One of my favourite painters has, for a few years, been Edward Hopper. If you are familiar with his work you know that Hopper, for all his greatness, rarely paints a good human figure. They are too pale, or too bent, or too angular or too.... just not right.
But for all his faults he has succeeded in describing the essential isolation of humans from each other. A typical Hopperesque painting might have two or three figures in an enclosed environment, each facing away from each other, as if the others did not exist.
In his paintings the protagonists are so close - and yet so far.
Though Hopper places his people in American environments of the 20's and 30's, logic tells us that this inability to bridge this isolation has been part of human nature since we started as a species.
So thank you Hopper for the inspiration.
And of course that leads us directly to our subject - King Canute. (Well it doesn't really, but I will pretend it does.)
If you are like me, you probably don't know that King Canute, also known as Cnut, won the English throne in 1016, just 50 years before the Norman 'invasion.' Again so close, and yet so far.
With all the things I know about the Normans (funny helmets, arrow in Harold's eye, Hastings, Bayeaux tapestry, the Droit de signeur) I know nought about King Canute - except that, try as he might, he couldn't stop the encroaching tide.
That isn't to say I don't think about Canute quite often.
In fact I do - most often when I am having my morning run along the beach and my shoes are wet from a sudden surging wave that has caught me unawares. To be honest, usually I've been daydreaming about making up some scary monster that I can scare kids with in my next 'illustration" - rather than taking in 'the moment'.
So serves me right.
And to be more honest, at six o'clock this morning, this illustration started as an illustration about a bent and gnarled tree. At about half past six, the tree became an island. At a quarter to seven the island became inhabited with Canute, who refusing to leave the seaside, has been caught by the encroaching tide.
Originally Canute was staring out to sea, on his lonesome. But then I realised he needed more.
He needed enigma. So at ten minutes to eight, just when I should have been ironing my shirt for work, I introduced the figure on the right - and suddenly had more than a story. I had drama, plot points, metaphor and balance - not just the balance of composition, but the balance between age and youth, gluttony and moderation, stoicism and distress.
And another figure to clothe.
The final image is below this text. The dark clouds are above the youthful figure, the light is on the King's old and swollen face.
I wonder what it means?
And I wonder which one is me?
Thank-you for looking. Again. Clicking for big in this case give accidental almost "photo-realism". Something I strive against.
Oh well :)