul, and ultimately transcendence in a no less painful and trying escape.

Medium: Pencils 2H and 3B

Friday, October 8, 2010

Medium: Pencils 2H and B

Medium: Pencils 2H and 2B

Medium: Pencils F and 2B

Monday, October 4, 2010

Max Monday

Woman with Parrot - By Max Beckmann

Flower - Medium: 2B Pencil

Sunday, October 3, 2010


The Broad Bean Sermon
By Les Murray

Beanstalks, in any breeze, are a slack church parade
without belief, saying trespass against us in unison,
recruits in mint Air Force dacron, with unbuttoned leaves.

Upright with water like men, square in stem-section
they grow to great lengths, drink rain, keel over all ways,
kink down and grow up afresh, with proffered new greenstuff.

Above the cat-and-mouse floor of a thin bean forest
snails hang rapt in their food, ants hurry through several dimensions:
spiders tense and sag like little black flags in their cordage.

Going out to pick beans with the sun high as fence-tops, you find
plenty, and fetch them. An hour or a cloud later
you find shirtfulls more. At every hour of daylight

appear more than you missed: ripe, knobbly ones, fleshy-sided,
thin-straight, thin-crescent, frown-shaped, bird-shouldered,
boat-keeled ones,
beans knuckled and single-bulged, minute green dolphins at suck,

beans upright like lecturing, outstretched like blessing fingers
in the incident light, and more still, oblique to your notice
that the noon glare or cloud-light or afternoon slants will uncover

till you ask yourself Could I have overlooked so many, or
do they form in an hour? unfolding into reality
like templates for subtly broad grins, like unique caught expressions,

like edible meanings, each sealed around with a string
and affixed to its moment, an unceasing colloquial assembly,
the portly, the stiff, and those lolling in pointed green slippers...

Wondering who'll take the spare bagfulls, you grin with happiness
--it is your health--you vow to pick them all
even the last few, weeks off yet, misshapen as toes.

Medium: 2H Pencil

By the look of the cat's meditative position, you would think she wasn't going anywhere soon, and that one would have a chance to at least do somewhat of a full drawing - but no.

Apple and Bean (done yesterday just after the drawing with same subject) - Medium: Brush Pen

Locus Focus - The House of Usher

This is the first in the Locus Focus Scary Settings Challenge for October, as hosted at Shredded Cheddar.

"And travellers now within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows, see
Vast forms that move fantastically
To a discordant melody;
While, like a rapid ghostly river,
Through the pale door,
A hideous throng rush out forever,
And laugh - but smile no more."

That is the last stanza of The Haunted Palace which Roderick Usher composes on his guitar for his friend-from-boyhood, the unnamed narrator of the The Fall of the House of Usher. He has come to visit for some weeks, at Usher's heartfelt request, in the hopes that his presence will alleviate Usher's undetermined hereditary/mental illness (or good old Gothic "melancholy").

The ballad leads to a discussion between the two, well into the narrator's sojourn at the house, in which the hypochondriac and hypersensitive Usher begins to tell his friend of his belief that the house and property (in which they are residing) has individual sentience:
"The belief, however, was connected (as I have previously hinted) with the grey stones of the home of his forefathers. The conditions of the sentience had been here, he imagined, fulfilled in the method of collocation of these stones -- in the order of their arrangement, as well as in that of the many fungi which overspread them, and of the decayed trees which stood around -- above all, in the long undisturbed endurance of this arrangement, and in its reduplication in the still waters of the tarn. Its evidence -- the evidence of the sentience -- was to be seen, he said, (and I here started as he spoke) in the gradual yet certain condensation of an atmosphere of their own about the waters and the walls."
At least decaying things, though desolate, are recognizably relieved by that "half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment" as the narrator relates at the beginning of the The Fall of the House of Usher. But the "undisturbed endurance" that keeps the process of decay in arrest, is part of what unnerves the narrator when he approaches the mansion enough for an inspection narrower than when he first approached the property itself:

"Its principal feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity. The discoloration of ages had been great. Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in fine tangled web-work from the eaves. Yet all this was apart from any extraordinary dilapidation. No portion of the masonry had fallen; and there appeared to be a wild inconsistency between its still perfect adaptation of parts, and the crumbling condition of the individual stones. In this there was much that reminded me of the specious totality of old woodwork which has rotted for long years in some neglected vault, with no disturbance from the breath of the external air. Beyond this indication of extensive decay, however, the fabric gave little token of instability."
And immediately after that sentence, a quite different, yet more disconcerting detail is added:

"Perhaps the eye of a scrutinizing observer might have discovered a barely perceptible fissure, which, extending from the roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn."
If anyone could make a single fissure in a wall terrifying, and do so by making it "barely perceptible", it is Edgar Allen Poe. It would also be he who could make a tarn - a source of reflection of light, and thus of relief - into something else as the narrator first approaches the property:

"It was possible, I reflected, that a mere different arrangement of the particulars of the scene, of the details of the picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps to annihilate its capacity for sorrowful impression; and, acting upon this idea, I reined my horse to the precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled lustre by the dwelling, and gazed down -- but with a shudder even more thrilling than before -- upon the remodelled and inverted images of the grey sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows."
After the tarn merely deepens his first impressions of the place rather than dissipating them (how terrible is that?!) he tries to shake off what must be a dream about the place, to believe he's just imagining "that about the whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity -- an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven, but which reeked up from the decayed trees, and the grey wall, and the silent tarn -- a pestilent and mystic vapour, dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, and leaden-hued."

If the dream doesn't go away, it is positively made real during a great storm one night, when everything outside is made luminous, though the sky is thick with clouds and no lightning strikes; and then terror strikes, both from within and without an antique volume that the narrator reads to soothe his mad friend, called, the Mad Trist of Sir Launcelot Canning. Ethelred, the hero of Trist, "...feeling the rain upon his shoulders, and fearing the rising tempest, uplifted his mace outright, and, with blows, made quickly room in the plankings for his gauntleted hand..."

And that fissure in the wall, though the reader isn't thinking about it, is still there. But the "gauntleted hand" is not coming from outside, but from within the house.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Apple and Bean - Medium: Pencils 2H, F and B

Friday, October 1, 2010

Headed for their destinations

Apple and Coffee - Medium: Pencils 2H and HB

Three Apples - Medium: Pencils 2H and 2B