A Spiritual Journey -The Camino as a metaphor... Metaphor as a vehicle….
Why the Journey?
The slow moving Caracol (snail) is one form of wildlife that would seem easy to photograph. To “capture the moment”, there’s plenty of time get close up, try different angles, check the shot, get good focus. Simple.
But stopping to take this picture while walking the Camino involved:
That there is pressure to stay upright and walking, constantly moving, becomes apparent. “Get there”, “Get it done”, “No dawdling” “Cross it off the ‘bucket list’, “Put it behind you”, "Eyes on the prize", etc,.....
The little Caracol is teaching me to resist.
In the studio, several stages are involved in bringing the Caracol de la arboleda into the Painted Steps. I start by making a gouache study from my photos, painting on a small piece of grey Rives paper.
I want the final painting/drawing on the Painted Steps to be a description, almost a reconstruction of the snail, as well as an image of snail. I need to understand how the snail ‘works’, to draw it with understanding.
This kind of ‘representational’ painting, paying close attention, is very exciting, a voyage of discovery.
Initially, the creature looks like a cornucopia perched on a snake. The shell seems like a backpack or a camper van, a space to curl up into, not a body part. How does it stay on?
With research I discover that, despite appearances, most of it’s body is inside the shell: its guts, heart, liver, lungs, penis and vagina. The shell holds it in like a bony skin. An exoskeleton?
Learning to notice the tilt of the axis of the shell was the next hurdle. After studying written descriptions and photos of many snails from different angles, I can now see that the shell is not a ball. I’m able to notice the diminishing swirl, the shift in shape of each whorl step, diminishing in precise mathematical proportions.
I’m figuring out the dark lip, the translucent eye stalks, the ‘legs’. Those dots on their tentacles /antlers are eyes.
Deciding the Caracol’s proper location on Painted Steps was simple. I use my elevation map, the bottom half of stripes-on-a-highway band and find the mark for Zubiri.
For the horizontal placement, it seemed natural to paint it ‘low’, in that intermediate space with bare paper, where the green meets the grey, like the shoulder of a road.
I‘m practicing what’s called ‘Cartographic generalization’.
“A good map has to compromise between portraying the items of interest (or themes) in the right place on the map, and the need to show that item using text or a symbol, which take up space on the map and might displace some other item of information.
The cartographer is thus constantly making judgments about what to include, what to leave out and what to show in a slightly incorrect place.”
It is so slow to paint/draw satisfactorily this little creature.
I took at least a week!
I wonder how far the Snail could travel in a week!
I wonder…. what is the snail/human ratio of size, speed, distance…..
Buen Camino, little Caracol!