Saturday Morning in the Studio with Watercolor and Gerard Manley Hopkins

Saturday in the Studio

Good morning.  I finally decided to tackle a 22 x 28″ watercolor of a downtown scene, featuring a coffee shop and hotel.  I just finished laying in the sky and am waiting for it to dry and set up so I can get to the building details (plenty of ghost sign work lies ahead, and I love tinkering with that).

Gerard Manley Hopkins has seized my attention of late.  I will be teaching a little senior English in the coming year, and gave it my best shot during summer school, and found myself in awe of British poetry (I’ve been stuck on American writings for over a decade, it seems).

I have a background in theology, and was interested in the dimension of Hopkins writing poetry as a Jesuit priest.  One of his early works, “The Habit of Perfection”, opens with these words:

Elected Silence, sing to me

And beat upon my whorled ear,

Pipe me to pastures still and be

The music that I care to hear.

. . .

Be shelled eyes, with double dark

And find the uncreated light:

I love these words, because I have always welcomed the “inner” music emerging from the Silence of my studio, and as an artist and student of the history of ideas I have pondered throughout the years the Medieval Schoolmen’s notion of “uncreated light” (lux increata) which some have said was a reference to the creative energy of God’s mind.  I am still moved by the opening words of Genesis, describing a pre-created world of chaos.  The text says that the spirit of God, like a wind, moved over the face of the primeval waters, and then the light broke.  There is so much mystery in the words of that Hebrew text.  This motion, or spirit, or wind of God moved.  The word can also carry the connotation of “brooded, or hovered, or lingered.”  There seems to be something intimate here in this story of that divine creative act.  I believe that Hopkins had that text in mind when he wrote “God’s Grandeur”–

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Hopkins has given me much to ponder as I paint today.  By now, I believe the sky has dried, and  it is time to return to the watercolor.

Thanks for reading.


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