06 February 2009

The Lucky Tree from which the Devil Hanged his Mother?

When Leann Keenan wrote and asked me to paint a rowan tree I immediately agreed but had no idea what that was. I turns out that the rowan tree is indigenous to Northern Europe and is particularly prevalent in the British Isles. It is said to possess mystic qualities in Finish and Celtic Traditions among others. In England, to according to Wikipedia (which I trust?), it was said to be "the tree from which devil hanged his mother". (I'm not sure how to process that one, never thought of Satan as having a mom). It seems that several cultures have the tradition of keeping the rowan tree around to drive away evil spirits.
Leann's daughter is named Rowan and I would imagine that she must have been named for the elements of goodness and protection that are attributed to the tree. I decided to make two trees, I thought it would be more interesting. One for Leann and one for her daughter. (Her husband can fend for himself.)
The Rowan tree is visually interesting in that it has a lot of poky branches with few leaves and berries that sit seem to sit mostly on the tips. When seeing photos, I immediately thought of painting in 19th century french pastoral style. I thought about Jean Francois Millet. I think the reference in my painting is there but I got a little angular.
Leann also suggested that I might put Celtic symbols on the painting but I chose not to do this for two reasons. One, is that I think the rowan tree is beautiful enough to strand on it's own. Two, is to avoid what I will call the "Deformed Man Toilet" factor. "Deformed Man Toilet" is a deplorable translation for "Handicap Accessible Restroom" that I saw in a book about bad English translations in China. There is a similar book about poorly translated Chinese tattoos on Americans. I didn't want to make this painting "happy lucky super cat wish tree" because of my ignorance.
Anyway, I'm quite certain that the protection is still there.

I've started using a new pallet that is made to keep acrylic paint wet for long periods of time. It is a shallow square container with a lid. In the container you place a big flat sponge and cover it with a piece of paper that you have to boil before using. Really. It's called the "Sta-Wet" pallet (no "Y"). It seems to work well but is kind of like storing paint on swamp bread. I'm using the same paint I set up a week ago! No mold yet.
Please leave a comment if you've had any experience with this strange product.


Marcel said...

A funny thought that has crossed my mind is that "the tree from which devil hanged his mother" might refer not to the "classic devil" but the sometimes silly and all too human devil of fairy tales and folklore - Hob, Old Nick and Scratch, among other apellations.


Marcel said...

And NOW i find something about the Devil's mother: