Art Journals

Attempt at a Conversation with Birds

This blog was titled Conversations With the Muse many years ago, and mainly that’s been happening. I make art, and then I think and write about it. Otherwise it feels so unfinished. With the mixed media expressive art there is often a verbal interaction attempted with the content of the piece, which usually contains a great many unanswered questions. . .like this one.

For my underpainting I used an unfinished experiment with dripping inks and blowing them across the page with a straw. Then I found pieces of deconstructed paintings I’ve been keeping for the collage. The result was something that totally short circuited all the rules of color, design, technique etc that i have been learning and relying on in my art for many years. Thank goodness. My favorite thing is to create something bizarre, unexpected, and fascinating to contemplate. Hopefully it will get me wondering outside the box of my usual thinking.

acrylic inks and fluid paints on w/c paper

You crows, all black and squawky on one side and cooing doves on the other.

You’ve laddered up from the lower realms and found a roost for your pulpit.

Now speak!         

(silence)

How can you be so silent now, as I sit expectant with pen in hand to take dictation?

What do you see and hear and feel in your vast communications network?

Am I too dense to plug into it and understand?

How long would I have to sit and watch and listen to receive even a micron of the information which sails unseen, unheard by us humans, between you  and your avian family each moment of the day.

Surely this painting entitles me to just a bit of all that? . . .a feather dropped that I might keep for a dream catcher? A song that I could learn and sing to myself?

Perhaps when the cawing meets the cooing I may at last get a feel, by audio transmission, for the freedom of flight?

a look at the process of construction from beginnings to placing collage pieces and drawing in the focal bird

Have you had any conversations with your art lately?

Earth the Planet

My project of clearing out/organizing the studio/art storage continues and is generating some rich new collage materials. Namely recycled paintings. Today’s piece is one such repurposed (treasured but ill conceived) painting. The painted images coincided with recent musings about global warming, weather patterns, and the Mars Rover landing. 

Earth the planet

Earth my home

Earth where I sit now

Eyes open. . . on the surface

Eyes closed. . .out where

the turning edge is

      visible

Out where the earth is

soft edges through swirling clouds

the ink of night

illumined by that cosmic inner

light that makes stars

makes us gasp Yes!

The stuff I’m made of.

A note about the symbol, an unfinished upside down (eastern) symbol for Earth, which turned into the (Christian etc) symbol for resurrection or Tau. Sometimes the most interesting part of art making comes after the end, when artifacts appear. Is the world headed for resurrection of sorts? One can hope.

Enemy Combatants

When you want to know what a rorschach is trying to tell you, just pick up a pen and take dictation as it begins to talk. It’s usually nonsense at first, but just keep going and you might be surprised! The rorschach painting I demo-ed in a quick video a couple weeks ago (see here ) talked to me and here’s what it said.

fluid acrylics and gesso on w/c paper

Enemy Combatants

They didn’t know how ridiculous they looked

these strutting enemy combatants

nor how much alike they were

. . . twins really

Passionately they cared for their towering headwear

their voluminous feathered capes which

simultaneously raised to reveal

chests with medals won in [internet-only] battles.

Little did they realize (giggle giggle)

that their precious manly parts would

thus spill out for all to see

and measure and compare and

(much worse) to snigger

These combatants, trapped on the paper as they are

pose no threat to readers here

Yet we are reminded of those who

in their manly posturing

do great injury to innocent souls

Remind you of anyone?

Rorschach

I hadn’t done a rorschach blot painting in a long time. You know, the proverbial inkblot that psychologists have used to diagnose patients by listening to their answers about what they see in the inkblot. Rorschachs are a great way to project your imagination onto the screen of your paper. In more abstract, expressive painting sometimes it’s hard to get started. Not so, when you start with rorschach play. I always find my mind kicking into high gear with hallucinations, ideas, stories, and occasional wisdom. Here’s the latest.

India ink, acrylic, screen and paper collage on w/c paper

They were doing a little dance, like children do, or maybe there were playing hopscotch. I don’t know. And as the sidewalk heaved up between them, a golden light escaped from below. A veil had lifted from their eyes, and they gazed down bewildered, and maybe a bit bewitched, but in a good way.

