Step by Step

::: By Hand and On Foot :::

Category: Illustration

San Antón: A Little History

At the heart of the Camino de Santiago is the meseta, the high flat plain of northern Spain, and at the heart of the meseta sits the village of Castrojeriz. Just before you reach the village, the Camino passes through the arches of the ruined monastery of San Antón.

Monasterio San Antón was a pilgrim hospital, run by the Antonine order. For seven hundred years, the monks tended to the pilgrims who passed by, and to those in the community who suffered. For another two hundred years thereafter, passers by wondered about the ruins of the once-great monastery. Now, it is a pilgrim hostel. (And I so wish I had stayed there on my own pilgrimage in 2006. The sleeping quarters were open to the air, and I wasn’t carrying a sleeping bag. But I imagine what it might have been like, watching the stars come out as the night fell, listening to the hooting of the owls that live in the remaining towers. Next time, for sure….)

This past winter, my friend Rebekah Scott approached me about doing some illustrations for a small booklet about the monastery, written by her and Robert Mullen and designed by our mutual friend Kim, the sales of which would help support the hostel (which is run entirely on donations). Yes! I said immediately. This week, the booklets arrived.
San Anton booklet

I have to say, this is a great little book. It is well-written, full of information, a treat for pilgrims and non-pilgrims alike.

Besides the cover illustration, I contributed a portrait of Saint Anthony, a reliquary, and an image of the remains of the great Tau rose window.
Relic

If you are interested in getting a copy of the book, you can make a donation via the Donate button on Rebekah’s blog, then send an email to let me know you’ve done so (be sure to include your mailing address) and I can send you a copy. Donations help keep the pilgrim hostel running; any amount will be a great help and greatly appreciated.

Tau window

Pilgrimage: The Magazine

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am obsessed with all things pilgrimage, following my long walk across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. This fall, I was noodling around on the internet when I found a link for Pilgrimage Magazine, based in Pueblo, Colorado. To quote from their website,

Pilgrimage Magazine, published three times a year, emphasizes themes of place, spirit, peace & justice, in and beyond the Greater Southwest.

Well, that is all right up my alley, so I contacted the editors.

I am very, very pleased to say that the new issue of Pilgrimage has just come out, and it contains two of my Camino prints, along with a host of truly excellent poems and short stories. I am so excited!

The new issue of Pilgrimage Magazine.

Each issue of the magazine has a theme. The theme of this issue is “Between the Dead & the Living,” which comes from an entry in Charles Darwin‘s journals. To quote from editor Maria Melendez’s introduction to the volume:

…[Charles Darwin] expresses delight and wonder at similarities between South American fossil species and living South American animals. He’s certain ‘this wonderful relationship in the same continent between the dead and the living’ will, more than any other line of inquiry, illuminate the mystery of ‘the appearance of organic beings on our earth and their disappearance from it.'” Beloved organic beings do disappear, but they remain: in fossils, stories, evolutionary transformations, lingering memories…

To be honest, I had meant to buy a back issue before this one came out, but being a professional procrastinator, I had not gotten around to it. Let me say this now: this magazine is GOOD. I have read it through once, and I know I will sit and re-read it again …and again. And I will go and purchase back issues. You should buy a copy, too. You will not be disappointed.

Here is one of my prints, Following in the Footsteps of Generations, in place, with the magazine held open by one of my favorite rocks (picked up at the beach in Pescadero):
Following in the Footsteps, in situ.

Opposite my print is a poem by Jane Vincent Taylor, who has kindly given me permission to re-copy it here.

ASH WEDNESDAY
All our seasons come back stamped
with the old rituals and their demands:
pray the rosary and give up something
hard for Lent, said Sister Veronice, as
new snow watered the tips of crocus.

We gave up chocolate, Elvis, pizza,
movies, records, and sleeping late,
but we didn’t give up kissing, longing,
prowling the boundaries of love.

I still tend to cheat. Today, walking
like a glutton into a cold Lenten morning
wrapped in lavender, capped in Valentine
red, I will not deny myself

these Franciscan woods where passion
waits under leaves and rocks and moss.
If there must be a litany, as it seems
there always must, say: alfalfa white,
sumac rust, lichen blue; say sycamore

suede, cauliflower cloud on faded blue.
Look, here’s a spark of Jay, a rhythmic
knock of Ladderback, and a smaller
Downy flown to the blackjack brambles.
Today, I will let the cedar berries be

rosary beads; my losses and my gifts,
my mysteries. I will give up everything
except the whole loved world that never
fails to soften, break apart, and rise.

