Ignorance and Want

“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”

Charles Dickens, (The Ghost of Christmas Present from, “A Christmnas Carol”)

We’ve all seen, heard or read Dicken’s famous Christmas story, (you can read the original text on Google books here), probably many times. It’s omnipresent this time of year in almost any form you can imagine. There have been several film versions, all playing in heavy rotation this time of year, (the best in my opinion being the 1951 version with Alistar Sim as Scrooge). There are innumerable stage productions from grade school to pro, readings, radio plays, even a Mr. Magoo cartoon version, not to mention all the retellings and parodies. In fact the story of Scrooge is such a staple that I believe there is a Screenwiter’s Union rule stating that, “Any tv sitcom running during the “holiday season,”must include, at minimum, one episode based on, “A Christmas Carol.”

Dickens was of course telling us a story of moral redemption, reminding the world that the true meaning of Christmas is one of love and forgiveness not the accumulation of material wealth. But, as in so many of Dickens works, the story has much more depth to it than the obvious lesson, as Dickens includes elements of political and social commentary. One part of the story that I’ve always found interesting, is when the jovial party guy, The Ghost of Christmas Present, shows us the dark side of life, Ignorance and Want, by pulling back his fur trimmed cloak and revealing them to Scrooge. (if I remember correctly on a “very special” episode of Full House Ignorance and Want were played by the Olsen twins in an Emmy nominated performance). It’s a reality check, a counterpoint to all of the scenes of fun, frivolity and Fezziwigged halls, that Scrooge has been shown beforehand. Dickens reminds us that need doesn’t go away even if it does get covered over by the gloss of celebration, and that ignorance and stupidity are the ultimate dangers to humanity. Amazing how a story written in 1843 still has such relevance today.

Ignoranceand Want
My painting grew out of a sketch done one evening and was completed entirely in Painter. When I was working on the drawing I couldn’t remember if Ignorance and Want were girl and boy or boy and girl. Proving Murphy’s Law is still in effect during the Christmas season, I got it wrong, and had to reverse the sexes in the finished art. The “Want” figure is painted as starving and gaunt, with deeply sunken cheeks and eyes. To help show the character of “Ignorance” I’ve shown him picking his nose and staring off in the wrong direction.

Most of the painting was done using the Oils brushes on a toned ground, using the Bristle variants for lay-in and the Variable Round as I tightened things up. For detail work, and to introduce some sharper edges, I used the Fine Round Gouache brush.