Sunday, March 24, 2013


A friend at work commissioned a painting of a dryad.  She wears a pendant that is a relief sculpture of a dryad, and has long been fascinated with the image.

The idea inspired several pieces, three shown here, and at least one more still on the way.  Since I was a teenager I've also been fascinated with caryatids and dryads, both of which combine the beauty of women and the grace and grandeur of columns and trees.

The first image that emerged was of a weeping cherry with her arms and hands up in her hair of blooming branches.  The figure I used as inspiration showed the beauty of youth and the lovely bow of her thigh over her other leg.  I tried to capture that bend of head and neck and the expression girls often have when they are focused on what their fingers are doing in their hair.  I was thinking of blossoms falling and the quiet immobility of trees that would allow the pink petals to lie undisturbed on her lovely curved lap

The next idea that came to me was of baobabs, large motherly trees with soft masses of concentrated leaves above and elephants below.  So I did a pencil and white charcoal sketch of Mother Baobab, tending young elephants, inspired by the strong face I remember when I think of Mabel Bullock, one of my highschool art teachers.  She inspired younger artists in the 1970's, particularly young African-American women.  Drawing this gave me time to feel emotions inspired by her fostering spirit, and the awe I feel for creatures like elephants (or artists) because they seem so unlikely and enchanted.  The reaching of the elephants around her emerged largely on its own - the kind of thing that often happens when I get out of the way.  If I ever paint this I plan to texture her bark with an African pattern, like Bakuba cloth.

Two other images came to me and I started both about a month ago.  One is of a pollarded willow, leaning out from a hillside, like the figrehead of a ship.  I pictured her with her hair and fingers arching back behind her, like wind blown branches.  I thought of her roots bracing her against the wind, gripping the rocks.  My friend bought this one, which was finished a few weeks ago.

The other is not finished (and not shown here).  It will be closer to the traditional depiction of a dryad in form, but will be a more crowded image and painted in a different, less realistic style.  I'm looking to move my painting closer to my internal world, to get into that walled garden I've mentioned before, and I feel this painting can help.


susan said...

I think I see a squirrel making up part of the Dryad's hair in the Weeping Cherry picture. She has a very beautiful form and her wistful look is perfectly appropriate, as are the birds.

Mother Baobab is another wonderful image. I quite like it as a conte study on the brown paper. It's both a warm and very tender image.

The Pollarded Willow is interesting. The soft colors harmonize very well with the columnar figure but her expression of delighted surprise is ingenious.

Very nice work, Steve.

Odd Chick said...

These are amazing. I love that you're incorporating your life drawings into your mystical, magical art!