Chubby Cherub on Harrison, watercolor

Chubby Cherub on Harrison, watercolor

These angels guard the entry of an old residential hotel at 2332 Harrison Street in Oakland between my office and Whole Foods, along with a pair of vicious, brass lions (coming soon). As I passed by on the way to lunch, the light and shadows on the angels intrigued me.

Angel on Harrison, graphite

Angel on Harrison, graphite

Although I always prefer to draw from life I didn’t have time on this work day so I took a photo. When I looked at the image on my monitor I found the shape and detail so confusing that I decided to sketch in pencil first instead of my usual ink. It felt like sculpting since as I sketched and shaded shapes of dark and light and saw form began to appear.

My initial drawing needed a lot of correcting because I’d given the angel adult proportions instead of a child’s so it looked like a pot-bellied, naked man instead of a cherub. For some reason we think chubby cherubs are cute holding up pots with their heads on buildings, but fat, naked, old men, not so much.

Then I started over on the facing page in my sketchbook, drawing in ink and adding watercolor. I think I got his proportions better in the second one. The graphite angel still looks too old, like a teen angel maybe?

Questioning Cherubs

I wasn’t raised with religion so I am completely ignorant about angels and their tribe. Are there girl cherubs too or are they all boys? Why? Why are cherubs usually depicted as chubby? What happens to cherubs when they grow up? Do they become angels? Or do they not age?

I googled “Chubby Cherub” looking for the answers and found information about “Chubby Cherub, the worst video game of 1987” and this Wikipedia entry that says according to some linguistic and bible scholars, this is what cherubs are really meant to look like:

What Cherubs Really Look Like?

A "Real" Cherub?

and that they were often displayed sitting calmly guarding entrances as in this image:

Guarding angels

Guarding angels?

If you like reading about the source of words, language, and myths, and how they evolve over time, check out the Wikipedia page about cherubs. I found it fascinating.

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Category:
Drawing, Ink and watercolor wash, Sketchbook Pages
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Join the conversation! 13 Comments

  1. I’ve just spent about thirty minutes reading up on cherubs and seraphim and putti. Very interesting, thank you! And your sketches are wonderful! I think your graphite one probably looks older because he’s not as chubby, making him look taller.

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  2. Both cherubs are fine, but it’s funny that the graphite one does look a little more mature! I’m partial to color so really like the ink and watercolor! I can’t wait to see the lions!

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  3. Beautiful sketches! I was brought up in a pretty liberal Episcopalian background ( Catholic, but Church of England-marrying priests) and I don’t remember much about cherubs or angels. Doesn’t seem like chubby cherubs could guard much of anything…

    Really good post! Very interesting. Guess it’s time for a little research!

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  4. My Protestant upbringing never explained cherubim or maybe I wasn’t listening as usual, although I always liked the word. It would have been a lot clearer if they had just said cherubs. Everyone knows cherubs from Valentine’s Day. Thanks to you and your sketches at the Harrison hotel and Wikipedia, now I know all about cherubim.

    The very scuptural graphite guy does look slightly pre-teen to me – with a bit of an attitude – appropriate for a pre-teen cherub expected to shoulder that heavy load for years and years.

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    • Oh yeah! Valentines Day. Now what on earth do naked flying babies have to do with Valentines Day? Well I guess if you get too carried away on V-day you could end up with your very own (non) flying baby. And then that makes me wonder–don’t cherubs need diapers ? Jana

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  5. The word ‘cherub’ was never mentioned in my early Anglican upbringing and certainly not in the Methodist/Uniting Church. I find them a bit disturbing nd silly actually, but certainly interesting to draw or paint. The cherub from Assyrian or wherever is more plausable as guardians.

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    • I asked a Catholic friend about them and he gave me a speech about the different rankings of angels, some being more important than others. The whole time he was talking I was thinking, well, leave it to organized religion to insert hierarchies, status and class onto mythical creatures! I too find them somewhat disturbing and the idea that babies could guard anything? Maybe just the shock of seeing flying babies with wings would be enough though. Jana

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  6. You had me laughing out loud! You are a hoot and a half! I loved the flying babies without diapers image a lot. Wow. Scary.

    So, I guess the Catholics have the story. My husband was brought up Roman Catholic and he said that cherubs had the job of proclaiming special occasions. They proclaim things. They don’t guard stuff/heaven. This would make sense when thinking of Valentine’s Day. Plus, there is your warning about “unflying babies” as a consequence. Ha. He seemed to understand the hierarchy of angels as well. Interesting.

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    • Yep, and having both had boy babies, we know how dangerous those flying babies without diapers could be! Just lying there at diaper change time was dangerous enough! Jana

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  7. The angel of Harrison, Chubby Cherub on Harrison are soo nice to see. Your drawing sense, colouring sense, graphic usage is good.The post made by you is very attractive. And the pictures of Real Cherub, Guarding angels descriptions are good. Thanks for this post.

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