paint

old ideas forming a new shape

Hermituprightcommercially printed cotton fabric glue-stick collage mock-up of The Hermit card from an unnamed oracle deck of my own device.  Tarot-centric but only as a jump-off in terms of symbology and its placement throughout the deck . 5 x 5 recycled cookie packaging substrate.  circa 1999.

 One of my long-term ultra slow creative endeavors involves collaging a full deck of tarot card prototypes with quilter's cotton prints.  If I can get that managed I've envisioned painting myself a one of a kind deck - thinking I'd use the prototypes as reference for creating and completing the deck.  I mentally committed to this in the late 90's a/k/a a time when today's calender numbers felt waaaaay in the future.  All the same I've always kept the cards readily to hand as if I might re-commence engaging with the process at any moment. 

About five years ago I unearthed an unrecognized and uncharacteristically small notebook in which I'd written (undated) about the specific types of wisdom I'd gotten old enough to appreciate as a matter of ongoing progress and process -- the tricky business of having more confidence expressing myself in relationship to both painting and successfully creating a viable tarot deck to use for my own readings.  Am now planning to start working-out the concepts as rough graphic mock-ups in my current favorite sketchbook.  Maybe collect and collage a few relevant color stories and also a small glossary of relevant glyphs and similar stripped-down symbols to fit the themes of the cards.

turn something chronically loose and fancy free into something actively structured and officially recognized as a Thing I'm doing with intention to complete it in whatever way providence wills.

Kingofearth Earth Alpha (king)

For the earth cards I'll be embedding the original five pointed star from the traditional assignation of pentacles.

***

In recent times I've been spending 3-5 hours most work week days in fictionland.   Really like what's happening with both the novel's particular story arc and also the way it's had such a positive settling and grounding impact on my daily ebb and flow. 

When I'm out in the garden I tend to think more about non-fiction writing endeavors and goals.  More specifically I think about my planned organization (and far more to the point - congruent elucidation) of subjects related to areas of long term interest.  It's frustrating me how long it's taking that seed of intention to germinate effectively.  Feel like I need to give this level of planning enough form so I understand why I'm drawn to continuing. 

~*~grace's influence.  know why before proceeding. it might change what you bring along with you and also what you choose to leave behind.~*~

Over the past five evenings I've spent something like 1.5-2 hours a night reviewing individual segments of accumulated daily writing sessions.  Bringing both the text and its story-serving context to a stronger voice so as to get this draft beyond the skeletal stage one paragraph at a time.  It is as tedious as it is engaging.   It's also somewhat unnatural or at least well past contrarian (whenever I'm not actively engrossed in writing or thinking about writing, anyway ...) to prize and consistently foster an ability to disconnect from reality simply so one might develop A Story and then persuade others to engross themselves in something that doesn't exist right along with you.  Avoiding distraction - especially those caused by some place/somebody/something real - so that I can commune instead with one or more imaginary people during any given block in time.  I like to keep in mind that's what I'm doing in the final pragmatic analysis.  It keeps me real and consistently demystifies the process as well.

In any event all the imaginary people live in real places so I suppose there's that tenuous connection between hemispheres of cognition.

Bigmedenchantthe deck's first of two sacred pairings bond male and female energies traditionally called the Magician and the High Priestess.  I re-named those archetypes Big Medicine and Enchantment respectively.

Bigmedicine I began making these cards after much encouragement from some UK friends who felt I had the chops to do it even though I did not.  Chose at once to work with a square because I very much liked the idea of geometric grounding/containing the experience of creating and reading these cards.  It also gives my reading interpretation a little more room to grow on both its vertical and horizontal axes.

EnchantmentI've not designed a lot of cards or otherwise come close to justifying how long it's taking me to get immersion-level engaged.  But I do have an excellent reason.  At a certain point I grasped I'd have to start learning to paint one slow step at a time or I'd have no idea how to succeed once I was ready to paint these cards and then tried to learn how.  Learning  to simply handle paint of various kinds is proving to be far more compelling than creating cards to match the vibe and feel of what I started so long ago.  Especially since I set them aside, as one would, after the ongoing burning passion phase of tarot involvement seemed to have left the building.  Until it came back rather suddenly and without preamble.  That occurred maybe 3 months before the collage challenge and Liz sharing ongoing additions to her splendid Texas Tarot project.

It interests me - how things once central to our sense of creative engagement can recede and yet rather than compartmentalizing it off to the side a person could let that medium and methodology stay relevant enough in their ongoing life to return to slow moving projects at other points in time.  Creatively this often brings a level of subliminal cohesion and mapping ability into play at the design level even/especially when an idea is very fresh.  

FertilityAs for the other sacred archetypal pairing within the Major Arcana  - The Empress could only be distilled as Fertility.

VolitionAnd the Emperor as Volition. 

