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Lenten Meditation

Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem (The ninth station of The Scriptural Way)

Having just painted a landscape I wanted to paint human figures again but was not ready for another intimate domestic scene. As Lent is fast approaching I was moved to add to my series of pictures based on the sufferings of Jesus on the Via Dolorsa. If you follow me on Instagram, (, you will have been able to follow the evolution of this painting from the original sketch to this final version. For once I set up the sketch within a frame line with the same proportions as the canvas I was to paint on so there was no changes to the composition in the change of scale. From there I just let my mind wander as I tried to set myself in the action. Asa viewer you occupy a space corresponding to that occupied by the women, there as part of crowd cursing and gesticulating at the condemned men as they climbed the hilly streets towards Calvary, but your view is not interrupted by the cross. They served as the scapegoats that were driven out to die with the guilt of the people, so Jesus was picking up on that ritual as He prepared to offer himself. I have given you a front row seat.

The image in my head did not work as a composition until I rotated everything to have the cross descending from the top left, crushing Jesus and allowing me to show him raising his head to look at the women. Then I found the space to include them.

I had no idea how Jewish women would have been dressed so I borrowed from the way Jesus’s Mother is traditionally shown, in a white gown under a blue robe and red cloak. Mary, noted for her humility would have been unlikely to dress to stand out from the crowd, so the crowd are dressed as they all might have been. I thought that the red outer garment would have corresponded to the black burka worn in Arab countries, given the shared geography. Their long sleeved robes correspond to the thobe worn by more “traditionally” dressed women today.

I imagined that they would have ululated out of pity, so that is what they are doing with their hands raised in compassion.

The dark red of the cross links this image to the other ones in the series. I used this because the colour “comes at you” in a way that a more realistic rendering of the rough timber that would have been used would not. Sappy, greyish yellow it would tone into the dirty greens and browns used to represent the dusty conditions of the street.

Jesus’s knuckles and elbows are scratched and grazed by his falls and his hair is bedraggled by his sweat and blood. His face is also grazed – I had been looking at some of the players faces in the Scotland/Wales Six nations match and I gave him grey shadows to imply his exhaustion.

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