Kamakhya, The Goddess of Desire

kam2On the Western outskirts of the city of Guwahati in Assam India stands the temple of Kamakhya, dedicated to the Tantric goddess of desire. Its origins are associated with the story of Sati, the first consort of the great god Shiva, who immolated herself to avenge an offense against her and her husband on the part of her father.  The grief-stricken Shiva took her body over his shoulder and set out upon a dance of cosmic destruction (tandava) throughout the Heavens. To pacify Shiva, the god Vishnu sent his discus Sudarshana to cut Sati’s corpse into 51 parts, which then fell to Earth.  On the site upon which each of these body parts landed, a shrine known as a Shakti Peetha was established, to be dedicated to various forms of goddess worship. As luck would have it, The genitalia of Sati landed at Kamakhya, which is now an important pilgrimage site for Tantric worshipers.kam

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Tagore in Delhi Airport

On my way back from Silchar, India, where I participated in the Anuvad Arts Festival (more on that to follow), I had an 8-hour layover at Indira Gandhi International airport in Delhi, where I read the poems of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) and scribbled some drawings inspired by them on the blank spaces in my flight information printouts. tagore1

Gitanjali 50

I HAD GONE a-begging from door to door in the village path, when thy golden chariot appeared in the distance like a gorgeous dream and I wondered who was this King-of all kings!

My hopes rose high and methought my evil days were at an end, and I stood waiting for alms to be given unasked and for wealth scattered on all sides in the dust.

The chariot stopped where I stood. Thy glance fell on me and thou earnest down with a smile. I felt that the luck of my life had come at last Then of a sudden thou didst hold out thy right hand and say ‘What hast thou to give to me?’

Ah, what a kingly jest was it to open thy palm to a beggar to beg! I was confused and stood undecided, and then from my wallet I slowly took out the least little grain of corn and gave it to thee.

But how great my surprise when at the day’s end I emptied my bag on the floor to find a least little grain of gold among the poor heap. I bitterly wept and wished that I had had the heart to give thee my all. Continue reading

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Legends of Lake Orta

January 31st marks the feast of Saint Julius, the 4th-century Greek preacher who is credited with bringing Christianity to Lake Orta (Lago d’Orta), a Northern Italian lake near where my Italian side of the family lives. When San Giulio arrived the the area, he decided he wanted to build a church on the island that sits in the middle of the lake. When he tried to find a boatman to ferry him over, however, he found that all the locals were too scared to do so, on account of the dragons and serpents then inhabiting the island. Luckily San Giulio was able to miraculously sail to the island on his cloak, whereupon he smote all the pagan beasties and laid the foundations of the basilica that still sits on the island now known as l’Isola di San Giulio. When I was in Italy last summer, I painted this watercolour for my little Italian cousins depicting an imagined moment in which San Giulio vainly attempts to preach the Good News to the island’s reptilian inhabitants, before giving up and deciding to just go ahead and smite them all instead. orchera3
However, it appears that one of the island’s original inhabitants was able to escape San Giulio’s holy massacre. This was the creature known as l’Orchera, the Ogress, who reputedly fled the island and took refuge in a cave on the mainland, known as “Il Bus de l’Orchera” (the hole of the Orchess). At some point in the seventeenth century, a gigantic vertebra was found in this cave, and it seems likely that this bone belonged to the Orchera or to another of the island’s monstrous first inhabitants. In the late nineteenth century, a villa was built over the site, but the cave was preserved and incorporated into the house.

orchera2The “Bus de L’Orchera”







In October of this year, the local branch of the FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano) organized a visit to the Bus de l’Orchera, as well as to the sacristy of the Basilica di San Giulio, where the famous bone is now held. On the initiative of my cousin Chiara, the organizers agreed to display my painting within the cave for the duration of the tour (photo by Chiara Vigoni).



It was only at this point that I found out about the legend of the Orchera, which is far less known than that of the dragons and serpents. I was then inspired to create a watercolour depicting the traumatized Orchera taking refuge in her cave following the destruction of her island home.
orchera-watercolourMonte Rosa, the second highest peak in Italy, is visible in the distance.


To see some of my sketches of Lake Orta from two summers ago, click here: https://julianpeterscomics.com/2015/07/22/lake-orta-sketchbook/

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White on Black Sketch #4 – Dante’s Inferno

In the last canto of Dante’s Inferno, the Florentine poet arrives at the center of the final circle of Hell, where he lays eyes on Lucifer himself. Here Hell has literally frozen over, and the Devil is described as encased up to his waist in ice. Lucifer has three faces, and in each mouth he chews on, but never quite finishes devouring, a notable sinner. The three devourees are Cassius, Brutus and Judas Iscariot, all guilty of the sin of treason towards a benefactor, which, evidently, is the greatest sin of all.

In Dante’s cosmology, Lucifer stands at the very center of the Earth, and for this drawing I had in mind a conception of him as the gravitational center of all Evil, the point towards which all temptation is ultimately pulling. Or perhaps his mouths could be interpreted as a kind of triple black hole, devouring as much of the light of the Universe as they can.


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Heresy’s musical adaptation of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot featuring my comic -Full video now available!

And what a monumental and magnificent creation it is! Heresy is a New York-based progressive rock band that has been playing together since the 70s. Prufrock, their first album since 1989, includes this wonderful 16-song suite setting to music of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot.

For more information on Heresy and on purchasing the Prufrock album, click here: http://www.heresy.rocks/

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Teaching English Literature Through Comics – In Flanders Fields at Collège Anna de Noailles

One of the most rewarding aspects of creating poetry comics for me is hearing from teachers all around the world, from Armenia to the Philippines to Spain to right here in Montreal, that are using my work as a learning tool in their high school, college, and university classrooms. Over the last couple of months I have been in correspondence with a teacher at Collège Anna de Noailles near Brive (Corrèze, France), who has been using my comics adaptation of John McCrae’s iconic poem “In Flanders Fields” as a means of engaging her students with the history and literature of the First World War. This teacher, whose name is Claire, teaches English to the students of 3ème 1 and 3ème 6 in this public middle school named after a wonderful  and beguiling French poet from the turn of the twentieth  century, and located just outside the town Brive-La-Gaillarde, whose market provides the setting for Georges Brassens’s famous song “Hécatombe.”

With Claire’s permission, I am outlining the exercises she used  in the hopes that they might provide useful inspiration to other instructors looking to integrate poetry comics into their teaching program.   To begin with, Claire cut out each of the individual panels from reproductions of my comics with the textual elements removed,  and then asked students to identify which passage of McCrae’s poem the imagery in each of the randomly shuffled panels is meant to accompany. After that, students were asked to write a short realistic text to match each panel. Finally the students were given the task of analyzing the cover image of my comics adaptation, which I’m reproducing below, along with some pictures of the corrected student assignments.


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White on Black Sketch #3 – Shiudiao Getou II

In honour of the first full moon of 2017 (and the last of the Year of the Monkey), here is another white-gouache-on-black-paper sketch inspired by “Shiudiao Getou,” a famous poem by the 11th-century Chinese poet Su Shi (or Su Tungpo). This technique really seems to bring out an unsuspected New-Agey side in me!

This drawing illustrates the last line of the poem: “Though thousands of miles apart, we are still able to share the beauty of the moon together.” You can read a full English translation of the poem here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuidiao_Getou


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