A Drawing While She Slept

A Drawing While She Slept – Watercolor – 8 x 11 inches.

Her flight from the other side of the world was long and bumpy and she slept little. She was a traveler, at home anywhere, but this was her first visit to Madrid. In spite of her fatigue she managed to be bright and attentive at a little bar he had chosen for their lunch. After dessert, he guided her through quiet streets to the apartment, kissed her into the sheets, and left her to dream.

He wandered with little thought or direction and found himself at a table in an outdoor café near a Metro station. He drew with pencil and watercolor, ignoring passersby, trying to concentrate on light and trees, art deco ironwork and shadows. The more he tried not to think of her, the more he thought of her.

She stayed through August and September into Autumn. “You know I love your paintings,” she told him, “but more and more I love your messy sketches, like this Metro stop, your uncertainties and mistakes, your trying to figure out how to paint what you’re looking at and how you feel about it. Almost like these months we have been together, yes?”

Weeks of fleeting moments, light hearts and happiness together in the beautiful city she grew to love. Rain and chilly days and long nights came soon enough, as they kissed each other into tears and goodbyes.

The Road to Drumcliffe

The Road to Drumcliffe – watercolor – 12 x 20 inches.

“Drink and carouse with Bacchus or munch dry bread with Jesus, but don’t sit down without one of the gods.”
— D.H. Lawrence

Most roads in the west of Ireland were designed for wagons and carts. If this watercolor were accurate, the car ahead of us would not exist, but instead, a flock of sheep. The composition needed a shape in the middle distance and a sedan seemed easier to draw than animals. High winds from the Atlantic and lonely landscapes are ever present here in this enchanted water-land of fens, brooks, ponds, rivers, lakes and bogs, and so are radiant greens, which I seldom managed to capture with my brushes.

Three brothers were traveling to Drumcliffe in a rented Mercedes to pay our respects at the tomb of William Butler Yeats (1865-1939). His grave lies among a dozen others in an old churchyard under leafy shade with the mysterious shadow of Ben Bulben, the great mountain, in the distance. Yeats’ simple headstone reads:

“Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman, pass by.”

Four horsemen passing: Patrick, Tim, myself and our mystical companion, unseen but always present, the guide and protector of travelers, called Hermes by the old Greeks. Needless to say, he was excellent company during our travels.

The road out of Drumcliffe winds south along the windy coast. We had no destination in particular, just some fishing village or other where, at a pub, the locals would suggest a welcome place to spend the night, or perhaps a couple of days. Patience, Curiosity, and Gratitude are essential on Drumcliffe Road because the Road leads to everywhere: to Rome, to Mecca, even to Home. Even to “the undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveler returns . . . “

The Tempest: Stage Set

The Tempest: Stage Set – Pencil, ink, watercolor, gouache – 8 x 10 inches.

The Tempest begins with a storm that will wreck a ship and deliver its passengers into the hands of a vengeful magician, who wants to harm them. This drawing from my sketchbook shows the stage of the outdoor Elizabethan Theater at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland before a recent evening performance.

In a few minutes darkness will fall and the sound system will shock the audience with deafening blasts of thunder and flashes of lightning. Crew members of the ship will scramble over the stage trying to trim the sails, represented by the three triangular shapes. We have no doubt that the ship is doomed. Mother Nature helps too: rain falls steadily and I have to stop drawing because the paper gets wet.

Most of the audience has prepared for the storm with ponchos, umbrellas and raincoats. But the temperature is 41 and the rain is relentless. The actors suffer the most, especially the four who, as part of the play, have been enchanted by a magic spell and have to pretend that they are asleep in the puddles on the stage.

At intermission, stagehands emerge to swab off the stage. Rain still falls and many in the audience head for the exits. Connie and I want to stay for the rest of the performance, but we’re soaked and miserable. So we stagger up the street to our B&B, quaking with the shivers as if we had palsy.

The sketch is not a product, like Shakespeare’s play. It’s more like a rehearsal, a process of paying attention. Days later, I added ink and colors, like layers of memory. We didn’t get to see the entire Tempest, but now, how can we ever forget it?