The Artistic Process

After finishing the "Remembrance" series, I realized that in addition to the six completed pieces, I also had 7 months worth of drawings and practice carvings. After reviewing these, I decided to write some thoughts about how the final project evolved, or put another way, the creative or artistic process. Some of the topics addressed are:

  • 1-The interplay between my conscious and unconscious mind.
  • 2-The importance of borders in the design.
  • 3-Portraying the concept of remembrance.
  • The "Remembrance" series is carved from the 6 pieces that were meant to be a cremation box. The uncarved box arrived in the form of a saran wrapped box (the pieces were not screwed together-only the saran wrapping kept it in the shape of a box) which sat on the floor in my work area for two years awaiting carving. As soon as I decided to use the pieces as separate canvases for a unified series, I immediately decided on the theme of "Remembrance". I believe that my unconsciousness was thinking thoughts related to the cremation box long before I consciously began thinking about how I was going to use it. I knew from the beginning that I wanted the series to include some type of remembrance to my father Louis, who died when I was young, and this was my opportunity to carve something in his memory. One of my biggest challenges was how to incorporate the idea of remembrance into the design. Should it permeate every piece or should it only be present on specific pieces? You will see from included drawing how I wrestled with this question.

    After deciding on the overall idea of remembrance, the first decision I made concerned borders. I wanted contrasting borders-half solid and half flowing. The front and back were to have matching solid borders carved with the 7 species motif. The two sides were to have matching flowing borders carved with the tree of life motif. Once I made this decision about the feel and size of the borders, I provided myself with enough structure so that I knew how much space I had left to design the main body of each piece.

    I also wanted to include certain Jewish motifs that I had never used before. These were the interlacing eternal knot menorah (side), the tree of life as flowering vegetation to be the flowing borders on the sides, and the torah tablets with positive lettering (side). These new motifs had to be designed, practiced and mastered.

    Drawing 1 was a rough drawing made very early on in the process. It is a scale drawing of the 5 pieces with the borders and my initial ideas for the central designs of each piece. You can see from the drawing that I was thinking of a 5 piece series, not the 6 pieces it ended as. I will be referring back to this drawing for each of the 6 pieces of the series.

    1- Front-Star of David containing a Rosette (Rose of Sharon) and Vegetation surrounded by the 7 Species border. Drawing 1 shows that from the beginning the front had the 7 species solid border and the Jewish Star with vegetation inside of it. The remembrance was considered in a few different ways. My last name (PARIS) is in the center of the star with my father's name (LOUIS) and my step father's name (IRVING, also a PARIS) in the center of the star. The idea of remembrance has already expanded to include my step father.

    I also wrote NAME four times around the outside of the Star, thinking I might expand the remembrance further to include my wife's parents or maybe Abraham and Sarah. None of these remembrance features ended up on the front. 2- Back-Withered Tree with Gravestone (Personal Remembrance) and 7 species border.

    Drawing 1 shows that the back was originally conceived as the primary remembrance piece. Originally as a large gravestone with PARIS and a banner over it reading "May Their Memories Be A Blessing" and grape vines flowing from the banner. After consideration, I erased the gravestone and re-drew the Kabbalistic sefirot with the circles providing room for the names of my parents, my in-laws, and the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. "May There Memories Be A Blessing" is still written in the center. The sefirot idea never gained traction and the original gravestone idea was re-drawn next to it. Drawings show that I was not satisfied with the gravestone and started working on a tree motif with names of loved ones and ancestors written on each limb. Ultimately the gravestone was reduced in size and was surrounded by the withered Tree, without names on the limbs. Interestingly, my family name Paris was replaced by the tribal name Levi, as it turns out all of my parents and in-laws were Levites. While the remembrance idea changed and changed again, the 7 species solid border remained from the beginning.

    3 & 4- Side-Torah Tablets with 10 Commandments, Crown and Flowing Tree of Life border. Side- Menorah with Eternal Knot base and Flowing Tree of Life border. Drawing 1 shows that both sides have the flowing tree of life border from the beginning, although it is conceived as a grape vine growing out of an urn supported by a stick. The endless knot Menorah and the Torah Tablets with the Crown were drawn from the beginning. One motif I was not able to incorporate into this design was LIONS of JUDAH holding up the tablets. There was no room and some things have to be saved for the future! The remembrance idea was also considered at the top and bottom of both sides. ANNA, my wife's grandmother was now included along with the fathers-LOUIS and SAUL. 5- Top-"Honor Your Father and Mother" (Hebrew) surrounded by Vegetation. Drawing 1 shows that the circle surrounded with vegetation was planned from the beginning. Words were indicated within the circle, but not chosen. The quote written on Drawing 1 was "May Their Memories Be A Blessing", which interestingly enough, was never used in any piece. The top was the only piece planned without a border. Remembrance was again considered in this piece. You can see the names of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in the open space on the side of the circle without vegetation. (Abraham, Sarah). I believe that my subconscious was again involved in determining the quote used on this piece. The quote turns out to be the perfect synthesis of remembrance, the concept that I had been struggling with, and the 10 Commandments, the symbol that I had been designing and practicing. The 5th commandment "Honor Your Father and Mother", how perfect is that!

    6- Bottom-Wood with 6 holes. Drawing 1 shows that the bottom, or the 6th piece, is not there. It was not included and not drawn. This was conceived as a 5 piece project.

    I have chosen not to name or describe the bottom piece. Since it has been carved, observers have had very different conceptions of what it represented. Certainly different than what I conceived it as. So, rather than tell you what I think, you decide.