Over Underworld 3: Dante’s Inferno Sketchbook

This is the third installment of the Over Underworld art exhibit, a virtual release of paintings and sketches in March 2020.

Featured art: Pages from my Dante’s Inferno sketchbook, earlier circles of Hell

Dante surveys the Holy Grail. This is not from the Inferno, but I needed a break.

The Underworld is not necessarily Hell.  But, sometimes we get lost somewhere Not Good, like a Twilight Zone episode.  It happened to Dante. For the past year I have been doing a close reading of Dante and making a sketchbook of visual notes.  They are not illustrations, but ways to help me remember what I’ve learned.

Reading Dante is like Shakespeare or the Bible; it endlessly unfolds.  But I’ll post a few pages from the notebook with some of my observations.

Virgil, Dante’s guide, from Canto 2. A friend in need.

I’ve made up several lists of rules for going through the Underworld from reading Dante.  First, a tour guide is worth paying for.  Virgil leads Dante through, but can’t go with him to Paradise, as he is a Heathen, but is a good friend.  I discovered that Dante loves his non-Christian geniuses of the ancient days, but has a problem with them, as the Church said they were consigned to hell. What to do, what to do?

From Canto 4. Dante makes a hell that is like a paradise for his buddies!

He makes a beautiful green garden in hell so that these pre-Christian immortals can hang out! The petals of the flower hold the names of his special people. I began to be interested in painting themes from this Canto.  I didn’t want to do paintings of the Seven Deadly Sins, but I discovered the Seven Liberal Virtues– top right corner– which are the antidotes for these sins, and am working on an abstract series from them.

Source material for sketchbook project. My favorite is at the top right, a Modern Library edition from 1944.

Last year I went to the Library of Congress and got to see original Blake lithographs of Dante’s Inferno in the rare books reading room.  Here is my pencil copy of Blake’s print, made in the Library, and my LOC library card.

Pencil drawing made on location in the Library of Congress of a print made from an original Blake lithographic plate. Amazing that this masterpiece was accessible, on asking.

Plagues were a fact of life in the 13th and 14th century.  But Dante saw the worst infection as a moral plague infesting his time, with politics destroying peaceful structure and ripping Florence apart.  This next sketch features a wasp from his description of demons flying up like swarms of hornets.

From Canto 3. Swarms of dead people mourn, “We never were fully alive.”

This is the Canto that orders, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”  I was surprised to find that there was also strong message to live fully when you are alive on earth in the same section!  In all that darkness, there is always light somewhere in Dante. Suzanne

Featured work: Pages from my Dante’s Inferno illustrated notes.  Not for sale.

You may share this freely.  shortlink: https://wp.me/pP1o3-1xu

https://saltworkstudio.com/2020/03/21/over-underworld-3-dantes-inferno-sketchbook/

2020 Events

March-April 2020: Over Underworld: New Work

Virtual Exhibit released by SaltworkstudioFacebook, and Instagram.

#overunderworld  #saltworkstudio

 

 

The Inner Camino

I’m sitting here in the Santiago bus station, waiting for the express bus to Portugal. I thought I’d take a moment to share with you some thoughts about my Camino. I made a list of reasons to walk before I left, and reflected on them as I walked. But I’m one of the lucky ones. Two of the main reasons I walked were out of gratitude for my beautiful life, and for enjoyment.

People walk for many reasons. Many are in the midst of personal catastrophe, change, or deep loss. I met a woman who, in the midst of recurring cancers, was left by her husband for another woman. She had never been alone in her life, having married young. Her pain was tangible, but walking seemed to be keeping her positive in a way nothing else could. She said in amazement, “I still have my life. ” Another man carried the picture of his wife on the back of his pack. She passed away a few days before their 50th wedding anniversary. He was walking joyously in her honor. Several people were carrying remains of loved ones with them.

This post has now crashed twice on me, and I’ve lost blocks of writing. But I’ll try one more time to continue.

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Dear readers, could you help me out by posting questions in the comments column? I am feeling like Someone doesn’t want me to write right now. According to my experimental theory of staying in the flow, this means I should stop writing and do something else. Go ahead, ask me any question you are curious about: packing list, physical aspects, emotional questions. Be personal. I’ll answer everything in the next post, and share more about my inner Camino. Please help me out, and I’ll answer all in the next post. Buen Camino, Suzanne

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