Most of the prototypes I've created are major arcana.  I also created all the aces, an alpha/king and the minor card that dismayed me the most at that point in my life.  At the time the 9 of swords (arrowheads in this deck) showed up so much that I stopped reading for myself and spent that same amount of time and level of effort in routing-out my seemingly endless inner cascades of fear & anxiety.  One thing that helped a lot was articulating how the card felt to me any time I saw it there on the reading cloth.  And then translating that to a prototype:

Acoyotes9ofarrowheadsIn recent times I've been re-considering these cards and the others I created so long ago.  Never actually put them away or otherwise 'cancelled' them.  They've always sat on the long artist's altar in the studio.  One day when I was walking past them I glanced in their direction and asked myself a question:

what if tarot cards are like flower essences in that those that interest you the most - the essences you feel you really need - are those you need to learn from in order to express slow but clear understanding that what you feel beyond words also has the capacity to express itself in spoken and written language? 

It would seem that, for me, "needing to learn from the most" relates quite tangibly to my ongoing creative lessons that all seem to boil down to learning how to complete things to my own satisfaction level.  In the past I've always believed if I put something aside I would pick it up again when I had the chops to complete my original idea in some form.  In this case I don't need to successfully paint a deck of cards that I actually use or share with others.  But I do think I owe it to myself to finish collaging the proto-deck and sketch-level paintings.

Have also been journaling of late about my seeming disconnect to collage more generally.  This led to an awareness that this unwelcome development first bloomed right around the time my style and construction objectives became some other previously unknown thing the more my rational mind imploded many times a day.  For all the same reasons so many other peoples' minds have been similarly imploding plus my kid being so ill.  The point is that the shifts in style are actually perfect for digging into the nuts and bolts of creating more collaged tarot card mock-ups.  Not to mention getting my desk set up for more  sketch and paint exploration. 

I seem to be coming back around to where I'd originally hoped to be by the end of February in terms of how I'm using studio space as well as my time within it.   Maximizing my creative output is the most reliable way I know to keep an effective counter-balance to the mayhem and escalating sense that all of life is becoming one harsh dividing line after the next. 

JusticeJustice


beyond words (plus words)

Graceinclusion

Longcloth6220

Moonmadness6220

*****

wrote these words spontaneously after re-working the Lunar Annal title page background and creating some equally spontaneous collage pieces.  less than a day before shit got real in the most effed-up way yet.  bearing witness to our country literally going up in flames has given the implications of what I wrote a much deeper collective context.

*****

dark black elliptical shattered

broken scary moons.

moons to haunt the dreams of the dying

as well as the merely alive

amidst unending disconsolation.

 


Altering the Dark-Dreaming of Grief Today

Dreamingspines

Yesterday I focused my studio time on the Lunar Annal I've committed to documenting and sharing in a step by step way.  But the resulting 'steps' were largely a matter of walking into various walls of my own making.  Need to synthesize how and why that happened before I can explain it coherently to anyone not-me.  Also my significant results were largely internalized in nature.  More needs to actually occur in an outward manner before there's any point in sharing with a dedicated post.  At the very least I need to reach a couple of firm conclusions rather than opening more and more doors of possibility.

***

Above is a picture I took this morning of my first altered book project which I began back in the mid-aughts.  Its thematic nature leaves it perpetually incomplete but I'm honing in on a shrinking number of blank pages.   Sooner than later the book will be filled even if the topic remains a work in progress to me.   Back when I started I was following through on the curiosity and interest raised by studying blogs that were devoted to various forms of master-class level collage as well as altered books.  It was clear to me that I would not be able to truly embrace such a project by choosing a theme and then finding a book and everything I felt needed to put in it. 

Such a format didn't interest me long enough to gather basic art supplies I already had on hand let alone ring my chimes enough to consider doing something with them.    Recall, if it's relevant, the kind of projects "everybody" was doing during that window of time. I had/have zero tolerance for even thinking about flea markets let alone 'haunting' them in search of the perfect vintage this and that.  And back then there seemed no way OUT of - let alone around - the rigorously exalted Vintage Fixation. 

Still - my hands and mind itched to alter a book my own way.  So I readily forgot what I knew about altered books that was based on what I'd been reading.  What did I actually want to do?  Landscapeofculture

For starters I needed to select something that was personally meaningful from my own bookshelf.  It would need to be a book that held great meaning for me - something I'd read more than once with sustained interest but felt certain I wouldn't have a need to read again.  Time after time I came back to my copy of Dreaming The Dark.  It had a glued rather than a sewn spine - which absolutely everybody on the internet strongly advised.   After a week of cogitation I decided to ignore the looming shapeless form(s) of Everybody saying (and then making ...) the same thing.  The first picture in the post illustrates why people stress the importance of a sewn spine and removing at least one folio per sewn signature.  It's because creative choices - just like elections - have consequences.

Crystalsstars

When my book began to fall apart I took it in stride once the initial reality check hit home.  It honestly didn't bother me and still doesn't - although for the record I've altered a number of books since then and they've ALL had sewn bindings.  When the spine split for the first time it broke my favorite spread in the book in half.    My fondness for the spread centered on the fact that it's the point in the book where I chose to begin the active alteration process in a "fun" way.  Prior to that I'd been focused on prepping all the pages by gluing three together with Yes paste and then pressing the results under a stack of books with the glued pages separated from the rest of the text block with sheets of wax paper. 

