Photo Credit: Jennie Anne Benigas



April 2012

“Inspiration demands the active cooperation of the intellect joined with enthusiasm, and it is under such conditions that marvelous conceptions, with all that is excellent and divine, come into being.” Giorgio Vasari (1511-1576), from The Quotable Artist by Peggy Hadden.



Images for My Travel Manuscript

Dear Reader,

Last month’s journal was exactly what I needed to write in order to take stock of where I am going with my 3-genre manuscript. I use writing to learn what I am thinking, as anyone devoted to the lessons taught by Donald M. Murray knows.

Toward the end of the journal, I wrote about starting a series connected to my Autobiography pieces: travel paintings. It all started with one question: “What if I were to use transfers of etchings from “the masters” who worked in countries John and I have visited since 1985? Rembrandt! Hogarth! Goya! And on and on. Each image would be tangled in my ink drawings!”

I got to work and experienced “the active cooperation of the intellect joined with enthusiasm,” as Giorgio Vasari described.

This would not be a simple process! We have traveled to A LOT of countries, and the manuscript would need only six to eight images. Then I thought: What about the United States? I did not want to minimize the importance of all of the wonderful museums in the United States or the American artists. Their work nurtured me from my earliest years when I visited the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. It was there I fell in love with the work of George Bellows and Winslow Homer, as well as Henri Matisse, Eugene Delacroix and Vincent van Gogh. The idea that I would someday visit the homes and studios of the latter three was beyond any dream I could have imagined (Judy’s Journal 2007 September).

The challenge became one of not only narrowing down the number of countries to approximately six, but which artists’ work to include. My next decision narrowed the field somewhat. I would search for only black and white images, because I was ready to experiment with that very limited palette of colors.

Art books are a wonderful way to pass the time. Warning: all that looking can be intoxicating. But I was on a mission. The inks of lithographs, wood engravings and etchings would be embraced by and speak to my line drawings. To put it another way: What a nerve to put my scratchings around the work of art history’s heavy hitters.

To say that it was tough to select images is an understatement. I covered a piece of paper with circles and wrote the name of a country in each: Italy, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Turkey, Iceland, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Germany, Estonia, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. Then I searched for images. Icons of art history passed before me. How many? It is difficult to remember. Poor me!

I did choose, finally, and I made the transfers. They are drying in my studio as I write this. Thankfully, we are in the middle of an unseasonably warm March. Lucky me! Tomorrow, turpentine can be slathered on my 8” square boards outdoors, without my inhaling too many toxic fumes.

Here are my final travel series choices (as of today):

Venice, Italy - Are you kidding? The place IS a work of art. Except for the people’s costumes in the engraving made hundreds of years ago, it hasn’t changed a bit. My concern is how to do Venice justice. How can I avoid trite imagery? When too many internal editors jump at me, I usually block my ears and just go for it.

Amsterdam, Holland - It has to be Rembrandt (1606-1669), doesn’t it? I visited in his studio a few years ago. I found his etching, “The Shell” last week. Simple and complicated at the same time, its patterns made me gasp.

London, England - Anyone who knows me will understand why I chose the woodcut, a political cartoon, “Socialism,” by Walter Crane (1845-1915).

Nuremburg, Germany - Albrecht D ürer (1471-1528), who else? The humor of his “An Ill-Assorted Couple” (whatever that means), tickled me.

Madrid, Spain - The best place to see the work of Francisco de Goya (1746-1828). I was a goner when I saw his drawing of “The Couple with a Parasol.”

Palermo, Sicily - How could I not include a vintage postcard of the city from where my grandparents sailed in 1914?

Vallelunga Pratameno, Sicily - How could I not make this homage to my grandparents the cover image of my book? The heart of my piece is a drawing of the town where they were born.

What, no France? No Chagall? No Matisse? Mais non! At least for now.