Archive for January 2011

Fairy eyes

I know that there has been speculation toward fairies having souls. Just like the old adage, “All dogs go to Heaven.” Do these creatures really go on and have a soul? I don’t believe in a higher power in the first place. That makes this whole issue not necessarily a moot point, but rather an interesting speculation. I’m sitting in life drawing working on more details of my male fairy in the cage. It looks at me almost with contemplation, but I know the biology of the creature. Its eyes are that of a spider’s cold and just a pupil. How and what they see is the stuff of legend and myth. A thousand horror stories are penned with those eyes staring into the dreams of the unsuspecting victim.

So, do these things feel and see like us? The cognitive ability isn’t there, the familial instinct is barely there, they don’t even bare their young like mammals, but lay eggs in the soil to gestate with earth as mother and dirt as nurse maid. It is unfathomable to me how humanity could be in such a state over these small things and yet, I am part of it. Even thinking beyond the scientific fact that I have had pummeled into my head for my lifetime, I can only stare back at the eyes of this insect and wonder absurdly… What is it thinking?

Perhaps I’m being a bit too philosophical. I always seem to get this way just before my birthday. This year, it’s a little bit worse it seems. So many changes, so many upheavals in my life. And now, my birthday falls on Friday the 13th. I am by no means superstitious, but this just smacks of some sort of omen.

Wednesday. I am trying to fathom what I am supposed to do with the amount of work I’ve been given. Now that word has spread among the Brown and RISD student body of whom it is I happen to be the son of, it seems I have even less people to converse with.
There are times when someone or other tries to strike up a conversation. The topic, however always is Father. The nature that they approach me with smacks of ulterior motives. I’ve yet to find a genuine person that can get past my last name.
Girls giggle and smirk in class when I sit, the young men in class sneer or gawk with curiosity as if just being me, I were a sideshow freak. I am beginning to sympathize with the legendary “Elephant Man”. I shouldn’t say that. my plight is not nearly as bad.
If there were one person that seemed less preoccupied with the who and more with the what, it would be a miracle indeed.
I have gotten to the point of a near paranoid. I keep thinking someone is sneaking glances over my shoulder as I work in class, just to see what is going on in my head.
I hope tonight brings more sleep than the last two days. this worry is getting tiresome. I tried talking to Jules about it and his response is always the same.
“If you happen to be famous, for whatever reason, use it to your advantage. Surround yourself with the curios gawkers. Don’t let it get to you, just embrace it as a fact of who you are. You’ve been running all your life from your Father’s name. Its not something you’ll ever shake so start learning to live with it.”
I think even he is getting annoyed with me. I wish I could just let go of the feeling that everyone is against me or using me for information and curiosity.

A late night exercise in ink and paint

The party last night was a defining moment. As I entered the shabby hall that served as common room for the freshmen, I was greeted by a noise that I had never heard. The din of dozens of young adult voices all teaming together in an uproar of laughter and speech. It was a raging orchestra of voices that seemed to never end. Drinks were being opened adding as percussive sounds while the wooshing seltzer bottles and clicking of lighters added to the layers of smoke, smells and noise. I found myself taken in as a swimmer in the undertow.

I imagined this is what it must have been like when parties were thrown in Cambridge. I was never invited as my name always prevented that. No one wanted an association, save for Jules. Now, here anonymous, I felt the rush of being a teenager for the first time.

At least two hours went by in the increasingly crowded and smoky common room that never ceased in volume. I stood talking and luxuriating in the fact that no one asked anything beyond first name and major. Then I heard the most awful sound carry through the packed bodies.

“Well, I’ll be, if it isn’t Anstruther!” came the paralyzing tone of Kurt Vander. Possibly the most obnoxious young man in Jules and my class back at Cambridge Latin. With his booming voice and all the tact of a wrecking ball colliding with an orphanage, Kurt stopped the party’s orchestra of frivolity with nothing but my name. He continued.

“Anstruther, what the hell are you doing at Brown? I thought you’d be doodling some fairies or following your old man to wherever he’s gotten to.” Kurt let out with a gaffaw. I winced as I felt every eye collapse in on me and the slow rise of murmurs begin. He didn’t stop there. “Who let you in anyway, Anstruther?” he bellowed with emphasis on every syllable. “I thought I left you behind with that loser, Dermsford in Cambridge.”

As he said this, Jules popped from the edge of the crowd, fuming. “Vander, old, chum. I see you haven’t changed during the break. I thought a few months would have given you some sense of manhood rather than this fine display of childish rabble rousing. It seems to me that an ivy league man should be able to not stoop to insult on first meeting to get noticed at a party. Or do you feel slightly insecure about your own father?”

“At least my father didn’t isn’t a heretic.” Kurt retorted.

“No, just a hypocrite. Headmaster of Cambridge Latin, but had to buy his son’s way into school because the boy couldn’t even pass the entrance exam.” Jules wielded his inside knowledge like a sword in the hand of a knight. “Cavan, let’s take off while Kurt tries to figure out what I just said.”

We left, giving our regrets to the hosts and watched as sycophantic cronies tried to explain what Jules said to Kurt.

I was sitting tonight realizing no matter where I go, I’ll always be my father’s son. So I sit here painting and drawing a streetlamp for theory watching the slow humm of the Tesla bulb burn the gas within and brighten up the world enough for me to sit and paint on a street corner enjoying a moment’s peace.

