Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Outlaw John Ainsworth

I have this story by searching through bits and pieces of inquisitions and land records from the British Archive online and records of Manchester...

This story takes place at exactly the same time as Robert Louis Stevenson's The Black Arrow and has many of the same people, on the eve of the War of the Roses...

Middleton was a parish in the west country near Manchester, England, north of the Apenine Moors. The Ainsworths lived there, in Lancashire and were farmers and landowners. John Ainsworth married Maud de Middleton whose father was Roger de Middleton Lord of Middleton Manor, and that moved the Ainsworths into Middleton Manor as dukes in 1361. Upon the death of Roger de Middleton, John de Ainsworth was appointed Duke of Middleton Manor "by the courtesy of England".

But... these were dangerous times in the mid-1300's, for John of Gaunt ran the countryside of Lancashire.

John of Gaunt was a ruthless and powerful man, younger brother of Edward the Black Prince and best friend of Henry Bolingbroke, Plantaganet, who would soon conspire to remove Richard II from the throne of England and ignite The War of the Roses. In those days Henry Bolingbroke was First Duke of Lancaster and John of Gaunt 2nd Duke of Lancaster.

Middleton Manor was well situated, and the property brought in sizable revenues each year. This is probably why several noblemen brought charges against John de Ainsworth, claiming to the Inquisition of Manchester that John Ainsworth had killed their comrade Adam de Knolles, one of the Duke of Lancaster's men, with an arrow in the forest. No other witnesses ever appeared in court and the inquisition decided that John Ainsworth was from thenceforth outlawed and his lands (some messauges in the county) were forfeit, but he could remain at Middleton Manor until the death of his wife Maud. John of Gaunt immediately told the rascal Richard de Cuddleworth that he could have possession of Ainsworth's lands for a year, and consequently Cuddleworth told Nicholas del Panter that he could have all of it upon the death of John de Ainsworth. At the time, the noble gentleman Robert Radcliffe lived peacefully upon the land as a tenant.

John de Ainsworth remained in Middleton Manor as duke. No one attacked him. No arrows were fired. No, as a matter of fact, two years later John of Gaunt was called before the Inquistion of Manchester because he had failed to answer a summons from the Exchequer because the Duke and his barons had failed to declare and pay taxes.

John of Gaunt never did claim Middleton Manor nor did he do in John Ainsworth, outlaw. John de Ainsworth was still living as duke of Middleton Manor after the death of his wife, in 1382. He died in 1386 and Ralph de Barton peacefully took his place as duke, introducing himself in that capacity in the parish chapel.

In 1399 John of Gaunt was himself declared outlaw and his lands were forfeit.

John Ainsworth, son of John Ainsworth, outlaw, married into a wealthy family from Blackburn (15 miles to the north) whose ancestors included Leofwin the Saxon Lord of Pleasington and Gamaliel its first Norman Lord. By this marriage, the manor of Pleasington became an Ainsworth holding.

Robert Ainsworth the infant freeholder

Brightmet... I think the name Brightmet is the most beautiful thing I ever heard. When I first said it tears welled up in my eyes, and I had to say it again and again. Brightmet. If ever I can own a place with a field I want to name it Brightmet.

The Ainsworths had farms in Brightmet. The Brits don't say it as Brightmet anymore. Brightmede was its original name. It means Bright Meadow. Oh, I love it too much! Now they call it Breightmet, and say "breetmet". But long ago when the Moon was young they called it Bright Meadow and they had farms there.

They also lived in Harwood. In 1212, the first year that anyone wrote down the Olde English name, it was Harewode or Harewud, meaning Gray Wood. Quite a contrast to Brightmede. These places are the north and south of the Cockey Moor, west of Manchester in country that was once the dukedom of Blackburn and Middleton in Lancashire.

First the Ainsworths married Middletons and moved their stock to the manor, then their sons married into the manor of Pleasington and the gentry began to sell land in Brightmede and Harwood to pay taxes on the manors. Then in 1440 Lawrence Ainsworth married Margaret Talbot of the manor of Bashall in Salesbury. Oh, it was a grand match! She brought to the family the Peverels (yes, Harry Potter's ancestors, William Peverel, son of William the Conqueror) and a line that merged the Princes of Denmark, the Harcourts, to the Dukes of Normandy. With connections to castle keeps like Clitherou and Peverel and Warwickshire, the lines of kings and kingmakers, what could compare in the muddy tracts of Harwood and Breightmet on the moors? They were rented out, carved into parcels, and sold. Some of that, to be sure, was dictated by taxes and excises from Manchester, but much of it was simply the result of a change in interest, the red-cheeked land and happy dirtiness of farming gave way to blueblooded society and the patronage of abbeys.

