Pen & Ink Portraits :
ORLANDO IL FURIOSO by Ludovico Ariosto
I took up the project of transcribing in pen & ink a series of 16th-century engravings published as illustrations of Ludovico ARIOSTO's poem of ORLANDO IL FURIOSO (The Madness of Orlando), describing the various heroic deeds, love affairs, and magical acrobatics of the soldiers of Charlemagne during the early 800s A.D., when he fought off the Saracen armies near the Pyrenees.
This exercise required more than photographic "copying" of the original engravings of these so-called TWELVE PEERS of FRANCE. Because in the pen and ink medium all marks are unique and final, the eye and the hand of the artist have to be in simple and focused sync with the understanding so that they translate what the intellect understands from looking at the original into a paraphrase of that original in the best manner possible.
I liken this process to that of translating from one language, say Spanish, to another, for example English, where the aim is to convey the exact meaning of the original word or phrase, but in the translator's own words --- avoiding rigid, stilted language, and aiming to produce a natural and accurate equivalent of the initial word or phrase.
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Scene from Canto 1 of Ariosto's ORLANDO IL FURIOSO : The ghost of Algalia appears to the Saracen knight Ferraus and challenges him to steal ORLANDO's helmet, to win the hand of Angelica.
( pen & sepia ink wash 16 x 30 cm, my freehand transcription of an original by 16th-century Italian artist Felice Giani)
The finding of the magic Helmet of Mambrino by Don Quixote in Cervantes' novel is a pivotal moment in the tale of his "delusions" and, at once, one of the most magical events in Part I of the novel. This is my original illustration, with Sancho Panza listening to his master's diatribe about the magic powers of the Helmet. Fact is, the object was no more than a barber's shaving basin, also used for "bleeding," which in Quijote's imagination becomes a magic talisman for the adventures that follow this chapter in Cervantes' novel.
Pen & Ink drawings :
How I worked to render in my own voice an old portrait of author Ariosto
In order to arrive at my own freehand INK portrait medallion of 16th-century poet Ludovico ARIOSTO (see below, LEFT), I first read or study carefully the original (top, RIGHT) and then, on a piece of smooth Fabriano drawing paper, sketch in light pencil the GUIDELINES of the overall image scaled to the size I desire, but proportionate to the original (say, 1:2 ratio, etc.) and I go on to sketch out the shape of the oval medallion its critical parts or angles, using axis lines to define the center vertical and the horizontal halfway divider of the page. I use the eraser carefully not to smudge the page, as I slowly produce my general reading of the image. I often get up and distancing myself from, my drawing board, look at both my work and the original, to compare accuracy and effective expression especially of the proportions but also of the "gestural," curved lines, etc., that give the original its character!
The small, 7-inch high INK drawing of the medallion was done on a separate piece of Fabriano paper, using NO PENCIL GUIDELINES at all, but AFTER I had spent a few good hours executing the pencil guideline version on large paper, shown above. Once you put down ink lines they cannot be lifted or changed in direction. Therefore I felt I owe the successful, fluid rendition of the medallion in sepia INK to my having read and studied well the medallion original.
The above drawing in sepia ink was carried out following the pencil guidelines of the first reading or study I did of the Enea Vico engraving of the 16th-century.
This is to say that it helped me very much in my quest to gain freedom in my lines to first do the drawing in pencil, with of course the eraser in hand. In addition, the small 7-inch ink medallion (above left) was very scary to do, as I was afraid I'd forget details or , worse, put down the "wrong" lines, which I then I would not be able to erase.
But these various steps strengthened my MEMORY, and I cannot stress enough how important memory and focusing are to a lovely artful drawing. So-called Modern Art has often laughed at Memory, pushing for surrealism and supposedly more authentic, knee-jerk types of markings. Ha!