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I have always found writing about Orientalism in illustration hard. It's hard, because every picture becomes its own Arabian Nights; threatening to whisk you off into a different realm. Self-contained themes lead you away into another ideaaand another, and another. Before you know it, you have leapt so far into a single image, clambering after ethereal motifs, that you cannot see your original starting point andalike a magic carpet that flies only so long as you believe in itayou start to sink.
The perils of this journey are manifold. You are, after all, talking about big ideas in small pictures. And they can be vague ideas, ideas that mean different things to different people; contradictory, mellifluous, beguiling.
In the context of illustration, there is an additional challenge. Orientalist picturesaespecially the ones that accompany fairy talesaare ostensibly fiction. And yet, they represent non-fictional ideas and attitudes also. In one sense, these are drawings without a line. The "real pictures" awash in fiction; the fictive pictures no less real. Love them too much, and you're no better than the racist Victorians; reducing complex cultures to one-dimensional caricatures. Refuse to love them, and not only do you ignore some terrific art, but a major part of history, too.
The Mona Lisa's lure is so strong that Louvre Museum officials find it wise to keep her safely stowed behind bulletproof glass. She is let out of her protective cage once a year, for a whiff of fresh air. And this is when many a researcher would love to get their hands on Leonardo da Vinci's most famous muse, in order to find out more about how she was painted.
For a long time, scientists and curators have wondered how da Vinci created shadows on her face with seemingly no brushstrokes or contours. Art experts call this shadowing techniqueAsfumatoalike the Italian word for smoke,Afumo. Experts have long suspectedAsfumato shadowing has something to do with the glazes that da Vinci used above the paint layer. But proving this has been difficult because snatching a sample of the Mona Lisa's face for chemical analysis is, unsurprisingly, frowned upon.
If you’re not reading ReepSow you’re, like, missing a lot of hilarity and educacion. Don’t drown in a pool of your own negligence, ninjoids.
Though the philosopher saint Chris S. has argued otherwise (see comments below), these scenes are not precursors of so-called "erasure comics". I hold that, just as the Lord’s Prayer has been printed in Braille for blind people, it has here been printed in Woodcuts for illiterates. This sheet can be conveniently pasted to the back of a pew for churchgoers. Traces of this phenomenon are found as far abroad as Sweden.
Read ReepSow, written by one of our ancient ninja masters.
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Shedding One’s Skin Acrylic by Allen Vandever
This strange being convulses violently until her release, but once in the air of the world outside its shell, it writhes and shrinks from the sun too hot mercilessly scorching its translucent skin, too bright for the pupils in their first exposure to its rays. She has wrenched apart her soft underside from the hardened, weatherworn shell once donning her beautiful face. She is not the worm becoming moth; she is a detestable carrion bird emerging from timber not yet lit. A scavenger of her own body left on a pyre not aflame for ashes. She is saturated in all the secretions of a gapping wound, her body raw, tender, and vulnerable. My lady must walk in darkness; she must walk alone in the black of her despair until she brings herself to walk in the light once more. In these shadows I cannot reach her, she does not see my hand, does not see my face or even hear my voice. She has foregone her shell and with it everything of her life, including myself. Her shell reclines in a posture of malaise- a haunting reminder of how easily she slipped away from me.
Shadow Dancer Acrylic, Epoxy Resin by Allen Vandever
She no longer fears the light. She now revels in the colors being illuminated in her world in innumerable shapes and lines. She basks in its warmth reflecting off the contours of her body. She begins to dance, expressing the insurmountable bliss of this moment-this moment when she no longer cowers under the cold pressure of her shadow. She is finally at one with her dark celestial twin, merging their two worlds once rent asunder by ignorance and fear. She embraces her carnal sister and the world ceases to be bound.
This painting was not only a cornerstone for my work, but also represents a pivotal point in my understanding. This is the third version of this painting, and I find that with every version, I come closer to fully achieving expression of my vision-a vision of a world with endless capabilities made possible when we embrace all aspects of our beings-allowing our spirits to live, breathe, and create.