Friday, July 12, 2013

Lantern Fascination

Lantern sketch via
Lantern sketch. Brush and ink, watercolor.
I notice recurring motifs in artist's works--Heath Robinson drew lots of patches and pitchers; Rackham had his pollard oaks.
Not putting myself on their level, but I noticed lanterns show up frequently--not really consciously--in my pictures.
So I dragged all my sketchbooks to the couch--even ones from my youth--and proved that beyond a doubt. There are a lot of them.

 Maybe the fascination comes from this one:
Great Grandpa's signal lantern from when he worked on the railroad. He gave it to me before he died--I loved him and treasure it. Not sure that's enough of a reason to include them so often though.
At any rate, I've posted some lantern sketches before, as prelims for a project, but here are a few more, past and present:

 One from art school years.

One from my younger days.

In thinking about the symbolism of lanterns in literature and art, I figure they most likely represent truth, or the light of God, or wisdom. But I'm guessing. Most of mine were drawn without really thinking, and without resource.

From a older watercolor illustration (unpublished).

From a random sketchbook page.

Gave in and googled "Tarot symbology of lanterns". This from the Tarot Reading Psychic:
"Power of intuition, truth and courage; hope, healing and the quest for new found enlightenment through spiritual wisdom; new found awareness; a reminder that every dark path has a light" (Really?)
Another simple oldie

Can't remember the title of this one. From the 90's--this pic came from the 
catalog I think. I remember working hard to come up with the face on the lamp.

 Always liked this pen and ink sketch.

Detail from a watercolor done about three years ago.

A sketch fragment

Detail from One-Eyed Wizard via
From a sketch done this week. Lanterns lend themselves to the anthropomorphic pretty well--this one's from a Welsh miner's lamp in my collection.

I've never been much for analyzing my works and the motifs that recur, but I think it's a pretty safe bet that the lantern fascination goes hand in hand with my admiration of the past, and the feeling of being born into the wrong century (or nostalgia for a past life?).

Leaving you with a quote by W.B Yeats:

 “People think  I am merely trying to bring back a little of the old dead beautiful world of romance into this century of great engines and spinning Jinnies. Surely the hum of wheels and clatter of presses, let alone the lecturers with their black coats and tumblers of water, have driven away the goblin kingdom and made silent the feet of the little dancers.”

I can relate. Nothing wrong with shutting off the glare of a computer screen and letting a bit of soft lantern light and a couple of goblins into the room, is there?

As always, thanks for the visit.


  1. I'm enjoying all your recent posts-- the characters on toned paper are splendid!-- but this one was particularly fascinating. I wonder what it is that makes artists return again & again to certain subjects-- maybe there is always some sort of biographical connection, though I think your recurring lanterns are evocative beyond their personal meaning to you.
    Anyway I enjoy thinking about this sort of thing!

    1. Thanks Leah. I like thinking about it too. Are all recurring motifs in an artist's works like the things one collects for the home--some sort of preservation instinct maybe?


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