Burden, in the magazine.

P.S. Pilgrimage Magazine‘s website has not yet been updated to include this issue. I’m sure it will be very, very soon. In the meantime, you could harass your local bookstore to carry it!

OMCA, OMG!

Sarah-Hope had a busy day a couple of weeks ago, flying back and forth to San Diego to pick up her nephew, who was shuttling from one set of grandparents to another. My job was to drop her off at one airport (San Jose) and pick her up at the other (Oakland), which left me to my own devices for a hefty part of the day.

After visits to my old Peet’s store on Lakeshore Ave and to Walden Pond Books, my favorite bookstore in Oakland, and to Creative Framing and Gallery, where I’ll have a show this summer, I decided to visit the newly-renovated Oakland Museum of California.

Wow.

Just wow.

Visiting the Oakland Museum of California

The Oakland Museum of California (or OMCA, which is much easier to type) was built in the 1960s, a classic cast-concrete box of that era. True, it included hanging gardens and intriguing open spaces, and was often mentioned in architectural literature as a perfect example of its style, but the galleries were previously dark, dreary, and often dead-ended into strange little cul-de-sacs. The exhibits also showed their age, the labels incomplete or damaged, the lighting inadequate, the taxidermed animals a bit tattered. (The museum has three sections: art, history, and natural history.)

Overhead view of the Oakland Museum of California

Now? It is gorgeous. It is amazing. It is worth spending an entire day visiting. And that’s even without the natural history section, which is still under renovation.

I visited the California History section first, and was met with a stunning variety of Native American baskets, tools, and gear, all clearly labeled, explained, and set in context. This segued into a section on the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors and missionaries, and then into life on the Spanish missions. Each transition made sense, and what used to be those dark cul-de-sacs now contain small interesting asides, such as how artists traveling with the European explorers recorded the people and animals they encountered. Thus the museum leads you through California’s history, with good content, excellent physical materials, and spaces to stop and learn more on one’s own –with real books (and not just monographs from OMCA), and comfortable chairs (appropriate to the period, no less, so the 60s section features bean bag chairs, while the turn of the century has mission-style furnishings): so much more, and more appropriate, than the usual museum computer kiosk that’s merely a nod towards depth.

California History at the Oakland Museum of California

I was so excited! This was great! And then I was so stressed: I only had two hours on the meter, and time was running out. On to the art galleries.

And again: wow wow wow wow.

Art galleries at the OMCA

They are light. Airy. Open. No more dingy little dead-end alleys, but clear paths between styles, and eras, and subject matter. You can see connections between artists, and their work, and their predecessors, and their successors. And one of the things I liked best was that the extensive and excellent OMCA collection of photography not only had its own area in the galleries, but was also interspersed with other art, again giving context and depth to the experience. And again, reading areas, with books, and comfy chairs, and good light.

So go, go soon, go often. I (almost) wish I still lived in Oakland, just so I could be a regular visitor. You will not be disappointed.

Hip hip hooray, Oakland Museum of California! Well done!

Foxes vs. Pikas

Last week I completed a set of drawings for the Education Department at the Oakland Museum of California. There are two separate display cases in the Natural Sciences gallery, one of foxes and one of pikas, and the museum wanted the drawings to show how the animals in the two cases might relate to each other.

First, the displays. Pikas (and a marmot; he’s the big guy):
Pika --and marmot-- in display.

And the foxes:
Pika --and marmot-- in display.

There are seven illustrations in all. Number one, the foxes are huddled in their den. Number two, the foxes are out foraging in the snow. Number three, the pika is also foraging in the snow. Number four, the fox pounces after the pika, who runs for dear life.
Pika runs like mad when fox pounces

There are two endings to the series. One version depicts the pika’s happy ending.
Number five, the pika is safe in the den. Number six, the foxes stare into the pika den; this is basically a drawing of the fox display case.

However, the second version shows the foxes’ happy ending.
Number seven, the aftermath.
The aftermath

The fun part is that the drawings are not numbered –the above description is my interpretation– and the visitors and junior docents can create their own narratives using the drawings.

The Oakland Museum is undergoing extensive renovations, but the Natural Sciences wing is open. It’s well worth a visit — soon!

© 2017 Step by Step

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