And welcome to my newsletter for February, 2010! Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would be interested in keeping up with me! To receive these newsletters regularly, please drop me an email or subscribe online from my website (http://www.JefMurray.com
) or at: http://groups.google.com/group/Mystical_Realms
. Notices of events and items of interest are at the bottom of this email.
A number of folks have been asking about prints of my Tolkien-themed sketches and paintings. These have been unavailable from my website since early 2008, but that is now being remedied. Although all of my original Tolkien-themed paintings and sketches continue to be handled exclusively by ADC Art & Books (see www.adcbooks.co.uk ), you will be able to purchase prints of these online again starting this month.
All will be limited edition pigment-based archival quality prints (GiclÃ©e), and all come signed and numbered. Just look up an image you like at www.JefMurray.com , and if it does not yet offer a âPurchase Printâ option, it soon shallâ¦. If there are particular prints you want promptly, let me know and Iâll put them at the top of the list for updating.
Iâm mulling over masks. This happens each year about this time, as Shrove Tuesday approaches. Mardi Gras materializes just as winter waxes full. Spring storms will stalk the weeks to come, but for now we are still Jack Frost bitten.
Mardi Gras masks hang âround our house in preparation for a feast this Friday. Mountains of okra, bushels of crabs and Andouille sausages heap the kitchen. Shrimps of all sizes and shapes swell ice box shelves. Peppers peek and onions peel. I am become the maelstrom and my name is Gumbo: behold me, ye of puny proportions, and quake!
Gumbo means âokraâ in Creole French, and the word derives from the Bantu language of the Congolese people. Here in the Deep South the word means many things: it is the big soup of the bayous that wraps great-muscled arms around all that is tasty, wild or cultivated. It is made of all things; is eaten by all things; is all things. The culmination of French and African and Native American and Italian largesse, Gumbo is a soup like that of Tolkienâs Fairy Talesâ¦made up of bits and pieces of all nations, all peoples, all mythologies.
Gumbo is like Mardi Gras. It is something magical molded from the mundane. As Tolkien says, âAll that is gold does not glitterâ: in this case, Mardi Gras glitters, but Gumbo is true gold.
But, appearances deceive on these February days. The grape vines look dead, and rosemary bush and bamboo seem to have taken Jack Frost a bit too seriously. Iâm checking to see if the honeybees are still humming their wintry lullaby, and am snipping old growth from scuppernong and fig. Next week begins Lent, and I probably need more pruning than anything else growing on this petite plot of land.
Shrove Tuesday means âconfessionâ Tuesdayâ¦the day when we need to âfess up about our failings. And with Lent we get opportunities to make amends.
But this brings me back to masks. As Iâm snipping off straggly tendrils that have grown into the gardenia bush, Iâm wondering, if masks are so much a part of Mardi Gras, is it because on Ash Wednesday weâre supposed to strip them off again? And here I mean _all_ of them, not just the paper ones we don as we guzzle our Gumboâ¦?
Who is the wearer of the mask and who _is_ the mask? Do we ever stop to find out? If I were a grapevine, who would it be that would ask to be pruned?
Surely not this strand of grapevine-come-gardenia. Thatâs a muscadine mummery. The _real_ vine is the one that cleaves the ground, the one with the stout but scarred branches. Thatâs the vine Iâm after. But there are lots of false shoots in the offingâ¦
Snip. There goes a little bit of temper.
Snip. Thatâs some arrogance right there.
Snip. There goes just the smallest strand of self-centeredness.
Hmm. Looks like this is going to take a while. Truth to tell, it may take the rest of my life to find all the bits that need chucking. Worse still, the part of me thatâs doing the judging is, very likely, the one thatâll get it all wrong. Iâll end up keeping the arrogance and snipping off a branch of humility. Iâll hang on to hamfistedness and cull compassion.
Maybe, then, this isnât something Iâm capable of doing. Just like Gumbo needs someone to season it, maybe Iâm the soup that wants salting. Maybe, when all is said and done, Iâm not capable of removing my masks and finding out whatâs beneath them.
And if this is true, then perhaps my job this Lent is something a bit bigger than I expected. Maybe my job is to sit still and let larger hands than mine figure out what parts of me need sifting and what needs savoring. If Iâm the soup, then thereâs got to be someone else tending the stove.
What I have to do this Lent is to trust the One doing the cooking. And perhaps thatâs the point. My own certainty that I know whatâs best for me is the biggest mask of all. And if so, then only by laying down that mask can I finally learn who it is that God intends for me to beâ¦.
May God bless you and yours this Lenten seasonâ¦.
- The next full exhibition at Moreton in Marsh, âThe Edge of the Wildâ, has been postponed. There are multiple reasons for the change, not least of which is the desire to include a number of new pieces of artwork from Ted Nasmith, Ruth Lacon, Peter Pracownik and myself that would otherwise not be ready to show at the event. In addition, the extra time will help insure that the new Hilary Tolkien book, âWheelbarrows at Dawnâ, will be available at the show, as will copies of my own new work, an illustrated edition of âThe Magic Ringâ by Fouque. Look for details on the new dates and times shortly; theyâll be announced on the ADC Art & Books website (http://www.adcbooks.co.uk/
), on the âEdge of the Wildâ Facebook page, and on my website (www.JefMurray.com) as soon as theyâre settled.
- The folks at the Festival in the Shire just launched the second issue of the online Festival in the Shire Journal (http://www.festivalintheshire.com/journal/
). This issue includes interviews with Ted Nasmith and John Howe, plus an article I wrote about Ted, John, and Alan Lee. You can read the latter at: http://www.festivalintheshire.com/journal/murraymuse.html
- The current issue of the âSt. Austin Review (StAR)â (January/February), focuses on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, and includes a lot of articles and images of interest to Tolkien and Lewis fans. See http://www.staustinreview.com/
for more details. This issue also includes an enormous number of my paintings and sketches, both of Middle-earth and Narnia, including the cover image which incorporates my latest painting of Lothlorien.
- Volume 3 of âSilver Leavesâ, the journal of the White Tree Fund (http://www.whitetreefund.org/)
, will feature Tolkien/Fantasy Art and Artists as its theme. The issue should be available for preorder almost any time, and should prove a worthy follow-on to Volumes 1 and 2. Iâve not seen the final layout, but it will include the work of many other fantasy artists in addition to myself.
- For folks interested in original paintings and sketches or prints of my work, please take a look at the ADC Art and Books online catalog at www.adcbooks.co.uk. It features Tolkien-themed works by Ted Nasmith, Ruth Lacon, Peter Pracownik, and myself. In addition, youâll find collectible items (e.g. Black & White Ogre Country: The Lost Tales of Hilary Tolkien) and rare books featured in the catalog and on the website.