A Day at Cape Cod

On Thursday, June 14, 2018 – I spend most of the day at Cape Cod, MA.

What better way to start than museum and nature together? The Heritage Museums & Gardens was my first stop. I had a wonderful time at the gardens, labyrinth, tree house, carousel  and pathways. I especially enjoyed meditating near the waterfall pond, where I attempted a quick sketch with the tools I have available – sharpies.

Inside the three various museums, there was plenty of American art – native, old and modern. I saw plenty of original paintings from Wendell Minor’s children books – and other paintings. In the carousel gallery – I saw plenty of varied artifacts, including woven baskets, ceramics, statues, tools and even the ‘teeth’ of a whale. Yes, I rode the carousel, and I also switched horses in motion when the guard wasn’t looking.

I’m not much of a nascar enthusiast, but I got to see the Indy 500 exhibition, including cards that won the race last year. Lots of cool history in there, and there are two cars you can take a picture with. I did one of them:

And finally – Sandwich boardwalk beach. What a beautiful beach! Walking on a boardwalk from the parking lot over the marshes, over a dune and down to a beach with diverse texture. Some areas are sand, some are smaller sea shells, and even smaller to larger pebbles. What I thought would be a short walk ended up being a few relaxing hours.

Naomi’s Tragedy and Devastation

During my MA studies in Jewish Education, at Hebrew University, we were working in groups on analyzing artistic portrayals of biblical stories. I decided to add my own take, and make some art, since I haven’t been actively doing that in a long time. I miss it.

So, here goes.

Naomi’s devastation upon the loss of her two sons, a decade after her husband died. And this time her loss is complete, since as long as her children were alive, there was hope of rebuilding the family.

וַיָּמָת אֱלִימֶלֶךְ אִישׁ נָעֳמִי וַתִּשָּׁאֵר הִיא וּשְׁנֵי בָנֶיהָ׃

Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons. (Ruth 1:3)

 

וַיָּמוּתוּ גַם־שְׁנֵיהֶם מַחְלוֹן וְכִלְיוֹן וַתִּשָּׁאֵר הָאִשָּׁה מִשְּׁנֵי יְלָדֶיהָ – וּמֵאִישָׁהּ׃

Then those two—Mahlon and Chilion—also died; so the woman was left without her two children and without her husband. (Ruth 1:5)

Note two details.

  1. The two sons’ pronoun changes. At first they are banim, sons. Ben comes from the root binyan, which means “building”. But after they die, they change to yeladim, which merely refers to their having been born. They are children. But there is no potential for being built by them:אל תקרי בניך אלא בוניך

    The Sages interpreted this verse homiletically: Do not read your children [banayikh], but your builders [bonayikh]. (Berakhot 64a)

  2. When they die, Naomi loses her husband again. She is truly bereft of him, because now she can no longer be built by her children.

 Ruth and Orpah, the daughters in law, are embraced in the background. They are also bereaving, but their loss is not as utter and total as Naomi’s.

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Wedding Picture

Back in 2009, I was working with a person who owned a jewelry store in Meah She’arim. At the time, we were working on some ideas of reproducing my art in giclee –  printing pastel painting scans onto canvas, and adding paint into them for a higher value.

Well, I’ll say I’ve experimented with different ways of selling my art, but I am happy that this venue didn’t work out. It didn’t feel authentic and I did not want to market myself in such a way.

Anyway, he asked if I would make a pastel painting of his wedding. First of all, I don’t really like working from photographs, and second – there are so many people in the background – overload!

Long story short, I ended up doing it anyway, and here is the result:

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Random drawings and paintings from my years in Telshe-Stone (2003-9)

There is no particular order or logic to these pictures. Nor is there a development, necessarily. Some of them were an attempt to get back to pastel landscaping, after a few years without, and some were just for fun, and one of them – by commission. Sadly, lots of my charcoal works have been damages by water, and this are decorated with mold – but that does add to the beauty of the work (if not the smell).

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Pharaoh’s Dream – Outline

Pharaoh dreamed, and behold, he was standing on (or: by) the Nile, (Gen. 41:1)

He fell asleep and dreamed a second time: Seven ears of grain, solid and healthy, grew on a single stalk. But close behind them sprouted seven ears, thin and scorched by the east wind. And the thin ears swallowed up the seven solid and full ears. Then Pharaoh awoke: it was a dream! (ibid 5-7)

Ok. We know the story. These dreams were foretelling of the seven years of plenty, and then of famine, that were to come. Joseph interprets these dreams, and then rises to power, helping Egypt prepare for the inevitable famine.

What caught my attention was the imagery: Ears of wheat swallowing a stalk of wheat. Wow. How does that happen? I mean, sure, it’s a dream, but still, I couldn’t quite imagine how wheat does that?

