June 14, 2012

St. Fiacre of the Gardeners

As promised, I’m making a concentrated effort to give some more info on what I’m working on now, print wise.  I have a precious afternoon free, thanks to a day of leave for Nora’s university convocation ceremony this morning, and I made up my mind to put my time to good use.   


My first in what I hope to be a series of saint prints is Saint Fiacre, generally regarded as the patron of gardeners.  Also, oddly, of cab drivers but I’m not going there.

(click on image to link to the image source)

He was an Irish monk who lived around the end of the 6th century.  Extremely skilled with herbs, he gained fame as a healer and holy man and disciples began flocking to him in numbers.  He wasn’t too crazy about that so he left Ireland and went to France where he was granted some land in the province of Brie and where he built a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary and a hospice for strangers.  It’s an interesting paradox that he chose to honour Mary with the chapel since, apparently, he had an aversion to women and barred them from his monastery.  I’m not holding that against him though.  Maybe he was just a recluse who didn’t want distractions. 

For my own version of St. Fiacre, I want the image to be suggestive of stained-glass, as much as such a thing is possible within the confines of a relief print.  I also want it to bear some similarity to early Christian icons so I’m going with a fairly basic border and keeping the image simple.

I had a lot of fun, and indulged in some hair pulling, working out the above colour sketch using my computer and the Waccom pen tablet I got for my birthday three years ago.  I haven’t used it much before and it’s already obsolete but I actually may use it more from now on.    

The symbol in the corners of the border is the Triquetra and I chose it as a link to this saint's origins.  

It’s a simple little image but it packs a lot of punch, symbolically, and learning how to draw it was, though definitely not nearly as easy as it looks, great. So much so that I ordered a marvellous book on drawing Celtic designs (Draw Your Own Celtic Designs) and have been practising some others.  Who knows what use I’ll have for that knowledge in the future right?

Anyway, the Triquetra is apparently an early pagan symbol found on some ancient rune stones but it was also used in early Celtic manuscripts like the Book of Kells and has made its way to representing the trinity in Christian symbolism.  Pretty suitable for my purposes I’d say.  As to the Book of Kells, I’m giving it one further nod by keeping the colours I’m using for this print limited to those used for the illustrations there.  

Now, block fully ready to go, I can start carving and printing.  Will I be able to, on Father's Day?  Hmmm....who can say.


Libby Fife said...

Always feels good to get started on something doesn't it?

Patron saint of gardeners and cab drivers? The guy diversified I guess. Love the drawing and colors so far so I can't wait to see how you progress. Very clever to use that tablet too.

Keep plugging along and I hope all else is well.

Elizabeth Busey said...

I have used the book you've ordered. Drawing celtic symbols for me is at once meditative, and really challenging.

I can't wait to see how your print will progress -- are you going to use one block, or several?

Keep finding those spare creative minutes!

Katka said...

Many thanks to you both for your comments and encouragement.

Your "diversified" comment made me really laugh for some reason Libby. It is an odd combination to be sure, cabdriver and gardener...


I like the idea of using more than one block but generally don't do it if I can get away with it. Mainly because of the time involved in carving more than one. I use masks and foamboard as a cheat when I need to.