Lawrence's son Ellis sold parcels and managed rents, his son Thomas supervised lands and nephews. And around 1550 Thomas's brother Robert seems to have decided to retain some of the old home land and to dispute some in-law relatives, the Comptons, for water rights and right-of-ways and a family pride emerged. Robert had two sons, Peter and Giles, in whom he had instilled a passion to value that land and fight all takers. But Robert died an untimely death, and so did brother Peter, dying young, but Peter managed to leave a son, Robert, born and orphaned in 1598.

And Giles, the survivor, must have gained another value besides holding onto and acquiring more land, he must have acquired a passion for preserving and protecting his kin and the rights of his familly. We know this, four hundred years later, because amid his land disputes against Martha Compton, who resented being a renter on land she felt she ought to own by virtue of her families' work on it, Giles Ainsworth petitoned the magistrate in Manchester to recognize the infant Robert as "freeholder", a deeded landowner, when Robert could not be more than 1 year old. And Giles never failed or missed an opportunity to list Robert Ainsworth, infant, as a freeholder living in his house. Thus did he nurture and protect his nephew, and he held onto his brother's land against all claims and challengers.

Robert the freeholder grew, left Giles' home as Giles married and fathered daughters. Robert pursued an apprenticeship in Middleton, and one fine day in 1637 he married Ellen Carlell in St. Leonard's Church and made sure, in pride of place, to record the marriage in Harwood as well.

This little mystery, put together through bits and pieces in the deeds and records of Lancashire and Manchester matters to me for more reasons than just the almost-lost story of an orphan who was rescued into his uncle's home and whose land were rescued when he was an unknowing innocent baby, and I certainly enjoy the thrill of finding and solving a mystery and piecing together the fragments of a lost story -- it matters to me because Robert Ainsworth the infant freeholder is the missing link in my ancestry, the one who turned his eyes to the far horizon and instilled in his sons a hunger for something else. It was his son and grandson who then, in the mid-1600's moved across the sea to America.

It is written somewhere deep in my heart, in my genes. Years ago I created the moniker Suspero as my email pseudonym, Latin for "I expect" or "I suspect". The ancient Ainsworth motto, unknown to me at the time, written in the 1200's, was Spero Meliora, "I expect better things".

Giles expected better things than being parceled out while "the better family" moved to Pleasington and Bashall. He expected better things for his brother's little boy Robert, and Robert, who branched out to a trade he mastered, who married and started his own family expected better things... and ultimately it led them to America. He is the missing link that bridges the seas and distant family and a place called Brightmet.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Drawing animals...

This is a case of cartooning -- looking for simple geometric shapes and creating action lines or dynamic lines in the composition. I don't have a grizzly bear at home nor do I live near a zoo, so I looked at photos and then put them away. What I did was to capture the impression of shapes on the page. It looks like a bear, but it's not really a 100% accurate representation. I tell myself not to get too precious, don't love one version too much because lightning doesn't strike twice but also because for this kind of sketching over-rendering can kill it.

The one below was drawn with Stabilo pen 88 (.4mm nib) and Stabilo pen 68 (broader bullet shape nib).

Monday, December 12, 2011

More Hi-Contrast Shading

The key to this is to ignore mid-tones -- ignore details that you see within the middle gray shading, make shadows into shapes and look for directional lines and shapes that support the rest of the form or your composition. I don't exactly squint when I do this but I don't stare straight at it and try to render an exact representation. Stabilo pen 88 .4mm for the fine lines and Stabilo pen 68 for the shading above, ballpoint pen and a Stabilo pen 68 below.

High Contrast Shading

I find it easier to do shading if I can see it on a real object instead of trying to make it up from imagination and guess work. So I will grab something available, in this case a toy soldier, and hold it next to a window or under a lamp. The small lines were drawn first with a ballpoint pen (in the case of blue) or a .4mm nib Stabilo pen 88. Then the bigger and broader shading was drawn with a Stabilo pen 68. I didn't really look at these in a studied way but drew "out of the corner of my eye", as it were, with a lot of freedom.

