Thursday, January 24, 2013

My Tree of Life- Contorted Willow

This is how it starts. A memory, a vision, a silly sketch with a pencil. This month's assignment in an online course is nothing less than The Tree of Life. The Kabbalistic one....oh, the chutzpah of it all! We were told to meditate and see what kind of tree appeared, which for me was the contorted willow I sat under from the age of 9 to 19. But before I raced to google image search, our teacher said for us to draw our vision. Yeah. Rightio. No problem for beginner me to sketch what a contorted willow looks like with it's twisted trunk, twisted branches and twisted leaves. So I decided to go the stylized route and made a braided trunk that unraveled down below for roots and above for branches.

Then we began the usual process for this teacher: write an intention onto the canvas to "inform" it. Followed by a using a red thread to mark off the distance between the s'phirot of the tree and then draw some or all of the paths between them. One odd thing for me was that I was moved to sign it with my entire birth name for the first time since...well...never mind how many decades!

If you can't read it, I wrote "My intention: to grow deeper roots and join more fully the grove I've chosen to be part of (here in the Twin Cities) and To deepen my Jewish spiritual path (which apparently I'm still on)

and, as I said, I signed my whole name, but I'm resisting typing it. Still have a name phobia.
Time to start playing with color! I just wanted greens. Yellow greens, blue greens, green greens. And even though I knew there would be layers, I was still hoping for lots of greens in the finished painting...which didn't happen exactly. Not that I'm really finished with it.

This part was fun! I used a water soluble charcoal pencil for the intention this time after a disastrous encounter with the other kind in another painting I'll blog about someday. It took forever to cover up the charcoal in that other painting, but this time the words just disappeared into the paint like I wanted.
Oh how I loved this!! So swirly with almost flames spinning off the circle, but....then I glazed and it all changed drastically. I miss this version a lot.

I almost danced as I painted this and I used both hands at once. One paintbrush loaded with blue green and one with yellow green. Then I took yellow and swirled around in all the empty places, picking up a bit of green now and then.

This felt so alive, and then I took a watery magenta which I thought would just softly cover and tint a bit, but instead, it flattened the whole thing out.

Yikes! Looks like a big mushroom creature out to destroy the world. I was NOT happy and where did all the swirls go?? I put a lot of blue green swirls in the middle, but didnt' take a picture of that stage. I was in too much of a hurry to put my braided tree on it so that I didnt' throw the whole canvas out the window.

I'm still hoping to bring more green back, but it did not feel happy at this point. The painting, that is. Neither one of us.

Stupid glazing.

Oh thank heavens! the blue swirls helped a bit, and the sort of fleshy color I used to sketch with was kind of cool. White would've been too glaring, and a dark color would've taken away what little light I still had.

I still missed my green, and it looked more like a dance of ribbons than like a tree at this point.

But at least I didn't hate it. I outlined the branches with a blue green and the trunk and roots with brown and then went a bit crazy putting all the roots in. Guess I really really want to feel rooted right now. No surprise after 7 years of living like a tumbleweed.

I filled in the trunk a little with a couple of different browns, but it looked more like challah than a tree. Yes, that's Jewish, but not what I had in mind. So I brought out the yellow to see what would happen and put some more colors into the branches, roots and trunk.

I experimented wiht a few wiggly leaves too, and ended up making them detached. This is where I got the inspiration to put the Hebrew letters on my tree. In the Kabbalah, the letters are assigned to different paths between the s'firot (spheres) which I hadn't even put on yet. So I lightly drew the circles and placed each letter on or near where the paths would be. I wanted them hanging on a branch, so sometimes they ended up a bit to the side of where the path would go, IF I decided to put the diagram on top of my tree.

I stepped back and I swear the yellow inside the trunk pulsated. Really! I never wanted to put the hidden sphere on there and I suddenly saw what would go in that space instead.

.........see next picture......

The yellow, which had started to look like a giant, bound heart to me burst into flame at the top of the tree in the exact spot  where the hidden sphere would be. That seemed perfect to me, so there I stopped.                                                                      

Until tonight when I got the courage to try to put the diagram on top, using interference paint. In "person" I can hardly see the diagram, but the camera sees it almost too well. I fiddled with the settings to try to get it to look the way I saw it, but the various ways the camera saw this painting are kind of interesting in their own way. Here's the closest to the way I see it first
I had to change the color setting on my camera from "vivid" to "normal" and it still doesn't look right, but at least it made the s'firot and pathways less visible than the other settings. They really don't show up that strongly to the naked eye. Now get a load of the various ways the camera saw the s'firot!
I'll leave you with this version that the camera saw. This interference paint sure does do strange things! 
Looks like a photograph of an aura, doesn't it? What unearthly light is reflected in this painting??? 

I'm not finished with this piece yet. Or maybe it's not finished with me. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Gathering

I'm still not sure I'm done with this, but I think I'm finally done with the woman in the middle. This is a painting I started last spring when I was first starting to paint. I had painted 2 paintings in the Legendary Life course by Shiloh Sophia and this one was born out of a bout of loneliness at 3AM.

