Repent!

I’ve been meaning to write about painting recently…

pentimentoand when I saw dictionary.com’s word of the day for today (June 10, 2015), I knew I had no choice. The word is “pentimento” – a term used in painting to describe the presence or emergence of earlier images, forms, or strokes that have been changed and painted over. The paintings “under” other paintings.

Most commonly, it was a correction of some previous stroke (or concept) – like Vemeer’s Milkmaid (under x-ray a basket of clothing appears behind the legs of the maid) or van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Wedding (where figures in the underdrawing were arranged differently and had different hand gestures). Sometimes it was an entirely different painting – Picasso’s Old Guitarist, for example, in which a woman’s face is revealed. Sometimes it was done just to re-use canvases when the underlying painting was deemed not as good as the one that was to be put on top of it. It’s a fascinating science to study them.

paint-brush-vector-1657534But what’s even more fascinating to me, when you consider that the Paintbrush is an important Cyprian symbol of the Artist, is the etymology of the word itself.

The word derives from the Italian for “repent” which ultimately derives from the Latin paenitēre meaning “to regret”.

The face of the woman in the image that The Old Guitarist is painted over.

The face of the woman in the image that The Old Guitarist is painted over.

The symbology of The Paintbrush is most easily explained with the description that it represents the additive process of art. To paint, you add paint to a canvas. You apply pigments – physically adding them to the work. Consider this in relation to the Beautiful Life. When you are applying the lessons of the Paintbrush, you are adding things to your Life that help make it Beautiful. It is a physical act.

You must first conceptualize what you want your Beautiful Life to be (This is the first Vulnerability stage). Or, rather, how it can be. Then you gather the canvas, mix the paints and begin the work (This, hopefully, is the Mastery stage – although it doesn’t need to be. This can also be the MasterING stage). Little by little you add bits of paint with a series of implements, changing each color and brush to suit the need of the stroke. Your goal: to create a masterpiece.

The then comes of the oops moment, the cockup, the sin (the Hebrew word חָטָא, meaning “sin”, has been wrongly defined for centuries. The word means, simply, to “miss the mark” or “go wrong”). You screwed up a stroke, blended a color wrong, put the hand in the wrong place. Whatever the sin, the only way to correct it is to repent. You have to add more paint. And in some cases you must wait hours, even days, for the mistake to dry before you can make any such pintemento.

Think deeply about how this might be applied to your own life, especially your Beautiful Life. Contemplate the implications such a symbolic teaching can have for you. The Paintbrush acknowledges that we will make mistakes, but also that they can be corrected. But not necessarily forgotten or done away with forever – not erased. Think about Picasso’s Old Guitarist, and realize that for whatever reason he decided to paint over the previous woman, she exists as a ghost within his masterpiece. She will always be there.

Our mistakes need not haunt us. But we cannot erase them. The Beautiful thing about it is that we certainly can continue to massage the painting until it is right. Our masterpiece will be made of our most masterful strokes, and also contain the marks that were missed.

Fiat Lux Lunae.


Here’s some bonus material:

A watercolor by Ben Rathbone from Bordello

A watercolor by Ben Rathbone from Bordello

An early painting by Ben Rathbone of Michelle L'amour

An early painting by Ben Rathbone of Michelle L’amour

Ben Rathbone is an acclaimed painter based in Chicago. Though he and I disagree on certain philosophical things, I admire him as an artist. His technique is impeccable and I enjoy his company immensely. For the past five years, he has been a dear part of my beloved Bordello – Sensual Sketch Club. This mini-documentary is about him and features his painting of Madame Michelle L’amour (plus, you can see the work of some of our other artists -like Jenny Stocker – in the background of the gallery scenes. Enjoy:

More to think about:

28-Chisels-129The Paintbrush is the symbol of the additive process of art. The Chisel – a symbol of sculpture – is its counterpart. The Chisel, then, represents the subtractive process – removing physical mass from a stone in order to create a sculptural masterwork. When applying it to our Beautiful Life, this concept is thick with interesting implications as well. How would the subtractive process handle a sin, the missing of a mark?

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About frankyvivid

Franky Vivid is a poet and burlesque producer from Chicago. He is married to burlesque star Michelle L’amour, with whom he co-founded the international literary salon Naked Girls Reading in 2009. For four years he was the curator of the Everleigh Social Club in Chicago, an experiment in using Cyprianism to inform the operation of a private arts club. Vivid is a Freemasonic Knight Templar and founder of Paradise Garden #7. For more on Cyprianism and a continuing discussion about elements of The Seed and its underlying Philosophy and Practice, visit him at www.cyprianism.com.
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