You can expect more posts on this...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Spatial Tension

Don't ask me why it's spelled "spatial" with a "t" when it refers to "space" with a "c", it's just the English language and that's the way it is. The classic source of the concept of spatial tension is lettering, the dot above the "i". Layout and design artists have used spatial tension in all sorts of ways. Trying to explain just how and why it works may be impossible. It may work because it sets up physical anticipations reflected in the real world, such as the diver in air, the basketball leap, basic expectations of gravity and completed actions, but it may work because of how our eyes scan things and how our minds work. If the scale is just right the distribution of shapes keeps us from seeing a gestalt all at once. It may tease our abilities at composing a gestalt or it may tease our abilities at peripheral vision. Whatever the explanation, spatial tension is a grand compositional tour de force.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Seeing Structure

The picture above is from my phone's camera. It is not really how I see things. My mind tends to isolate structure. This reminds me of that Disney show where Eyvind Earle draws the structure of a tree in an abstract way that isn't really that different from the method of Piet Mondrian. So, that picture is what my camera sees. (The Disney show I mentioned is "4 Artists Paint 1 Tree".)

Let's zoom in (sorry for the poor pixelation quality) and we get a bit closer to what my mind isolates out of the scene...

That image above doesn't really show the clarity of shapes that my mind isolates of the scene but it gets across the kind of zooming in selectivity of the mind. The image below is more like it:

I try to explain this to photography students -- our minds are very selective and our vision works almost like a telephoto lens or a zoom lens. You see this all the time with someone's travel photos -- they saw a moose that impressed them with how huge it was but in their photo taken from the car the moose looks like a distant speck of dust in a cornfield, or the mountain seems smaller than a mole hill. Besides the fact that they were using the wrong equipment when they took their pictures, they did not distinguish what their mind was capable of doing from what their equipment was capable of doing.

Allow for structure, whether in what you really see or what you fabricate. The human mind delights in structure and it gives a great confidence to some (but not all) artworks.

An Epilogue to the Odyssey

An Epilogue to The Odyssey

The people who lived on the Cyclades Islands must have been all right, they were onto something. Unlike the people of Ithaca and Macedonia and Sumer and Assyria, they left no weapons or fortresses, only visions of music, wine, dancing women, and songs. How could such peaceful idyllic people have been related to the Dorians or Macedonians or Spartans, fighting all the time, always critical, never satisfied and happy?

What did Ulysses and Penelope do when it was all over? They told each other their stories. Ulysses became king of Ithaca once again, but since it was west of Greece you know that no one there could be happy for long.

So, who were The Fates? Aw, who cares about The Fates?! They are just restless spirits seeking their own kind so that they can hunger and roam and write fortune cookies.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gilgamesh fail...


Gilgamesh failed. He could not stay awake and listen to the story.

Utnapishtim’s wife baked loaves of bread each day that Gilgamesh slept, and he slept for a week.

Well, he had been through a lot, hadn’t he?

Ever notice when you fail that all the rest of the world is happy? You are alone when you fail.

Better to embrace life and celebrate while you can than to chase immortality and fail.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Seeing Things...Migraine, Aura, Hallucinations...

A break from Gilgamesh to talk about migraines, as in I saw something similar to this for half an hour this afternoon. They usually start as little tiny things in the center of my vision and then they grow and grow until they expand beyond the edge of my vision and then they are gone.

The reason I have three tries on here is that what I really need is something that moves and shimmers like a psychedelic special effect and I'm just not that good at creating special effects. If there is a filter that can turn a portion of an image into some kind of optical line effect like the pattern behind the old Green Hornet logo or something off Star Trek then I would probably have the right pattern, because the thing shimmers and shifts and seems to move, sort of like the electric marquee lights on Broadway, but in zig-zags and an arc.

These are known as "fortification auras" and a former Behavioral Science colleague of mine used to seem to delight in telling me that I had hallucinations. I seem to see them more often in the southern U.S. than in the west and they may be triggered by weather and humidity. I have 5 daughters and three of them see some type of aura, but everyone's is different, from a white snow effect to colorful spots to nauseating washes of icky cream and vegetable colors.

Below is a sequence description I made in 2003.

Gilgamesh and Utnapishtim the Thousand Year Old Man


Gilgamesh comes to Utnapishtim.

Utnapishtim is the man the gods will not allow to die, the one with all the answers, and Utnapishtim is a relative of Gilgamesh, family. Utnapishtim wants to tell his story.

