alchemical rituals

Day 30 - results


(because that's where and why and how all the creative magic happens)

I'm really glad we all did this together.  I hope you are too.

  EVERYBODY did outstanding work - not just in the scope of their collage creations but also in terms of quickly establishing a challenge-based working style and dedication to their personal process development.  Despite the initial uncertainty any challenge brings it was truly remarkable to see how quickly everyone adapted to their freshly personalized relationship to this expressive medium.  By reviewing each other's efforts the way we'd all look at something together if our virtual situation was happening in the walking-around world - we each insured that every single one of us "got" something about collage that we hadn't quite put together before this time of sharing.

  Everyone - including me -  willingly trusted I'd guide them to a stationary end-point while also digging deeper into their private stashes of emotion and life experience as well as their paper collections.  Now - going forward - there's only one barometer/compass rose to be followed:

trust yourself

keep speaking truth to and FOR power

from the center of your creative soul

and every corner and crevice you discover

where true power resides


My faves from these days:





Marti - curendera (make sure to scroll down or click for her response to our final prompt)


[For those who like statistics - this blog has averaged 82 unique visitors a day for the challenge time-frame.  Including myself and everyone actively involved - 35 people have let me know they're participating/following along as a somewhat regular part of their creative experience. 

The most unique visits to a single post (328) happened here. oof.  Typepad is going rogue on me right here at the end!

For reasons unknown all the [listed as published] posts aren't appearing on the blog right now.  At least not in what I can see of it here on my laptop or phone.  The post with the most unique visitors was the Day 16 results page for the garden Crone totem.  Quite a skyrocket!  Somebody somewhere linked, obviously, to significant effect.  Perhaps it's fitting that my first studio-based intention once I've scheduled this post is to paint that totem's background layer.  Last things first, as I like to say!

Not at all by design but I'm very grateful it's working out this way - I don't have to be/go anywhere that requires me to be all the way ON until Thursday morning.  Between now and then I'm planning to stay paint smudged and considerably more powered-down than I've been since ... before Thanksgiving, actually.  Yikes.  No wonder I feel so ready to shift from extro to intro mode energetically.

and I still don't have a clue what I might post on this blog going forward.  or why ...]

day 18 - results


This isn't fully cooked yet.  And am somewhat ambivalent about how to get it there.  I may have to do some gesso/craft paint scraping to knock back areas of the ground paper's pattern.  This one will be a lot trickier than the goat/moon background.  Thought I'd have to resort to painting rather than scraping.  Then I remembered my still-new miniature spatula!  Will try working on scraps of all the paper/elements in this spread with this tool to see if that might be viable or not.  Maybe someday I'll learn not to work backwards.  Maybe.


The only reason these elements look like they contrast with the background paper is because I rough cut around them. The kraft paper background shows the clear difference between the first and second layers.  But this is not how I wanted my finished effort to look because it's not at all how The Center feels to me.  I thought about the pieces, their combined purpose, and what I had on hand at copier paper weight that I could use as a thin highlight outline.

Nothing made me happy until I glanced at a pile of patterned wrapping paper scraps topped by a clear bright aqua water-patterned paper with many bubbles outlined in dull dark gold.  YES.


Included the above image for those who haven't worked this way previously.  Audition your options by placing pre-trimmed or torn collage elements on the paper as if it was their background layer.  If the background is patterned make sure you place your elements far enough apart to see each piece individually and in sole relationship to the patterned edges of the background paper that will become part the single element you'll glue to the real background.

note:  This is exactly like cutting out separate applique motifs on cloth.  You need to leave enough space between elements to have the border width you want for both pieces.  I usually leave plenty of room rather than cutting things too close.  In my experience the cut-aways/extra background paper will not be wasted.  See the first image for examples of how I used cut-away pieces to form a rough border suggestion and also the seven free-cut lotus seeds mentioned in the second paragraph below.

When you make your choice take a few minutes to fidget with the top layer's position. You only want to create a thin outline so as not to distract from the central element you're further highlighting with this extra layer of paper.  If there's a pattern with lots of lines (or any dramatic color shifts) on your outline paper choice make sure you're arranging the top piece in a way that will yield disjointed segments of the ground paper that pleases you rather than an unwelcome surprise right at the end of your process. 

