Caged: How the Wizard Jack O'Kent Imprisonned the Devil
THE THEORY OF THREES
Well, I have this theory.
The theory of threes.
It's an illustration theory where I suggest that a good illustration, to keep our interest, must reward further scrutiny.
Basically it means that, in an illustration we need more than two main elements..
As an example of two main elements : we could have a boy on a bike (one element) and a girl and her friends watching him (the other element). In the case of the above illustrations in this post we have a "wizard" sitting on a chair holding a wand (one element). The other element is the devil in the cage. NB: The temple walls and furniture are not elements. They are there to set the mood and to give us a background.
The third element in any good illustration (according to the "theory of threes") must be more subtle and not catch our eye at first. This third 'thing' is what rewards our curiosity and enhances our pleasure (the pleasure of discovery).
There can be more than one 'third element 'of course -as there is in the above illustrations. But ideally one of them is a dominant. It might be dominant for lots of reasons. It might be phyiscally separated from the main element grouping, it can represent a different action, or even be a different colour.
Confused? Yes? Well so am I. But that's okay.
I was trained in a scientific regime. Consequently I like to kill imaginary butterflies and pin them in imaginary boxes so I can analyse them and give them imaginary names. I also like to analyse illustrations. (Maybe I should get a job?)
Meanwhile - recently I have discovered through Roberta Baird's work that that 'third element" is even better if it contains a sub-plot. Ideally the subplot will underline the main plot.
Plot? Plot? Arrgh.
Well, consider it this way.
Consider that, in any image with two main illustration elements, the realtion between those elements make the main plot (how they interact, what is their relationship, who is dominant, what is their body posture etc).
Yet the third (or more) element provides a subplot - (in Roberta's illustration we have a cat and a 'dead' mouse).
A good suplot gives us 'thickness', it adds character and it adds backstory. A good subplot puts the parsely on the salad, the thyme in the sauce, the sparkley coriander seed thingos on the illustration icing. It also mimics or underlines the main plot.
But wait! That's not all!
A subplot (and plot) indicates a temporal presence to the illustration - that is, it suggests a 'before' and 'after' to the instant frozen by the illustration - much like Degas' cut off figures indicate a world beyond the picture frame.
"What?" I hear you whisper.
Plot? Subplot? It's not Shakespeare .... it's just an illustration.
Am I mad?
Yes of course.
Is anyone still reading?
Buts it worth thinking about?
Yes I think it is.
Especially if you subscribe to the theory that an illustration, by definition, illuminates a text; and that a plot is, according to E.M. Forster (Passage To India), a series of causal events.
And if you need further evidence, seek out Bosch's work, or Breughel's. Look for the main plot (eg Good Verus Evil), then seek out the subplots. You'll find them aplenty.
So what's this have to do with my illustration for this week's Illustration Friday Prompt "Caged."?
Good question. But we'll get to that.
I was out in the surf today thinking about this theory of threes and realised that 'threes' pop up in all sorts of places.
Humans like to think in threes. We like to sort chaos into threes. Three is an easy number to grasp. It rolls off the tongue better than 'seven' - the other popular number (eg seven ways to get fit by not doing any exercise)
Yet 'threes' can also be difficult.
In Christianity we have the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit/Ghost - which sort of confuses laymen, little children and most other people.
With women we have the conflicting concept of Harlot, Mother, Virgin - which confuses most men (bless our souls) and some women.
With men we have the Renassiance man, the Warmongerer, the Thief.
And, stepping up to the next level, in 'mankind' collectively we have another the concept of three. That of Beast, Human, and Spiritual.
That is, we have all three things within us.
All within us. Yet most of the time we supress the Beast animal - well at least I do.
Animal is pagan. Animal is dirty. Animal gets you arrested.
As human beings we try to hide the fact that our food goes in one end, and out the other. As humans we cloth ourselves, we act civilised and do not covet our neighbour's wives - not in public anyway.
As spiritual beings we tell oursevles not to worry that our animal body dies, because our souls will live on. As spiritual beings we believe in God because God creates order out of chaos. God gives us a beginning. He gives us and end. And if we are lucky he gives us other things.
When I taught Sunday School we had a litle ditty. It went something like "Envy, jealousy, malice and pride. These must never in our hearts abide." Which of course, at its most base means - forget you are Beast, keep your emotions intact and be good. (And I admit, as a good Christian, to have suffered from none of these things - even when the bitch across the road bought a brand new Red Austin Martin two door with doube cam exhausts and a rear muffler.....)
Ahem. Where was I?
And so finally we come to the illustrations.
The caged devil, is of course metaphorically Pan, a Greek God famed not only for his sexual process, but his ... err sexual prowess. His prowess was such that he was said to be even able to impregnate Male Goats.... ahem again, very handy I am sure on those cold Mediterranean nights.
Pan, as well as having his pan flute in hand, is often depicted with a 'phallus', just in case the observer didn't know who he was. His friends were Satyrs, Satyresses, Faunesses and Bachinesses. Which in the case of the latter three (and possibly the first) made the aforementioned phallus a handy addition to his wardrobe.
So, Pan or no Pan, phallus or no phallus, what is the illustration actually about?
Well you know who the Devil in the cage is, even though I have taken the civilised Human way out, and not shown him up to 'advantage'.
The chap on the left, you might not recognise as the Wizard Jack O’Kent, who, in the fifteenth century was featured in many folktales in Herefordshire and Gwent (England) for his ability to outwit the Devil.
So Jack O'Kent is depicted here as having caged the Devil.
Yet there is something afoot.
The cage is full of holes, the devil does not seemd worried (he seems gleeful in fact), and Jack O"Kent, poor fellow, doesn't realise that the whole Cage is in fact a metaphor, in that the Devil Demon Pan represents the animal side that he (Jack) is trying to surpress.
Animal supression? Sure why not? But Jack, like most human beings, doesn't realise that it will never work.
The moment Jack's back is turned Pan will leap demonically from his cage to wreak his wicked will upon young ladies, sheperdess, shepards, goats, satyresses and any other poor creature that happens to stray into his path.
Not that I am saying that Jack O'Kent had those tendencies. I'm led to believe he was a fine upstanding wizard who seduced only the wives of rich people, poor people and middling people (just kidding Jack!)
Oh? And the subplot?
Well it would be unfair of me to tell you, because you wouldn'y have the joy of discovering it yourself.
Mind you, I might have forgotten to put one in.
Thankyou for clicking for big!
I'm sorry this post is so long. I was going to tell you why the Devil has horns. But that will have to wait for another time.
Thank you to everyone who commented on my last work. I'll be back tomorrow and thank you properly.