And then I had a bizarre idea. In 2014, I was doing a weekly Parasha drawing for my middle school students, as a way to engage them in discussion about the Parasha. I would typically try to draw something which doesn’t often get attention. An example would be Joseph’s dreams – which are very popular, versus Pharaoh’s dreams, which aren’t often illustrated. But how to illustrate this idea? What came to my mind was Disney’s Fantasia. Just imagine – a dreamlike reality in which inanimate things come to life with the right music, and then act in strange ways. If Hippopotami can dance and Brooms can carry water, why can’t ears of wheat be threatening and devouring? So I don’t have music, and I don’t have the means to illustrate this as a video clip (which I would love to, one day!), but I had my pastels, so I got busy!

This was my initial sketch for a future drawing:

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It has been three years, and I decided it is time to act. I’ve been spending considerable time studying about ancient Egypt, and was inspired to paint this idea in a Papyrus-like imagery. I even bought papyrus, but by the time the order arrived, I had invested significant time into this sketch, so the Papyrus will have to wait for a future painting.

pharaohs-dream-hieroglyphThis painting will include hieroglyphs which tell the story, and I have posted that on my Instagram feed a few weeks ago. Below are a couple pictures of where the painting is holding as of now. It will be painted in watercolor, and BE”H will be part of a series of Parasha related paintings, which I do hope to exhibit in the future.

In the drawing, I had to tone down the Fantasia style dancing of the ears, to make it resemble a Papyrus painting, while gently stretching the borders of that style. Notice that the ears are hinting at being three dimensional, and Pharaoh is standing on the Nile, as some of commentators take the verse to mean. It is a dream, so why not?

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However, after completing this, I feel that it is still not so clear that Pharaoh is on the Nile. To make it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt, I added some of the reeds and lotus flowers behind him, adding as well to the natural borders of the painting.

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To be continued…

Dreams

This post is in honor of the current weekly Torah portions, and my favorite Biblical character – Yosef!

(For the general public, I will call him Joseph, henceforth).

My hero, Joseph the Dreamer. Beloved of his father, hated by his brothers, and oh, so romantic. Sold by his brothers – only to rise to the top of Egypt and meet his brothers again – and try to bond with them, once again. Yet this post is not about Joseph the Dreamer, nor the Seeker of Brotherhood, but about dreams per se. Joseph is part of a new saga in the development of the Genesis narrative: The Saga of Dreams.

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Jacob’s Ladder. Pastel on paper. 2014

Up to this point in the narrative, Biblical characters are driven by conviction and purpose, perhaps even vision or revelation (which could have occurred in a dream). Seekers and fighters, yes, but not dreamers.

From here on, we hear about several dreams: Jacob’s Ladder, and later a bizarre dream relating to the strange goat-sheet breeding episode. Joseph dreams time and again, and then becomes an interpreter of several critical dreams.

On his way northeast, Jacob makes a rest stop in Beit-El (Bethel), and in his slumber he has a defining dream – one which speaks of history (taking for granted Midrashic and Kabbalistic interpretations), the rise and fall of the Great Empires of the world, and his place in the scheme of things. But it is also a dream in which he sees himself from the outside.

He had a dream; a stairway was set on the ground and its top reached to the sky, and angels of God were going up and down on it. 

And G-d was standing beside him and He said, “I am G-d, the Lord of your father Abraham and the Lord of Isaac: the ground on which you are lying I will assign to you and to your offspring. (Gen 28:12-13)

Jacob – dreaming – seeing himself from the outside. Out of body experience?  Freudian analyses, anyone?

This images speak strongly to me of a delving into the experience of consciousness itself, and the matter of the subconscious. Several contemporary ideas come to my mind. One of them is the 1990 film Jacob’s Ladder. Not an easy movie to watch, but it has a poignant interpretation of a ladder: Constant, repetitive awakening from a nightmare. Once awake, it was clear that the previous experience was, indeed, a dream. But then he wakes up again, and again, and again.

The main source of inspiration for my drawing (though poorly represented) is Kurt Gödel‘s incompleteness theorems. The ladder could thus represent an infinite climb to higher orders of truth, or reality, from which the lower levels can be better understood. Kabalistically, this would work well with various interpretations of Jacob’s attributes, as well as his connection to Truth and Beauty.

I tried to express, in the least, the idea of a ladder which takes us outside of the confinements of the parochial. A vision which takes us outside of the planet and into the stars.

 

The next drawing is about starts. And the sun, and the moon. And sheathes. Josephs’ two defining dreams, both a premonition of his greatness, and the cause of his alienation from his brothers:

His brothers answered, “Do you mean to reign over us? Do you mean to rule over us?” And they hated him even more for his talk about his dreams. (Gen. 37:8)

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All that didn’t end well for Joseph.