  Glue the elements down.  Usually I cover the results with wax paper and press them for awhile but today I had limited time to devote to getting this post created and scheduled.  I finger burnished really well, let it sit 20 minutes and then cut the pieces apart.   If you look at the finished page at the top of this post you'll see I also added 7 free-cut lotus seeds.  That's the primary design reason I want to knock back some of the other circles - so the seeds stand out more as being Story rather than background 'interest'.

(what remains to be seen is whether my Center's lotus pond needs to sparkle or not .  Am thinking not.  Definitely not.  But will sit with that for awhile and see.  Maybe just the bottom of the pond - where the seeds would naturally fall among muck - needs to have some sort of glow to it.

isn't it amazing how many different detailed ideas can grow instantaneously from scraps of paper and your two hands connected to your heart-brain throughline???

.4 larger scale collage driven narratives...


... and a word narrative about them.  The examples in this post, which I teased the other day, come from my Alchemical Rituals art journal.  You can read more about that project by clicking on the so-named category in the sidebar.  In the month of April our focal expressive technique was collage.  I was determined to collage EVERYTHING including the elemental symbols and the month/theme title bars. 

Above is the heart of the month's solar spread.  For its expressive frame we were asked to create our idealized secret garden and how we'd feel to spend time there.  Having just given myself permission to speak freely - I resisted the idea and precisely how it was expressed in the videos but then I did what I'd been doing since the very first video - I actively pushed aside my resistance by diving directly into the part of the lesson that evoked the strongest feeling of no I'm not doing that. And when I look back on it the thing that consistently made this year long endeavor compelling to me was my ongoing and ultimately unwavering commitment to making the class material compelling to myself rather than relying on the instructor to take me to the same level of personalized satisfaction without much effort on my part.  I realize that's not an inspirational model for successfully unleashing a lot of specific creative motivations but it's the way I got something inherently challenging and twice as meaningful fully manifested so that the challenge-meaning ratio was more than sufficiently satisfying to me.

Because I chose to Say No to NO itself - I wound up concluding the assignment, just as it was, held its own weight in the fun and self-introspection departments once I got out of my own way.  I liked where I was going as soon as that happened but things really got cooking for me once I happened upon a large scale statue fragment that fit perfectly into the blank space within a different fragment of espalier examples.  Hades was in the house just like that (I had been worried for almost two months about where I might find a place to "put" him within the journal's over-arching narrative) and shaking the tree even if Persephone - radiant in her full flowering as mythological Queen of the Flowers - is not yet aware. She is simply full of her own ripe agency and its blissful harmony with her array of petal'd subjects.  All the same there He is and there are the fateful pomegranate seeds - some falling as tears from his stony eye.  I consciously softened the seeds' message by adding a magical protective number of fat pink lotus seeds scattered throughout the spread. Various protective words and symbols are drawn upon their undersides.


Loved the way a clipped luxurious ornament so strongly resembled the outline shape of a pomegranate.   And just the faint foreshadowing of marigolds that will proliferate on the Lunar Spread.




For the lunar spread we were asked to depict what happens when we "neglect" to weed our sacred garden.  For me that would probably be the idealized condition I set out to foster out in our little field so I went with that along the bottom of the entire spread.  The next thing to develop allowed me to address the interest said field attracts.   Once people caught on that I/we were up to something deliberate rather than neglectful nearly everyone involved swung from reproving and DISapproving to naked curiosity and more unsolicited shouted-out questions than I was initially comfortable managing.

This was somewhere in the back of my mind but it leapt right into the foreground when I looked at the underside of scraps left over from the enormous ancient looking gate at an Italian vineyard.  In the original image the open gates frame the proud vinter's family marching out to invite the townspeople into the property for a yearly ceremonial grape stomping event.  The slivers of beaming onlookers wielding all manner of image recording devices served as an accurate model of how I felt as if I'd been under forms of scrutiny so beyond what I was actually experiencing (some of this, too, was an admittedly toxic reaction to my two month Instagram foray) that I couldn't help smiling at the way I was overplaying it.  I decided to stop deciding things and simply play, period. The Invasion of the Looky Loos became the official title of my lunar spread depicting unexpected perils of Failure to Weed. 


