A Diasporist Artist’s Prismacolor Colored Pencil Art
As an artist, I can use almost any medium to express myself, but one of my favorites is colored pencil art. Using a pencil has its advantages and disadvantages; it is erasable, but it also requires a lot of time and patience. Coloring in a large area can sometimes get very tedious, unlike a paint brush that is made to cover areas broadly. Yet, that said, I do think that it is the challenge that makes drawing more appealing to me. Yet, that said, I do think that it is the challenge that makes drawing more appealing to me, although Prismacolor watercolor pencils are definitely a wonderful mixture of both.
One of my favorite artists is Austrian, Gustav Klimt (1862-1918). I admire Klimt on a number of levels, but it is his art that speaks to me first. One of my favorite pieces is his Pallas Athene, painted in 1898, which inspired me to draw Pallas Judea in 2006.
Gustav Klimt, 1898
Oil on canvas 33 x 16 1/2 in.
Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien, Vienna
Brenne Meirowitz, 2006
Prismacolor pencils on paper and gold leaf paint 36″x24″
My drawing is a combination of Prismacolor colored pencils, Prismacolor watercolor pencils, and gold leaf paint. It is meant to be a self-portrait – me as Jewish artist, or as the late R.B. Kitaj would have it – a Diasporist Artist. Coined by R.B. Kitaj, in his First Diasporist Manifesto: With 60 Illustrations,
a Diasporist Artist is a member of a minority group and as such defines his or her art from one’s inner connection to one’s minority identification. Many of Kitaj’s work reflects his inward Jewish struggle to reconcile Antisemitism, Jewish culture, history, and religion with the non-Jewish world. For example, in his 1976 painting, If Not, Not is a surreal painting of Auschwitz, the Polish concentration camp; it depicts human suffering and destruction.
R.B. Kitaj, 1975
If Not, Not
Oil on canvas 60 x 60 in.
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
I recognize that his title, If Not, Not, was inspired by the great Jewish sage, Rabbi Hillel (c.60 B.C.E. – 20 C.E.) who wrote:
אם אין אני לי, מי לי ? וכשאני לעצמי, מה אני ? ואם לא עכשו, אימתי ?
פרק א. פסוק י”ד פרקי אבות
Translated, it means:
If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?
This speaks of the urgency of balancing one’s behavior and self-esteem in relation to other people. Many of us are givers – givers to the point to where we give up all regard for ourselves. If we allow others to control or overtake our lives, we often leave no room to take care of ourselves. A person who acts only for the good of others without thinking of him or herself first, often finds that when they are needy, few if anyone will go out of their way to help him. Throughout the chapters of the Jewish Bible (Tanach) G-d enumerates how one is to treat his neighbor – as well as one expects to be treated by others. Therefore, the commandment, “You shall love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Devarim – Deuteronomy 10:19) expects us all to treat one another as G-d wants others to treat us. Conversely, if one is only concerned with themselves, this commandment is never fulfilled. Waiting until your situation changes to care for yourself or another human being is another act of selfishness; either way, you are posting fulfilling the commandment to seize upon opportunities to help others, including yourself, on a daily basis.
Pallas Judea expresses my identity as a Jewish artist, a woman empowered to express herself, as well as speak and do for others. Pallas Athene represents the West’s as well as Klimt’s admiration of the Greek obsession of the love of beauty. The Greek warrior is a manifestation of the idealized man. However, as a Jewish woman, I recognize that Hellenism was determined on destroying the Jewish people and our religion, which teaches humility and forbids the worshiping of people or idols. The story of Chanukah encapsulates this effort and history confirms it. Even though Hellenism died 2,000 years ago, its Platonic philosophy still lives. Pallas Judea is my homage to the faithful remnant of Jewish people, who have placed ethics above the material.
Even beyond the written word, I find that colored pencil art, and art in general, is my weapon of choice. Whereas Klimt’s Greek warrior used a sword, I replace the sword with a pencil or a paintbrush.
“A Diasporist Artist’s Prismacolor Colored Pencil Art” was written by Brenne Meirowitz, BA, MA, MS.
©2009 Brenne Meirowitz. All Rights Reserved.