An alphabet in poetic form
Why an alphabet? Because in the first episode Tortu was teaching Regalus her letters, a plot point that leads to the impresario’s first thoughts of Regalus as a human being, and not merely a piece of property he’d acquired. I rhymned in the letter W, which was used by the Normans (witness the Bayeux Tapestry), but would not have been pronounced as it is in English. A bit of poetic license.
Then, I had in my notes a line I wanted to use, in which the character follows a path of city streets in a pattern like the letter G. So having made that start, I carried on the challenge. Each letter had to be used in a creative way, not always the shape of some object, and as the list lessened, I had to find ways to use the letters that were left.
On the art. You hear people say they can’t draw. My thought has always been that you can visualize a picture in your mind, and you can show on paper a thing unique to your own imagination. This is a little miracle we should value for itself, instead of supposing art to be “not art”, unless it achieves a standard of perfection, or wins approbation from the holder of some franchising rights . . . a curator, a professional critic, an established money-maker. I tell my working stories on this page, how I made okay paintings for The Impresario; how I identified problems and set about making the paintings better. Not perfect! But, my audience, make art. And don’t worry about being able to draw. We all can.
Some of the scenes depicted project to the episode ahead, as part twenty-two below, the moment of confontation between Pierre and Regalus, which occurs in the text during part twenty-three. The original lacked modeling (most telling around Pierre’s nose). Regalus had an out-sized forehead, and not quite the right expression. She has resolved to place herself in God’s hands and to do what prayer has told her is His will. The need, then, was to get that resolution: the serenity of one for whom sacrifice is honor.
Part three (scene with timbered houses) was a tough one to stage. All these things of the middle ages have to be guessed at, with only a certain amount of (mostly) ecclesiastical art as guideline. I pictured a small version of the standard house, with lofts and common rooms for the town’s poor. The ruling classes, the knight and cardinal at the right, are too tall for these, but the peasants at the left can fit them. I hadn’t quite worked the proportion and positioning of the impresario, and Regalus in the first had an excessively long right leg. The cloaked figure at the left needed his feet corrected.
The portrait of Boniface (part twenty-one) ran, in the creating, into a snag. I’d ordered a cheap tube of black paint, because I typically put a dark ground on the canvas and bring form out of “shadow”. Something in the nature of it, made this come from the tube in liquid form, and it took ages to dry. Worse, every color added sank into a muddy greyness. Much later, when the surface was entirely dry, I was a able to go back and add character to the face.
Above are three early versions I found worth returning to. The Dauphin and Tortu (part sixteen) took the most improvement, because of the muddy paint problem; and Regalus (part four), being a challenge—because in painting portraiture I’d never “positioned” actors before—just looked unfinished, not properly modeled. (You’ll note the faces, from portrayal to portrayal, don’t look like the same person. They are all invented people, and I haven’t developed that gift, yet.)