I just started swirling paint around and thinking about how much I craved connection, as I was finishing my 3 month contract in California and was heading for a 4 week contract clear across the country. I wanted Community, dang it all to heck, if I had to paint them myself!

This is what happened first

 Circles! and then I added more colors

Still didnt' know what was coming, but at least I was covering the canvas. 

  Wow! I suddenly saw a woman holding a baby who was holding a...ball? And four more circles. So I got out my sketchbook to see what in the world was happening next....

  Hmmmm. Looks like the big one is Hindu, even though she's holding a baby like a madonna. And I see the Cosmic Cowgirl peeking from behind her veil which is blowing around the rest of these characters, whoever they are. The one on the bottom looked a bit Asian, if not buddha-like but the other two? NO idea!
  I slowly sketched them with white paint, and wasn't very happy yet. The one in the middle looked like a dinner plate, and the big Hindu goddess looked like a lightbulb....but I kept going
   Finally I figured out who was who in this crowd!! I already knew Sarasvati and the Cosmic Cowgirl (my inner artist just starting to appear) Kwan Yin had showed up, and that shouldn't have surprised me since I had bonded with her from the first time I read about her in a Pearl Buck book in the 5th grade. She stands outside of Heaven until every single soul can get it, and her compassionate presence was probably always around in my life.
The long braids I recognized from my early 20's, and that hat on the still cartoon-like woman was the hat I had bought last year for my birthday only a couple months before I started this painting. So that would be me. Sort of
The baby? Some kind of cosmic Baby archtype, and probably having something to do with my infertility. NO idea what she's holding.
And that's how the painting stayed for almost a year until I tried to fix that cartoon woman who was supposed to be me, but instead looked like she came off of a cocktail napkin cartoon from the 1960's.
My first attempt...after 3-4 layers of wrong choices, was this:
  Holy Cannoli! What did this poor woman EAT? She has turned purple and her eyeshadow! Gurrrrl, go back and try again
I had to post her in the two artist groups I'm in on FB, and after a bit of advice and a LOT of courage, I finally tried again. So in case you forgot the picture on the top, and so that you can truly see the contrast:

 And there they all are. The Gathering of my current self looking with affection at the 20 year old me I've been so angry with for lots of reasons, two strong goddesses, a Cosmic Baby with a mysterious sphere, and my inner artist.

This time I wasn't wordy, I

I kind of want to change some of the other faces, but they represent my style at the time, and they're not mortals, so they can stay represented as misty Beings with closed eyes.

I'm satisfied. Some kind of closure has happened.

Painting is magic

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Here's looking at YOU, kid!

Happy New Year 2013

I have begun an art journal and want to chronicle the process for awhile. This year I've signed up to learn a new technique twice a month, and pledged to do "a piece a week" in a facebook group, and a painting a day in another spot. So far, day one, I've fulfilled all three, but since I disappeared into the flow of painting for 4 hours, I fear that the painting-a-day promise won't be kept easily. I don't even feel like I'm done with this one, since there is still a lot of background to play with.

On the left side, I wrote a lot of sentences that my inner critic is constantly saying and then covered them up with heavy body white acrylic paint. Before I did, I rephrased every sentence and turned them into positive statements I'll incorporate later in the journal. This is part of the lesson plan, not my personal brilliant idea.

The rest of the lesson had to do with painting a full face portrait, something I've been doing in a different style than the style that appeared today. The teacher also was using watercolor pencils and crayons and all I have is acrylic paint. LOTS of acrylic paint. Somewhere I have a little kit of tiny tubes of watercolor, and somewhere I have watercolor markers, but I decided to use what I have until they turn up.

Above is her original appearance on paper. I liked the way she was staring off into the sky in a dreamy way, but I guess I needed to look directly into my own eyes. I think that's a good start to my journal and to my year. All is fresh and new, and I can't wait to see what I learn through art this year.
This is the second phase of her development. The first one was done with pencil and she was looking up and to the right (her right), but when I painted the eyes right on top of the sketch, she decided to look straight at me instead. This was supposed to be a representation of me, in some form, and oddly, the eyes are mine for sure.

 I didn't expect the hair to be so psychedelic and part of me still wants to paint it shades of brown with gold and red highlights, but it must be watery and flowing for a reason. I'm going to stick with it and let the painting speak to me.

Tomorrow I'll continue with the lesson and do the best I can with the materials I have. The teacher did a multicolor background and then slapped some dabs of white acrylic on top and rolled it out with something. I think I'll be using a crumpled paper towel to do the same thing. She also mentioned stamping, and I have NO idea where my never-used stamps are in this new apartment full o'boxes. I also don't have tissue paper for collage.

I'll come up with something. Or my muse will. Stay tuned.

Whoever She is, She started out on a small sketch pad. Why do they have to change so much when they're painted?