Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mona Lisa drawing

The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci
Recently, I did a drawing of the Mona Lisa. I didn't know what I was getting myself into.

The Mona Lisa is one of the most famous paintings of all time, depicting a young woman, sitting with her hands crossed in front of a fantastical background.

Leonardo De Vinci, the creator of this masterpiece, was an anomaly in his own right. A true Renaissance man, he is most famous for being an artist, but he was also an inventor and drew plan after intricate plan for such things as flying machines and parachutes. Like Galen, the Roman doctor, He dissected bodies and sketched their innards, filling tens of notebooks with his careful drawings and notes. He was left handed and found writing awkward, so he just wrote backwards.

The Mona Lisa is painted on poplar wood primed with green paint which gives the skin tones a more natural appearance. Leonardo, like the Greeks, had a keen interest in what lies under the skin and he ‘sculpted’ his paintings, starting with a skeleton and working his way out, adding layers until the figure was almost in relief. Leonardo De Vinci understood shadows. Real painting isn’t painting light, its painting shadows; there are no lines in nature, no boarders, only vague shapes and endless shadows. The Mona Lisa’s gentle hands are only shadows, there are no hard lines, no tangible outlines, her illusive smile seems to flicker just out of our vision as the faint shadows in her face trick us into believing she is alive. The Greeks worked marble in a similar manner, they loved curves and gentle beauty, the Mona Lisa has both.

My attempt

But the beauty of the Mona Lisa is not in her face, it is in the mystery that Leonardo infused into the painting. The two halves of the background don’t match up and the rugged structure of the mountains doesn’t look like anywhere on earth. The face has no eyebrows and no smile, but both seem imperceptibly there. Is it a portrait of Leonardo himself? Or is it someone he loved? Just like the infinitely sad and noble Greek statue the Boxer of Quirinal the Mona Lisa seems to have no clear meaning. It is a snapshot of the past, a moment of intangible reality that has been preserved for the ages by the hand of a master.
Unfortunately, I'm no master...but I did learn a bit about what it must like to be one. If you'd like to see the drawing closer up, you can see it at DeviantArt.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Act of Valor

I clearly didn't take this picture
A very few times in my life I’ve seen a movie that left me feeling crushed and uplifted at the same time. Act of Valor was one of them. It’s a movie that brings vividly to life something that few of us ever see; true heroism and true evil. Our world is growing smaller by the day, but in some ways it grows larger and more unknown. I think we all need to know that there are people out there who have no qualms about kicking a person in the face and rolling them up in a carpet to kidnap them.

One of the brilliant aspects of the movie was the use of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II for filming. The dSLR is just small enough to be taken into new locations that we’ve never seen before. There were sweeping, unbelievably beautiful shots of helicopters, submarines and swift boats, but at the same time with the use of the dSLR and the helmet mounted cameras, we were suddenly taken into the thick of things with heart stopping effectiveness. I’ve never felt so part of a movie before.

The Navy Seals that were recruited to make this movie aren’t acting, they’re just being themselves and the simplicity of their lines brings them powerfully to life. I felt like I knew them personally by the end as I sat at the edge of my seat, willing them to live.

But even Navy Seals, with all their state of the art equipment and specialized training, are mortal. The list at the end of the movie of those lost is short, but it’s already too long. I assume that those same men that made the movie might possibly be down range right now, as I write this, keeping us all safe, silently and effectively. I want to know how they are, but unfortunately I’ll never find out.

They’re the closet you can get to Supermen this side of eternity and there are only a few of them.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

How much is too much?

Some people love to tell everyone everything about themselves and others are very reserved and silent. It is

good to communicate, it helps in relationships and understanding of other people. On the other hand, telling people too much about yourself can be harmful.

Barn Owl
Take an old Russian fairy tale for an example. A husband and wife lived in a cottage in a forest. One day, the husband dug up a treasure chest. His wife found out about it and he knew she was a notorious gossip, so he went into the forest one day and hung fish on trees. The next morning, he took his wife for a walk and she saw the fish hanging in the trees, they collected them and had them for dinner that night. In the mean time, the wife had told her neighbors all about the treasure her husband had found and it got around to the king. The king thought he ought to have the treasure, so he called the husband and wife before him.

"Did you find a treasure chest?" the king asked.

"No," said the husband.

"Yes we did too!" the wife exclaimed, "It was the day before we found the fish in the forest!"

While the husband should not have lied about the chest, the wife should not have told all the neighbors about it if she wanted to keep it. 

However, being too secretive about oneself can be harmful too.

In an old Italian folk tale, a man loved a woman very much, though she did not love him. Eventually she married someone else and had one son before her husband died. Now the first man had a hawk that he trained from a fledgling and revered very much. The son of the woman also loved the hawk and one day he fell ill, telling his mother that he would die if he did not have the hawk. His mother was distraught and she told the man with the hawk that she was coming for dinner, but did not explain why. He was a poor man and had no food, so he killed his hawk and gave it to the woman for dinner. After dinner, when she asked for the hawk, they both realized the mistakes they had made. The son died, but perhaps he would not have had the woman only told the man what she wanted first.

As illustrated by these tales, both being too private and being too free with information can have disastrous results. Perhaps we should settle with a middle ground; we should have discretion in what we say and always speak the truth, because, in some cases one's life hinges on what one says. Perhaps, we should always think before we speak or speak only when we know it is right.

In this new cyber world we find ourselves in, this lesson is as relevant as it ever was. Be careful what you tell people, because you never know how far it will go. Since no one can see you, your character is measured by what you say and how you express yourself through words. Don't be ambiguous, but don't blurt your life's story out either. 

"There was an old owl who sat in a tree, the more he heard, the less he spoke, the less he spoke, the more he heard, now wasn't that a wise old bird?"