|Image from the McGregor Museum, University of Auckland, NZ|
Some people are squeamish around skeletons, I am not, but I am respectful. Not only are the gently curved and intriguingly lobed bones a fascinating thing to look at from an engineering point of view, but they can be beautiful. When drawing such things, I do also think of the donor of the skeleton, be it human or another member of the animal kingdom, and respect the life that once was carried on this elegant structure.
In less hallowed places than an art school life drawing room, or an art student's studio, the skeleton can also be encountered. Open a can of sardines, for example, and it is likely that you will find a fish backbone, and maybe some ribs amongst the oil and scales and fragile brown fillets. Laura cannot abide canned fish if she finds anything bony in the can. She claims that this in not due to any squeamishness on her part about skeletons, but due to a dislike of crunching small bones. What ever the cause of her dislike, if it is my turn to open a can of fish for lunch, I also have to carefully remove any evidence that the pathetically flattened and anointed life form therein ever had a backbone!
|Hesperornis regalis, and extinct diving bird. Image from McGregor Museum, University of Auckland, NZ.|
Animals with a backbone...
"Phylum Chordata", by the curious means of an open can of sardines I have been transported in time to a biology lesson, where Latin words were uttered like an incantation from the mouth of our biology teacher, Miss Slater. I see a wall chart before me, of animals and creeping things of all kinds, set out according to their classification. There were two Miss Slaters at the school, known as "Ancient and Modern". The elder retired at about the time I started school, but the younger sister still had some years to go. Both sisters were keen bird watchers, and popped in and out of hedgerows, and marched over hill and dale to see some lesser spotted, or otherwise rare member of aves Neornithes. "Ancient" I remember as being tanned, wrinkled, with hair in a severe bun, and somewhat formidable. "Modern" I think may have been slightly less formidable, but had the ability of reducing 11 year old boys and girls to tears with a surgically precise sentence, accompanied by a look. Biology classes were conducted in the strictest silence, unless an answer to a question was sought.
Wikipedia, has the following entry for Chordates..
"Chordates, members of the phylum Chordata, are deuterostome animals possessing a notochord, a hollow dorsal nerve cord, pharyngeal slits, an endostyle, and a post-anal tail for at least some period of their life cycles. Taxonomically, the phylum includes the subphyla Vertebrata, including mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds; Tunicata, including salps and sea squirts; and Cephalochordata, comprising the lancelets."
They do mention the word "nerve" in there I notice! And all this talk of skeletons and backbones, is a reflection of what the stock market would call a "sub prime week", or two, or three!!
Sometime in the week that ended about the 20th of April, I became aware that all was not well with my back. My trip to Timaru on the 20th of April was accompanied by unpleasant pain in the hip and left upper leg. In the days that followed things worsened. Sciatica is not fun, and, at its nastiest I found it impossible to sit on most of the chairs that we have, and could only stand, or attempt to lie down. Walking was a chore as each forward extension of my left leg was accompanied by a cheerful cacophony of pain from the lower spine, hip joint and thigh. (for those that complain that "cacophony" refers to sound rather than pain, I assure you that it was appropriate in this case!!)
|Vase with Crystalline Glaze, 230 x172mm (9.25 x 6.75")|
Most activity in my studio had to cease. I did manage to glaze and fire some more crystalline pots, and one such crystalline glaze firing was particularly successful. I also did an oil drip reduction firing of some of the work with fairly spectacular results.
|Crystalline glazed porcelain bottle, with oil drip reduction firing. 253 x 168mm (10 x 6 5/8")|
|Crystalline vase with oil drip reduction firing, 197 x178mm (7 3/4 x 7")|
|Crystalline glazed bowl with oil drip reduction 190 x 225 x mm (7.5 x 9")|
|Crystalline glazed bowl with oil drip reduction firing 223 x 242mm (8.75 x 9.5")|
Sadly I have been unable to lift bags of clay, let alone prepare clay for the wheel or make pots with it.
Whilst wondering how to find a position that was not in some way painful, I read a lovely book, "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand", by Helen Simonson. It is, I believe, a first novel. Amazing! I selected it for its charming cover that is decorated with teacups and other hand painted looking images (I see that some editions have a less exciting one), and it was a most entertaining read. Highly recommended!
Anyway, the good news is that my return to the studio is immanent, and the back is almost behaving itself again. I have an set of exercises that I can attempt to get things going, and all is almost well with the world!
Now over half a century old, one day, my spine may end up in a life drawing room, and become a good friend to poor Percy or Henry, or what ever his name was. Look for significant deterioration of the L5 or L4 joint and it could be mine!