There is an attitude only present on Fridays. It’s palpable when you walk the streets in a college city. The students look rushed and excited waiting for the end of the day to begin frivolity and fun. I am not so looking forward to tonight. All I have is Jules and the staff of the house. He tells me there’s something brewing on the Brown campus this evening to welcome Freshmen and I’m thinking I may go just to get out.

But, I have this feeling in my bones that if I go, I’ll have to answer that horrible question I hear so often, “Anstruther? Not THE Anstruther?” Damn him. I can’t even get away from it because its in my head. My own fear is crippling my ability to even be social. Every class has started with the calling of role and I have managed to stop most teachers by answering “Present” loudly before my name is finished being called. So far, I’ve gone unnoticed.

I don’t know if I want to stay unnoticed. Getting a new start meant escaping from father’s legacy, leaving the name behind. Perhaps I should go with Jules tonight. Try and define who I am as a man rather than let the world define me based on my father.

I sound more like a philosophy student than an artist. I’ll try it tonight and hope for the best. The worst that could happen, I’ve already lived through for years now.

My first class on my first day

The challenges have begun. My first class on my first day at RISD gave me two trials at once. We began our training as artists with “life drawing”. I was excited to see the famed Nature Lab at RISD with its collections of specimens from all over the globe. Most were stuffed or preserved, but there was a menagerie of small animals and insects.

Our instructor, Dr. Fredric Blussmer led our class from the studio up the steep hill of Waterman Avenue to “the Lab”. As we all filed in through the door the eyes of the young men and women in my group gaped at the natural wonders of our world. Nothing is so amazing as feeding an artist with visual intrigue. Dr. Blussmer began to give instructions that we were to chose a live specimen and make sketches of it. I heard the mumbling of my classmates and realized for the first time in my young life, the murmuring was not about me.

The good Dr. finished his instructions and we all set to find a live creature to draw. Many students surrounded the reptile and bird enclosures. a stout girl and her giggly companion took chairs and placed them before the enormous fish tank. There were those of us that didn’t know quite what to draw and, as I imagine, like me my classmates were still trying to take it all in.

What did I want to sit and watch for the next hour or so? Rats? No. Turtles. Those said boredom. As I spent my time arguing in my head only two things remained – a spot in front of the sleeping iguana and short stool placed before the fairy cage. I wanted to make a good impression on Blussmer, so I went to the stool by the fairies. I had draw these creatures my entire life.

What would my father say? He’d be furious that these insects were even in a cage, never mind being used for study. Taking out my pencil and penknife, I began to rough in the lines of the creature hiding behind the leaves before me. It looked at me, as though it was studying me back. For a solid hour, the small thing looked at me cocking its head from side to side moving only slightly from time to time to adjust its footing.

I started to wonder if these things actually did have feelings and thoughts. Father would be proud. I, on the other hand, felt a little sick at the thought of intelligent fairies. That concept had destroyed my life. Not to mention what it has done to the rest of the world.

A study of a portrait of my father in the Huntington home.

After finally unpacking, I was walking through the halls of this massive home. There were several portraits of Lord Huntington’s Family lining the grand walls in elaborately adorned frames. The paintings were exquisite and I wondered if in the years I spent at RISD I too would paint this way.

The study was the last room in the main house that I explored. Lord Huntington’s books lined the shelves. I almost felt as if they were calling to me to read, since he had been gone for years and the books longed to be read. His collection spanned so many topics my head spun with which to choose first. I finally decided upon a book of poetry by Baudelaire.

As the light began to fade in the windows, I clicked the light switch on and heard the humm of the Tesla bulbs in the chandelier above my head. The Lord’s desk stood before a gigantic window. to the right and left were photographs of Huntington with Queen Isabella and King James II. The most intriguing photos were the portraits of Lady Huntington and my Father. I don’t know why I was shocked to see a picture of my father. He was like a son to Lord Huntington.

What surprised me was the age of the man in the photograph. It was not a young version of Father, but a picture of how I remembered him. He looked dour and worn as a man who grew old before his time. Only the slightest hint of a smile. His normal contemplative look peering through the lens of the camera and beyond the print on the paper into my eyes.

I don’t know if it was for morbidity or boredom before my classes got underway in the morning, but I sat at the desk, turned the chair around and drew a study of my father’s face. The face I wish I could see again and ask a thousand questions to now that I am old enough to understand the answers.

Sundays were always my favorite days. Today is different. I’m nearly packed for school. The movers will be here early in the morning and the tumbling in my stomach won’t stop. It feels like a swarm of fairies fighting for a beetle all over my insides.
This will be the first time I’m away from this home in ten years. The most difficult part is not being able to relax. All my art supplies, save this sketchbook and a few pencils are packed. My books are packed. Even my Victrola with my beloved Mahler recordings is, packed.
Though it’s not far from Cambridge, Providence will be a welcome change. I need to start anew, to escape a little. I know I can’t avoid Father’s legacy, but I am hoping to at least keep a low profile.

Via post I have received a wonderful gift. After recording and reporting to you the stories of Cavan Anstruther, someone has sent me his personal journal. Read the rest of this entry »

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