Seems like Gilgamesh has been though a lot, too, and could tell about it, but Gilgamesh must shut up, stay awake and listen, because that is the price of immortality.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Positive and Negative and Scale

There is something about the human mind that delights in interplay and being tricked. This gives artists some great advantages in design by playing with elements. The drawing above is actually 9-feet by 12-feet in size, based on a sketch I did in a journal I carried with me on my first trip to The Tor of Avalon near Glastonbury. I wanted a certain mythic feel to it, so I had the illustrators/background painters styles in mind, like the things done by Eyvind Earle. To take that from a 3-inch by 5-inch size sketch to a mural size drawing plays with the audience.

Below is a version on a 9-inch by 12-inch piece of Bristol board. To draw the wall size version I used house painting brushes, mostly 2-inch wide, and acrylic paint. I have had good experiences with Blick and Utrecht brand acrylic paints. The best grays are made by mixing two complementary colors, such as blue and orange. That makes for a natural gray, and to get a natural "black" mix burnt umber and blue. Stay away from phthalo blues, use cobalt if you can or an ultramarine not made from sulphur.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Gilgamesh and the death of Enkidu

The Death of Enkidu

Prophecies are trouble, some come in dreams. Enkidu had a dream about death and it caught hold and he died. Gilgamesh grieved and grieved and could not get over it, he sat with the body until maggots crawled from it. Such a grief is the kind of grief that you cannot let go of or the life you cannot celebrate when it is ended or the loss that you cannot accept. Gilgamesh’s grief becomes The Madness of the King.

Take care of grieving people, comfort them with good thoughts and stop them before they make decisions, before they go on a long journey full of more grief and more things that they cannot accept.

Gilgamesh, without friend, counselor or comfort sets out on a long journey to try to overcome death. In the eyes of his people Gilgamesh is mad to leave.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Tropes are on the March...

Salvador Dali's most famous painting, The Persistence of Memory, usually gets all kind of meaningful explanations but the main thing that you need to remember about it is that other than it being a micro-textbook for Surrealism it is essentially and intentionally meaningless. The clock and watch faces, the eyelid and eyelashes, the Spanish landscape were all chosen to seem significant but they are in fact deceptive, mockeries of the viewer's search for meaning.

Of the two goals of Surrealism, the destruction or mockery of meaning was the first and greater goal, Freudian psychanalytical dream interpretation came second. Surrealism followed on Dada as the third movement of a group of writers including Andre Breton who branched from Absurdist Theatre to Dada to Surrealism making point after point, all the while denying it, that our own desire for meaning entrapped us in trompe l'oeil illusions and cul-de-sacs of pathos. Sometimes the revolutionaries were a little scary, sometimes eerily prescient, always playing head games.

The academy style which Dali employed to create what people often misinterpret as "super real" illusion is in itself the legerdemain that tricks us in the prestidigitation. The picture started out as random shapes created as "automatic writing". As with most trompe l'oiel illusions one must blank the details out of the mind and grasp the fact that the "limp" "melting" shapes began blankly as just bad shapes. Dali then painted into the shapes symbols to which we impart tremendous meaning: clocks with their tyranny of time and schedule, eyes which suggest personality, sleep, sexuality, and around that a setting of place, like a novelist establishing a story that goes nowhere. And in the forecorner of it a clock is disgustingly and disquietingly overrun by ants.

The ants are actually our clue to the whole game, they could represent a trope, "des fourmis dans les jambes", which Dali employed again in the film, Un Chien Andalou. The phrase, "Se sentir des fourmis les jambes", or "I feel ants on the legs", may or may not represent a genuine French or Spanish idiom as it is purported to be, but it would be an inconsequential thing to say. However, if it was literally true that ants were all over your legs you would jump up screaming! A few bugs show up in our house and out comes the spray until they look like foam puddles! The trope, a play on words, is harmless until it materializes and materially it is a nightmare.

There may or may not be a correlation to Freud in the study of tropes, but the Surrealists were onto the dissemblage of language before the artistic renderings of dreams and fears began. Guiltlessly denying all they would say our interpretations like our fears were our own fault for projecting meaning where there is none.

Ironically, Dali was expelled from The Surrealist Congress after 1938 because of the painting below, The Temptation of St. Anthony, which employs many symbols as meaningful things fraught with the context and association of their meaning. Such a betrayal of principle would never do -- not that Surrealists admitted to or espoused any such things, and one wonders how a Surrealist could vote or act out an expulsion (??).