Following this clarification of my expressive intentions I "suddenly" warmed to including an element that had insisted on my attention from the jump I just kept thinking Why?? NO.  WHY!!  But then once I chose to symbolically deal with my angst to the point of feeling actively ready to make fun of it I didn't think no or why anymore.  Especially after I'd I looked up mystical/healing correspondences for both alligators and crocodiles since I wasn't sure which one this was.  Then it made complete and total sense, either way. 


I posted about this specific representation of Persephone at the gates of the Underworld, ready to return to her role as its queen, in a more general introductory post about this particular art journal.


both fun & worthwhile


As we all move closer to a new calendar year I've decided to start broadcasting some creative seeds.  Maybe something I share will find fertile ground in a way that compliments your own creative/ceremonial activities.  Please note that the featured project for this post was conceived and taught by Vanessa Oliver-Lloyd.   Her method for making and filling a pair of wheels to mark ongoing experiences throughout a calendar year served as a free introductory lesson for her year-long Rituals art journaling class.  You can learn more about my creative immersion in this project via an introductory post I wrote for my main blog or by clicking on the alchemical rituals category link in the sidebar here.  Have recently decided to make a similar pair of wheels for the year 2020.  I'm going to use the same size and brand of journal so it will be a literal as well as intentional companion volume to EarthStar Alchemical Rituals. 


The teaching video for my 2018 endeavor featured Vanessa creating two 12-spoked wheels with rapid inky brush strokes.  My wheel on the left, above, embodies her specific guidance generously layered with my own notions and instincts focused on actively building an energetic year-long plan for myself BOOM all within a single art-date at my work desk. Before that, however, I thought about the project both actively and in a more passive "this is also happening" sort of way for about a week.  

note: participants were further encouraged to pick a word for the upcoming year based on individual intuition/introspective wisdom.  I'd already been chosen by this word for 2018 a few weeks before I impulsively decided Rituals would be a positive and grounding experience for me.  STRONGHOLD.  I really liked the way the word held space as a caption below the wheel on the left. Next I created a  phrase to caption the wheel on the right so the overall page design looked more balanced.  My plan was to collage free-cut branches, leaves and flowers from paper scraps.  In my mind's eye I envisioned the barest whisper of wreath-like suggestions encircling each wheel.  Something simple, to allow the wheels themselves to do most of the talking.


This was ... fun to begin constructing but I could see if I kept going with a doggedly simple evenly spaced ring of decoration it wasn't going to feel or look nearly quirky/authentically self-expressive enough.  Didn't have to think about that at all but simply decided on the spot I'd go for broke in foreshadowing Persephone in Queen of the Flowers mode.  Having quite a plentitude of flower/gardening magazines and scads of seed catalogs available for cutting and pasting, I sensed I'd have no problem randomly collaging flower images throughout the year.  Given Ritual's over-arching theme of promoting high quality ceremony infused self-relationship I further decided to save these specific mini collage sessions for moments when what I needed most was a 15 minute time-out in which to revitalize and flow my way back to a stabilized center of personal gravity.  The few remaining blank spaces will be filled in such a way - when and as




when we return


The lunar spread for the month of August was thematically paired with an exploration of what our life's more difficult harvests of the year were/had been teaching us.  For me this was one of those BAM instantaneous creative prompts in which everything fell into place quickly and without hesitation on any level. 


The catchphrase I selected to Say It All really started to sing when I thought to make collage additions from an experimental watercolor class I took via Wendy Brightbill.





Coronation of the Mugwort Queen


The August solar and lunar spreads in my Alchemical Rituals art journal were two of my most favorites to create.   This post focuses on the solar pages.  The technique of the month was botanical printing and, first, creating a rust mordant. Never did that before.  Given how (to me) unpleasant and skin-crawly the prep process was I'm unlikely to do it again.  Never say never, for sure - especially where creativity is concerned -  but all the same I'm unlikely to pursue further investigation. 

