40 Drawings in 40 Days – #39 – Danae

The penultimate drawing!

In Greek mythology, Danae was the mother of the hero Perseus.  Her father, King Acrisius, had been told by an oracle that his daughter’s son would kill him.  To prevent Danae from ever breeding, therefore, he locked her in a bronze chamber.  Zeus, however, rampaging and in musth, was unstoppable.  He turned him into a shower of gold and impregnated Danae that way.  Acrisius was determined, however, so he placed his daughter and baby grandson into a box and cast them out to sea so they would drown.  Poseidon stepped in to spare his baby nephew, however, and so the two were rescued.  Perseus then did grow up to kill his grandfather.  By accident.  With a discus.  Likely story.

Poor Danae was one of those tragic victims who waft through Greek mythology.  Terribly abused by her father, assaulted by a shower of gold, cast out to sea to die, she then found herself persecuted by King Polydectes who tried to force her to become his concubine.  It was in order to protect his mother from the King’s advances that Perseus agreed to go on the quest to kill Medusa.  In some versions of the story, when the hero returned with the severed head in order to prove the fulfilment of his mission, he used it to turn Polydectes to stone.  I’m sure nobody wept.

The two most compelling visual images to Danae’s story are her being impregnated with the shower of gold and her being cast adrift in the wooden box.  Having recently produced a drawing inspired by the latter incident, I decided to draw the former.  I drew Danae curled up fast asleep.  You may have noted that drawing hands is not my strongest point – hence I have developed my own vernacular for them – so I drew her with her hands tucked under her head.  I still had to draw her feet though but managed those.  I decided to draw her naked not merely because I am missing life drawing (though I definitely am) but because the nudity underscores her vulnerability both in terms of being mistreated by her father and by Zeus.  It also gave me plenty of practice in creating flesh tones, which I did using watercolour pencils.  I gave her long flowing hair in order to create a more pleasing composition.  Once I had coloured the figure and outlined it with Indian ink using my dip pen, I sprayed gold ink (old school method using my fingers against the bristles of a brush) over the lower portion of the drawing to create the shower of gold.

I am rather pleased with how this drawing turned out, particularly with the composition, and think I might use it as the basis of a lino block print.  Watch this space.

39b - Danae

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Black & White

I am now all caught up with the Documented Life Project’s challenges.  This week’s prompt (and how are we 36 weeks into the year already?) was simply Black and White.  I appreciated that it was a completely open subject because it enabled me to take a more minimalist approach and catch up.  I also often work in monochrome so the challenge was well within my comfort zone.

Immersed as I am in Greek Mythology at the moment, due to my Drawing a Day challenge, I somehow landed on the idea of drawing Danae with baby Perseus, set adrift in a wooden chest by Acrisius.  I am fond of doodling and a doodle approach was perfect for this drawing because I could fill in a section or two and then put my pen down to go attend to something else and then return and doodle in a bit more.  I, therefore, have no idea how long the drawing took me as I was doing it in bursts of a couple of minutes throughout yesterday afternoon.  It is quite meditative to focus on creating pattern within shapes so I also had doses of decompression from the stress of dealing with boxes and finding new homes for stuff – such a lot of stuff – in our new house and struggling emotionally with a difficult anniversary.  Interestingly, when I showed it to my kids, the youngest two did not see it as being Danae but instead interpreted it was representing me and their baby brother who was stillborn six years ago today.  Perhaps sub-consciously that was what prompted me to pluck this subject matter from the ether.  Drawing can definitely be therapeutic.  My husband commented that he thinks this is the best of my Art Journal pages.  He even used the word “stunning”.  He’s biased, of course, but I will still take the praise.

Week 36 - Black and White