Araji Ko, Der - Before Thee, O Lord

Medium: coloured pencils

This is an unusual piece of artwork, I'll admit, so let me explain.

In celebration of Doug's 49th birthday, a group of Fan Sapiens (as Doug calls his more fervent fans) from the Message Boards on director Guillermo Del Toro's official website decided to give Doug some gifts. We dubbed our little enterprise "Operation Fan Mule" and chose one diligent volunteer to bear said gifts to him on May 31, 2009 at the Monsterpalooza 2009 Convention in Burbank, CA. The result was a resounding success ... Doug was really touched by our way of celebrating his birthday and had lots of Thank-You's--and "virtual hugs"--for his devoted fans!

Being partly of Armenian ancestry, my gift to Doug was a pair of ornamental Armenian cross necklaces. Knowing that Doug loves handmade presents from his fans, I decided to make him a birthday card rather than buy one. I wanted the card to match the gift, and was trying to figure out an artistic way to incorporate Doug into a card with hand-drawn images inspired by ethnic Armenian art. In my research on traditional Armenian artwork, I found that many of the most beautiful and memorable images are those of couples, often in romantic, lyrical and pastoral settings. And so what began as a birthday card for Doug ended up instead as a 25th Anniversary card for Doug and his lovely wife, Mrs. Laurie.

This picture incorporates a style of art heavily used in Armenian art from the late Middle Ages to the early 20th century, and even today it is imitated still in countless books, posters, pictures, book illustrations, and still, Armenian rugs. (they are callled "Turkish rugs" as they have mostly been made in Turkey, but it was largely Armenian families who did the work, having been natives of that land far longer than the ethnic Turks. Of course, they are called "Persian rugs" too as they are also manufactured in Iran--yesterday's Persia--and it may be that the style origionally came from there, but both civilizations are ancient and historically both peoples have traded together, so who knows.)

This picture was inspired by an image taken from a book about the classical Armenian poet Sayat Nova, who lived in the 18th century. It was inspired by a poem called "Without Thee, What Are Song And Dance To Me?" The brightly colored peacocks, the pagan lizards and fireflies, the ornamental vases, and especially the clinging vines and leaves, are heavily used in traditional Armenian art and symbolize life and vitality. They date, I think, from a time long before Armenia became a Christian nation, in the 300's CE (AD).

As to Doug and Laurie, I wanted not only to put them in a romantic setting and attire worthy of the wonderful event of their 25th Anniversary, but to muse on how far they've come. It's not clear if Doug is the older Doug or the younger one, but I decided to make Mrs. Laurie maybe a bit less ambiguous. The idea is that after 25 married years together, they are still courting (the formula to all lasting marriages, I guess!) Hence the open book at their feet, the instrument, the horse.

The inscription at the open book at their feet is written in the Armenian alpabet and translates as "Araji Ko, Der'--"Before Thee, O Lord." It's a testament to their Christian faith and journey before God, too. And they stand under the Tree of Life, another heavily symoblic common image in traditonal Armenian art.

it may be different, but Doug didn't think it strange, so I heard. That's our Doug--he welcomes all gifts from his fans, no matter how they were inspired!

Tina Cochrane
20th November, 2009


© 2009 Tina Cochrane. All rights reserved

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