Be all that as it may last week I impulsively sent a couple of the prints I made to Grace thinking she might like to draw on them.  She asked about their significance and what I told her was accurate but not nearly as significant as this post and its not-yet-written companion focused on the lunar spread.


The month's thematic focus was Harvest.  And that worked really well for my autobiographical experiences of the time.  After a few years of non-activity flower essence preparation had reasserted itself as a primary seasonal activity.  I was also able to prepare several medicinal tinctures for the first time after patiently building up relationships with the specific plants and trees involved.  But the biggest harvest of all was good health.  During the month of August I learned I was well enough to stop taking an unpleasant immunosuppressant drug that controls the runaway symptoms of Graves Disease.  Trouble is the drug, in the process of doing its job, wreaks a lot of corollary havoc on my ability to feel mentally/emotionally balanced and in a good flow with ongoing physical process.   Quite fortunately, unlike many other pharmaceutical detox procedures, this one feels wonderful.  And so the crowning personal achievement of the season related to a 'harvest' of returning to myself on all sorts of physically intimate levels.  Spent a lot of that month, and ever since, internally yelling in exuberation I'm back, baby!!!

HarvestlionThe background of these pages has a few layers of leaf prints from plants that are very prominent emissaries in our little field.  The thin green leaves are Evening Primrose.  The large metallic leaves are a mixture of Burdock and Comfrey.  I also included two gold foil lions to represent the unseen (but strongly felt) big cat energy that's been in the mix since we moved from Boston to mid-state exurbia. My (likely impossible) dream is to somehow locate a large yet affordable stone lion that can be positioned as if it was just emerging from the woods we leave untouched and untraveled by us so that All The Others may have a little corner of private sanctuary.   Good thing I'm a bird watcher and not a birder, though.  The tantalizing variety of warbler songs from the swampy no-fly zone is an ongoing temptation to get in there and Identify.  But of course identifying on a whole other level is much more our speed and so this is how we do.


In the beginning I had no plan of including foil lions or op-art wonky stars or anything else beyond the prints and something simple and more or less not-there for the background.  It somewhat horrified me when the archangel figure lurking at the edge of my work table loudly insisted on being included.  But then I saw the image could be re-classified.  I could give it a gender and an occupation.  She could become, just like that, the Mugwort Queen.  And the page spread could therefore become a scene from her coronation.

Mugwort is an enormous presence in the field - all springing from the same tiny three stemmed transplant a friend contributed when I first arrived in this Place.  Now its original clump has formed a central presence that serves as home to countless ladybugs and also facilitates an exuberant grasshopper nursery.  A virtual wall of mugwort, all of which sprang forth in the third summer we were here, fully formed into a privacy hedge along the southern side of the garden which would otherwise be subject to ongoing scrutiny from the road.  Pronouncing this plant medicine spirit Queen was a big step in solidifying my sense of what the landscape wished to express as it continued to teach me.  This was a powerful enough experience to stop worrying about using the botanical prints "incorrectly" meaning: with more of a mixed media flourish than I'd planned in advance.  To that end, when I felt The Queen really needed a scepter, I nipped out to the field to pick a leaf.  Once I'd made a scepter print I decided to press the printing leaf, and then include it, for extra embellishment.  I mean, why not.  My impressions of this planet and what I experience here are always going to have a layer of shine and sparkle.


Another personalized rebellion against my own ideas of how things should or should not "be" in the creative sense relates to the fact that I have an ongoing block about the proper alchemical glyphs for the four classic elements.  I nearly always automatically make the air glyph for the element of fire because my brain feels pretty strongly that the same glyph that denotes the sun ought to apply to its primary element.  By the time I realized I'd been doing this straight along with this project it seemed a lot more authentic and true to myself to keep going with the mistake rather than going back and correcting it throughout the journal.  So that doesn't bother me.  It did, however, bother me tremendously that I had to cut parts of a print apart in order to make it sit comfortably in the book while closed.  Even after enough time to be used to it, I still felt myself cringe to see the gap when I first loaded the above picture into this post.  And, being me, that prompted me to not delete it like I kinda-sorta wanted to, but instead include the image where the gap is most noticeable specifically so I could talk about it. 

