The Dragon, The Maiden, and George

The Dragon, The Maiden, and George – Watercolor – 9 x 11 inches.

Looking back into childhood, I don’t remember ever being interested in St. George. A dragon, on the other hand, a flying serpent that breathed gusts of fire? How could a young boy resist? However, as Nature took its course and I grew into adolescence, fascination with dragons changed into fascination with maidens. But I never had the slightest interest in the saint that was supposed to have saved them from . . . what? A fate worse than Death?

We have been told that dragons no longer exist, but you can see the one climbing the wall in this watercolor on Sorní St. in Valencia, Spain. His twin brother climbs the wall on the other side of the building on Jorge Juan St. I have no idea how many hundreds of people pass by the dragon brothers every day without paying them any attention, but I made my first drawings of them three autumns ago. However, it wasn’t until last week that that I finally figured out how to incorporate one of them into a painting. (The truth is, I didn’t “figure out” anything: It was an accident.) I happened to be redrawing a sketch I had made of one of them and its interesting proximity to the photo of the model, when George unexpectedly showed up. Thankfully, he was not on horseback and armed with a lance. He merely stood still and consulted his phone, giving me time to sketch him and take a photo.

Long, long ago, the most interesting of women figured out how to save themselves without the help of knights or saints, even though the one in this case seems too bored to even open her eyes. And Nature still takes its course, in spite of guys who, well beyond the far side of adolescence, find themselves still fascinated by mysteries: dragons, existing or not, and women, maidens or not.

The Hermitage

The Hermitage – Watercolor – 10 x 14 inches.

A story: Doesn’t Mediterranean sunlight on a white church suggest a warm day? In this watercolor the opposite is true. A fierce wind from the North was shredding the clouds and making me and my friends, Antonio and Manolo, wish we had brought sweaters along with our pencils and brushes. We set up our gear in an empty field and began drawing. Within minutes we were shivering. Manolo, who had not been feeling well, packed up and retreated to the warmth of the car. Antonio and I gritted our teeth and kept drawing.

For me, drawing is a meditation. If you want to draw accurately you have to concentrate on what is happening. This is difficult in any situation, but especially when you are cold. However, the contrast between sunlight and the dark clouds fascinated me, so I kept working. After an hour the drawing seemed tolerable, even the wind thrashing the palm tree, but holding a pencil was impossible, so I stopped and joined Manolo in the car. Antonio followed soon after.

Since that November day three autumns ago, the drawing slept in a pile of unfinished work in my studio in California. I brought it with me to Valencia to finish it, but couldn’t: something was missing. Two nights ago she arrived in a dream, but not descending from heaven trailing clouds of glory. Her appearance was more like: “OK, here I am. What’s next?”

With my pencil and brushes I welcomed her into the painting. And I apologized repeatedly because she was so ill-dressed for the cold. The hermitage couldn’t offer her warmth, so we have to leave her here in the field as she pauses, trying to keep warm, trembling like a leaf, uncertain about what’s next.

A happy ending: “I forgive you,” she said, “and I’m delighted to have helped.” Then she returned to where she came from.