Joseph was driven by his dreams. And dreams indeed helped him rise from the depths of despair to the top of the world.

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Joseph in the pit. Pastel on paper. 2014

 

Thunder and Lightening ברקים ורעמים

Just in time for winter…

These illustrations are part of a series of kids’ books illustrations I was working on with musician and author Yerucham Levi. Sadly, it never took off. They are illustrations for a Hebrew poem called “Thunder and Lightening“. Since I made these, over a decade ago, I lost the original poem. I do hope to retrieve them upon my next visit to Jerusalem.

The basic idea of the poem is that the thunder and lightening are roaring, scaring away everyone. Weeping clouds, angry clouds, roaring clouds (thus I anthropomorphized them). But then the child, who is watching this, reproofs the clouds, the thunder and the lightening, for they are scaring away everyone – even the stars!

 

Illustration with mixed media: Indian ink, gauche and aquarelle. Some of them were inspired by Where the Wild Things Are, a wonderful children’s book by Maurice Sendak. See if you can guess which?

All off these images are copyright to Nachliel Selavan. The concept for the poem is copyright to Yerucham Levi.

בדיוק בזמן לקראת החורף

האיורים הללו הם חלק מסדרה של איורים לספרי ילדים שהכנתי בשיתוף עם המוזיקאי והסופר ירוחם לוי. לצערי, הסידרה לא יצאה לאור. לחיבור קוראים ״ברקים ורעמים״ (כל הזכויות שמורות לירוחם לוי). מאז שאיירתי אותם לפני למעלה מעשור, איבדתי את הטקסט המקורי. אני מקווה למצוא אותו בביקורי הבא בירושלים

הרעיון הכללי של החיבור הוא שהברקים והרעמים בוכים, מיללים, זועפים ושואגים (הלכך האנשתי אותם), ומפחידים את כולם. הילד, שמבונן בכל זה, יוצא וצועק על העננים, כי הם מפחידים את כולם – אפילו את הכוכבים

צוייר בעזרת דיו, אקוורל וגואש. חלק מהאיורים בהשראת ״ארץ יצורי הפרא״, ספר ילדים נפלא מאת מוריס סנדק. התוכלו לזהות אילו מתוכם?ח

על הזכויות על האיורים שמורות לנחליאל שה-לבן, וכל הזכויות על הרעיון של החיבור, שמורות לירוחם לוי

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Two pictures intended to be side-by-side: Weeping clouds
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and Angry clouds
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Next: roaring clouds, scaring everyone away
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Image for two pages, across: Child in bed, with a warm cup of hot cocoa, observing the storm outside. I decided against adding lightening to the image (though it should be there), because the window is where the text would go. The lightening was a photoshop job, which didn’t happen yet
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Child goes outside and shouts at the clouds
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The clouds suddenly get a grip. They see that the stars are running away!

 

The Bedroom Waterfall

The Bedroom Waterfall

So if you’ve spend any  significant time in the Old City of Jerusalem, you should know who “Cowboy” is, AKA “Zadi Nati” or simply: Nati Charles, the Prince of Tales.

Uncle Nati and Babi Irma, of blessed memory, have been part of my life since I was very young. It started with a connection to my father who made an accidental phone call around 1979. Since then, we’ve been close. Nati, who was a WWII Pilot, also taught me fencing, knife throwing, and all about the Masai. He is one of the coolest people you will meet.

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So Uncle Nati and his wife, Nechama, asked me to paint an “Ein Gedi” style mural in their bedroom. It took me half a year to complete it, mostly because I was very busy. I took two days to do the first part, and left it in reasonably presentable fashion for the next six months or so. Below are some highlights form the process, from beginning to end.

 

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End of day 1

The fun part in day 2 was that my first cousin was spending the summer at my parents’ home. He was looking for something to do so I put him to work, Karate Kid style. “Paint the fence: up – down!” even though what comes to mind for all of us is “Wax on, wax off!” You can hover over the collage images to see individual captions:

 

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Sentinel Ibex

At the end of day 2, it was basically done, I thought. But there was a whole area behind the entrance door which was left blank. Nati and Nechama could not decide what they wanted on it. Meanwhile, they decided they want to have a gazelle, to give the authentic Ein Gedi look. I was in college, hard pressed finding time to work on any painting, all the more so a mural. But you know, it’s Uncle Nati!

Finally, I got my act together and added that cute little gazelle, and it was done! The sad part is that because of the shape of the bedroom and the lighting, it was very hard to get an angle on the entire wall. So you are seeing it in fragments. But if you want to see it for yourself, you’ll have to visit Nati and Nechama, in the old city. But be warned, you might be pampered.

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Gazelle