Meanwhile wise ones, taking their measure of the children, sent their emissaries, in readiness to draw the veil again if some mischief arose.

But the two tiny characters became fearful. Are we allowed? they asked. And there was at first no answer.

Then they heard it, a crackle and a hiss, a snap and a pop. That was it! They ran away shrieking, leaving the pots of treasure untouched.

And so it is for us all, that we fear those treasures which wait for us to find them, meanwhile searching in all the wrong places.

Would you like to try a rorschach of your own? I recorded a three minute demo today to show you how.

To watch the demo click here.

Caw Caw!

A crow arrived in my meditation, a big black bird body, up close and personal with his back to me – demanding attention like all his cohorts in the skies, on branches and wires, beak open and loudly proclaiming, or was it complaining? I wondered if I could ask for a smattering of blessings from the crow proclaimer, blessings for us earthbound mortals. 

So I did some art and asked.

collaged, hand painted papers

(And Crow spoke)

“Look to each other

be the sentinel at your friend’s gate

stand watch over that which is most precious

to yourself and also to others

listen to others’ voices

and speak your own clearly

base your claim to nobility

on your readiness to share

your own inner wealth.”

In Times Like These

Sheltering in place does little to protect one from the news of a world spiraling out of control. In times like these, what’s a person to do? 

I thanked Lizard for the wisdom shared last week and moved on to see what would come next through the art oracle! 

With nothing in particular in mind, I pulled out my tower of unfinished mixed media starts looking for something that caught my eye, or rather, imagination. Some of the acrylic “skins” I’d saved brought to mind a swirling cosmos and archaic symbols. They were formed by pouring rivers of (leftover) paint (fluid acrylic paint mixed with pouring medium) onto plastic and letting them merge and dry. 

One of the skin pieces looked like a face, and when I moved it around and set it just so on another piece, it became a person! No more painting was necessary to complete the picture, just an underpainting of an ink wash and some more cut skins for feathers.

poured acrylic skins, dilute India ink, gold acrylic, white gel pen on w/c paper

And then the Indian spirit spoke, in these phrases:

In times like these . . .

I cannot shake the burden that weighs on my spirit.

My third eye opens to see across the abyss of ignorance before me and opens new pathways. . .

My feathers vibrate for peace.

I dance to the drum beats and reed flutes and chanting that vibrates with nature’s currents.  . .

. . .signaling an existence where people care for each other and live in harmony.

Lizard Spirit Speaks

The black and white gecko from my dream last week finally spoke, and just in the nick of time. How does that work? Well, you sit down with a pen and paper, focus your attention on it, and ask it to speak. Then you take dictation. Of course you have to assume the spirit guide has manifested in your dream and in the art because it has a message.

So with paper and pen before me finally Lizard spoke and I wrote.

“Lay low and listen, to music that soothes and restores. Fill your eyes with images that look past the doom and bitterness that still brews, to the fantastical carpet of green velvet and scarlet mushrooms and the visual cadence of shapely trees and bare branches. Feel the warmth of your own skin inside cozy layers and fresh cold air spicing and refreshing your breath, clearing out cobwebs of thought, and making room for a deep contentment beyond all the distressing rumblings of bad news.

Lay low and listen. Be ready to act in a heartbeat when the time is right. Attune with every sensor in every cell of your body, even to the littlest toe. Feel the drumbeat of upcoming events there. . . . and there, but be not alarmed. Embody readiness, and if a tail must be lost, fear not, for you are a lizard and can grow a new one!”

Later that day I watched as the insurgents stormed the citadel in Washington. By the next morning the tail, which had been lost, was already growing back, stronger than ever! 

Last Night I Dreamed. . .

Last night I dreamed of a lizard, a beautiful black and white patterned one. In the dream I was quite excited to find it among some plants in my home. Because you see, when my boys were little, they were really into lizards, and especially a leopard gecko which Ben named Samon. His preschool art was filled with colorful geckos and our house chirped loudly with crickets that had escaped while trying to get them into the cage for Samon’s dinner. Our good friend Maureen, an accomplished photographer, posed Ben with Samon for her project on children and their pets.

photo by Maureen Morrison

So my delight at having a lizard appear in my dream is not a surprise, particularly at a time when I just published a book (for the family) titled The Cornelis Boys and Other Creatures. It’s a collection of stories about my sons’ early years, when I participated in endless expeditions to acquire a managerie of lizards, frogs, toads, caterpillars, butterflies, praying mantises and more. I became as enthralled as the boys with these creatures. 