[p.s. although it's probably always going to be noticeable only to me - I worked at (highly enjoyable) length on shading certain elements of the leaf prints with j. herbin perle noir drawing ink and a yellow pencil just a shade or so less orange than the tumeric tracings I used to amplify the plant alkaloids' natural printing process.]

Next time I post I'll share the lunar spread companion to this coronation scene.  It's my favorite spread in the book.


the Alchemical Rituals project (intro)


This is one of my favorite art journals. I introduced the project  here.  Writing that post inspired me to begin bringing this blog into focus in a somewhat different way than I originally imagined I might.  Instead of focusing on daily accountability in relation to my ongoing creative practice, I thought about the projects that most matter to me in specific terms of taking them with me if I had to leave where I live under emergency circumstances.  Grace recently posted on the subject of her refined bug-out readiness plan there in NoCali's fire belt.  She's already had to evacuate with the goats once this season and has since devised a means of readying her fabric collection for swift travel with no moment to spare.

It got a lot of us thinking.  And irrespective of pragmatic what-iffing I love Alchemical Rituals intensely.  Perhaps the most significant learning/personal growth that emerged from a year spent allowing somebody else - literally half a world away - to guide me in a venture that was deeply personal relates to how much I came to understand and appreciate the ways my mind and heart instinctively braid things together via collage and a few other thematic/supply-based touchstones of this project. Each month we watched inspiring and crystal clear process videos related to a carefully chosen theme and pre-selected mediums/artistic techniques to explore. The journal holds 24 spreads; 2 per month.  The first of each pair is a solar spread and the second is a lunar spread.  As a general rule Vanessa broke down her topical themes in a light/shadow format. 


Above is a detail from the lunar spread for April.   It was a month in which we delved into the subject of Fertility using collage. For the solar spread V. asked us to create a secret garden devoted to carefully cultivated sacred space.  For the lunar spread we were asked to depict what happens when we neglect such a space and allow the weeds to take over. I'd introduced my intrinsic sense of connection to the archetypal goddess of perpetual duality, Persephone, within the month's solar spread where she appears as a maturing form of her Queen of the Flowers guise.  On the next page I depicted her making her yearly return to what lies Below, through earthly gates that quickly fade to black. 

The overall scene I created for the lunar spread nudged me to consider my life's kind of ... almost touristy aspect of relationship to this part of myself.  I mean that in terms of how much it can take out of me to be familiar and calm with dark stuff many people I know work extremely hard and consciously to avoid. And so I thought about what a brutal (and culturally undervalued) form of returning it can be and how sometimes I actively step back from acknowledging the difficulty level in order to dispassionately observe myself "handling" things like a no-contest pro if not a saint or a hero.  That's ... pretty much Persephone's gig in the Underworld kingdom:  managing the unmanageable yet inevitable switch between being and not-being in the human life span. 

 I was surprised and inspired to realize this new awareness could with time and mindfulness allow me to just be in the process (instead of focusing primarily on performance checklists) of guiding and being guided through dark times and deep water.


Here's a detail from January's solar spread.  The theme for the month is New and the technique is stitching - with the centerpiece effort being a dream catcher. I decided to construct the two spreads as thematically joined by the open web between them.  V. encouraged us to add some sequins to our web.   Some have bent over time due to inadvertently smashing them while flattening other pages beneath a few heavy books.


This is a detail from the final spread in the journal.  December's theme was Closure and the technique was color blocking paint colors to harmonize with pre-selected collage pieces to fit our chosen representations.  The month's Lunar spread was designed around those aspects of our immediate and ongoing future we needed to integrate but found personally challenging.  I elected to further clarify the issues I placed in this category as works in progress I was committed to shifting as mindfully and gently as possible in order to move forward into a new cycle of deepened/more conscious self-relationship.