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