But I was also delighted with the dream, because my Muse group sisters and I decided to explore the theme of spirit animals/creatures in our art. So today I got out my ink and got started with some Ralph Steadman style splatter to get the imagination opened up to the possibility of another lizard visitation. 

When finished I got out my reference book, Animal Speak: The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small by Ted Andrews and looked up Lizard. Here’s what he wrote:

“Keynote: Subtlety of Perception. . .a symbolism associated with the psychic and the intuitive. The ability to  perceive subtle movement – physical and ethereal, waking or sleeping – is what lizard medicine teaches. To some within the Native American tradition, the lizard is associated with dreamtime. Dreams contain some of the subtlest perceptions of the mind of which we may not be conscious. . . listen to your own intuition over anyone else’s. Learning to follow your perceptions is what will enable you to succeed most frequently.”

Sounds like pretty good advise for anyone, whether you’re drawn to the reptile world or not!

I can’t resist leaving you with another lizard family picture, of my other son Andy and his brother Ben. There’s obviously some photoshop going on here, but I suspect not with the lizard! (oh yeah, and then there was the rat chapter. ..)

The Sky Up There

One morning this week I sat at my dining room table facing the sunrise view, watercolor paints at the ready, hoping to capture the breathtaking sky drama. The sky was streaked with salmon color and every variation on blues and dark strings of clouds with bright yellow-orange-red undersides, and I started to put paint down in great haste. Every few seconds I looked up and it had changed. And then it started to rain. And then it stopped and a whole new cast of cloud characters entered the stage. Fifteen minutes from beginning to end of my sketch and I admitted that I had just tried to paint several different skies and ended up with mud (which always translates to indecision!)

So I thought I’d try a different approach, and paint the inner sky, or at least the one I remembered. After all, we look to the sky to help clear our minds, and never has there been a greater need of that. I got out my gouache paints which I thought might help with the pastel colors I imagined. 

But it wasn’t long before the sky started jumping around, and what was at first clear, became muddled and even opposite. Sound like something else we’ve been experiencing a lot lately?

the sky we think is up

there but we live in our inner

sky where we float and bob

the day along

as up becomes

down horizons appear

and disappear

A whacky ride which

flips us on our ear

leaves us standing wobbly

teetering on the edge

with a faulty gyroscope

and no wings

My Woods

Trees and skies, that is the theme my group of Muse sisters is pursuing in our art exploits now. There is a beautiful birch tree by our driveway which has been enticing me to paint it’s white bark again. So I got out some Masa paper and wet and crinkled it, and did the thing where you drag your brush along the tops of the wrinkles. . .and instant trees without all the fuss of getting it “right”.

With these mixed media pieces I always poke around til I find something to add that might tickle the imagination. And, well, you’ll see what I found. . .a bit of enchantment.

India ink, fluid acrylics, crinkled Masa paper mounted on w/c paper and collaged on

I like to imagine a walk in the woods

And I’d come upon a native

Or maybe I’d be hidden in a bramble

And he wouldn’t know I was watching

(Though that seems unlikely

It being after all more his wood than mine)

But let’s just say he didn’t see me

And I was the stealthy one

Who picked up his scent of hide skin and smoke

With some tree sap thrown in

And it was I who wondered

What bird offered up its feathers

And they looked like they belonged there

On his head

 

But I’m imagining as a white woman

Who grew up in a house with central heat

And got her clothes from stores

And saw Nature as something altogether different,

Separate and wildly mysterious

And mostly out of reach

Hence my stories about

What might have been

If I’d slept in a teepee

And danced to drumbeats and

Cooked over an open fire

And learned to heal with herbs.

 

But back to the native here

This is after all my woods he has entered

On his horse with his rifle in hand

I do not fear him

He has entered my enchantment