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Welcome to my Blog!

Wednesday 28 July 2010

The Painter and the Shepherd

The painter had chosen the church because here the light was the most pure and the darkness the most profound. Without light, colour had no language with which to express its sentiments. Without darkness light could not find its forms.
His father had taught him how to use both.
After his father's death he had been sent a long way from home to become an artist under the wise guidance of another master whose skill he soon surpassed.
He had learnt many lessons. But one lesson his master could not teach him was the one lesson he needed to learn for himself.
He ate a sparse meal under the stars, listening to the lapping of the ocean. The stars told him of his spirit home. The sea told him of places far from Italy and the Urbino of his youth.
Tired from his travels he cleared a spot inside the old church and lay down. Looking at the darkened ribbed vaults he soon fell asleep. 
In the morning he awoke refreshed and began making ready the colours and set the linseed oil in a pan to cook over the little fire. He liked preparation, which to him was as important as the execution. While he organised himself he remembered Florence, where he met Leonardo the great painter, who already an old man, had taught him of darkness and light and the problem of the human skin. The great master too had a problem with faces. At Santa Marie de la Grazie he could not find a model for Judas and for years had worked to understand how to paint the darkness that was the absence of light inside Judas’ soul.
He did not achieve it.
The painter stirred his oil now, peaceful and composed. He was not a scientist like Leonardo who loved him, he was not a tortured man like Michelangelo who hated him. His life was simple and uncomplicated. He was loved and he loved in return. He owned no man and no man owed him. He had a belief that if God had chosen Him as painter of his works then he would also show him how to express his face through the language of light and dark. 
He would wait. 
The day was mild.  He took out the lime and made his way to the beach. He brought back sand to make the mortar. He sifted two parts sand with one part lime and wet it until it was the right consistency then he let it stand while he swept the walls. When they were clean he watered them down thoroughly and after that working the mortar with a trowel he plastered the mixture on a section of the walls to the right of the door. A small amount to begin with to get the plaster flat, then adding more to make it uneven and rough. 
When it was dry he took the charcoal in his hand and stood a moment thinking on what to draw when a figure blotted out the light coming through the door. 
It was a man, tall dark though he could not see the face. He came into the church and looked around. The painter could hear the sound of sheep moving beyond the gaping mouth of the church. 
The man sat down with his back to the ruined altar as if to peruse his art. He took an apple from a canvas bag and polished it on his clothing.
“You are like the Greeks you have no models,” he said.
The painter was puzzled and amused. He set down his charcoal and frowned coming nearer to the man. The light from the door fell on his face and the painter observed him more clearly. It was symmetrical, open, with almond shaped eyes, melancholy in their depths, framed by well-shaped brows, dark like his hair and beard beneath which full lips spread in a smile.
“The Greeks did not use models?” the painter asked the man.
“No.” The man said chewing, “They knew the laws that rule form and movement - the forces of life. They had a memory of the origins of balance and rhythm. They looked to the stars, the moving planets and knew from them concerning the heights. They looked to earth to the heaviness of the bones and they knew the depths..."
“But you are a shepherd. How does a shepherd know so much about painting?”
“When I see a rainbow I do not see colour but the sufferings and joys of light!”
The painter was spellbound. He sat down and fell to smiling.
“Yes...yes...and what is God?”
The other man finished his apple, “God is colour poised between darkness and light. When the sky is red it is His wrath which pours over the world, He knows our sins, our evils. Red is the judgement of God. In the trees the grass, the meadows, the verdant colour I find strength, it brings new life, health to the animals and calmness to the world. I feel Him within myself in green. In blue on the other hand He moves away from me. I want to follow Him to heaven. In yellow He radiates his warmth and life-giving power...He is like the sun ...”
Something moved in the painter’s heart. The man’s voice echoed in sympathy with his soul.
“Do you wish to understand how to paint God, is that it?” the man asked.
The painter nodded, “Yes. I want to paint how He is between darkness and light!”
“Then go to your wall. Begin.” 
“But...how shall I start...what shall I paint?”
The Shepherd made to go and looked behind his shoulder. "Start at the end...and paint Yourself!"

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