Thanks to " Duck Dynasty" Beards have become associated with "manliness" and lets face it, a lot of male Biblical figures and Catholic Saints have sported hair on their chins.
Beards in religious art tend to convey a sense of leadership and old- timey values.
Recently, we have been restoring a bearded shepherd, who'd had some optimistic but sadly un-salvageable amateur repairs applied to his arm: Amputation was in order.
A local church happened to have the exact same shepherd figure, (with similar catastrophic amateur repair works); so they kindly donated what was left of him, enabling us to practice the art of what my Grandma called:
"Waste not, want not."
With the one good arm from the less - fortunate statue, we were able to make the latter one whole again.
(Is this making sense?)
Good, then I'll continue...Back to those beards!
While the facial expression of the shepherd on the right shows that the artist has been thinking " in the moment" (when he sees the baby Jesus is seen for the first time); the shepherd on the left appears to have whipped out some lippy from his shepherd's purse to look his best for the occasion.
Both representations are o.k. but I think the guy on the right with his prophets beard and surprised expression tells us more about the moment of the Nativity.
That's why when restoring a statue, getting the details right does matter.
It gathered momentum after I had made some instructional films for a religious sister, these helped to extend virtually the one to one time I had with her. She encouraged me to continue with them.
Now I just film when I think there is something I am working on which may be of interest to others. I hope our short videos help familiarise with the idea of working with ones hands and rather than keep methods “secret"; (as the early "Masters" often did - they might encourage a future religious artist or two, to create something both pleasing and beautiful.
The importance of Seeing and Believing
Early artists had to invent ways of making paints; (and the difficulty of this didn't put them off) their knowledge of pigments was held somewhat in secret, and passed from Master to Apprentice.
They used all manner of materials and binders to make their paints; crushed petals, and powdered dirt for pigments, stabilised with binders from spittle to animal collagens.
No doubt they were spurred on by the desire to create something of beauty and have others to enjoy it.
This reminds me of the bible passage John 9:6
"Having said this he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle put this over the eyes of the blind man and said to him " go wash in the Pool of Siloam."
Jesus used what was just dirt and spittle, (the ingredients of artist pigment), to cure the man who had been blind form birth - he could see for the very first time.
To foster religious art within the church, I believe its important to de-mystify it somewhat, so that people find it accessible again. In this way, both clergy and laypeople (hopefully) can see how it fits in to our beliefs; that's the "raison de etre" of our short films.
Lewis and Lewis
is a Catholic family run business: specialising in statue restoration, and church interior projects.
Jeanette is a professional sculptor/fine artist and designer; husband David is a traditional upholsterer/technician.
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