Now I'd start a lot differently but I'd undoubtedly make other mistakes because that's how I learn best and most quickly in the creative sense.   It's also the way I'm happiest learning.  And that's something I didn't know until this particular project fell apart right there in my hands.  Now I know why a sewn binding is important in a way I'm unlikely to forget.

Matrix spread

All told it's been a far easier lesson in releasing attachment to outcome than most others have been.   A book I was changing into some new thing fell apart and that's pretty much all that happened.  Then it fell apart again and yet a third time.  

but before any of that occurred

I picked a theme:  The Sisterhood.   I envisioned filling the pages with various impressions and conclusions I've reached about primarily positive and empowering female relationships.  It didn't occur to me at first to actively include things from women who had that kind of bond with me but I quickly caught on how invaluable it would be to make that shift.

Completingthespectrum

The page above is a good example of such incorporation.  There's a laconic note from Jude and two tiny rune cards from a deck I received from a friend in the UK.  The Tibetan Wishing tree is a photocopy of a postcard I received from a friend in Berkeley.   The batik fabric is from a friend who, for a time, lived close enough that we regularly exchanged fabric and paper scraps as well as plants and seed packets.

Turtlebirch

Some pages, like the one above, are tributes to women who shaped the woman I've become.  This particular page relates to my Grandmother - Pearl Margaret.  When I was young I used to spin out a lot when things were overwhelming and impossible for my mind and body to process gracefully.  I've written before about her practice of reading aloud to me from Walden Pond until I was calm.   When I was still too young for that to work - she used to put us both in the car and drive me to a certain rocky river bank a few miles from our home.  It was nearly always crowded with a large colony of snapping turtles.  She'd read Guidepost magazines while I observed the turtles.  Quietly because those were the rules.  After a certain vacillating known-only-to-Pearl block of time she'd announce that if I could that for the turtles I could do it for her and myself back at the house.  

(if whatever made me spin out involved my mother we wouldn't go right home.  We'd go to a fast food hamburger place pre-dating one of the big chains that now dominate.  I would be ordered a plain hamburger which I ate in dainty bites while Pearl inhaled most of a large order a fries with a few here and there doled out to me because there I was, after all, stuck with my mother and her many terrifying guises.  This is how I learned it was possible to leverage dysfunction and unhappiness - and more to the point, that others would willingly do that for you in ways that gave you access to things normally denied or outright forbidden.

When we eventually got home from the kind of thing I to this day mentally visualize when somebody says the words pity party - I'd be allowed to look through Pearl's curated clippings of sales throughout the region.  Depending on what level of awful my mother had been, I might be awarded a pair of shoes that were never as cute as anything full price, a new hat I didn't (ever) want, or some type of educational book on a subject important to me.  This, unfortunately, is how I learned that if somebody causes you disturbance or emotional pain you could always bribe yourself past it with Something New yet sensibly priced)

Also when I was super young Pearl and her sister Grace used to construct booklets out of birch bark.  one of my older cousins tried to "help" them one time and it turned into the kind of fracas that to my mind should have piled us all in the car to view the turtles for a good long while.  I smile as I type all these things.  I smile a lot any time I look through this book.  

Nocirc

I also add to it any time I see something I feel belongs to The Sisterhood as I've experienced it.  Above a photocopy of some gifts I received from a French friend who traveled to India.  We've lost touch but I always hope she might find her way to my main blog or this one.   I included a sticker that was further embellished with a different sticker by Jeannine Parvati Baker.   Many years after her death, the first time I saw a selection of Social Justice Kitten postcards, I thought of her with great longing.  I wanted so badly to send her the version I wound up including in this spread.  Any time I look at it I think about how deep and wide-ranging our friendship became BANG! just like that once I introduced myself to her in an email.

Emilydimnobody

And of course there are also pages dedicated to other people who are "gone" whom I never actually knew but feel deeply connected to nonetheless.   Emily Dickinson is right at the head of that list for all kinds of reasons.  Once I was describing my kinda unusual relationship to my written output in terms of how little I cared if I ever became 'known' for any of it. I happened to be talking to Jeannine who kept making appalled and disbelieving noises the more I warmed to my theme.  Finally she interjected in a scandalized voice.

"You - You're - You're just some sort of Emily Dickinson aren't you.  You probably have a WHOLE TRUNK (actually at the time I had two but there's been a lot of burning and other forms of shedding since then...) full of writing that nobody's ever SEEN! -" and when I said yeah maybe she positively exploded with a specific type of frustration that wasn't new to me.  Various people have gone through the but think of the recognition!!  Don't you want it?  Or at least feel you deserve it?? shtick with me many times but nobody's ever come close to saying what she said.  So that I wound up feeling seen and heard and understood - if only through a back door way In to that - rather than alienated and lonely and very much wishing to scream why doesn't anybody ever accept a person who has a whole different orientation towards Meaning and Success?  Why is it assumed we have some kind of 'problem' that must be fixed in the same way everybody else imagines it ought to be fixed or else an individual's life will have no true meaning or value?

For once I was not inclined towards such inward screaming.  In a very back-of-the-mind kind of way it occurred to me that perhaps we were having our own unique version of an argument.  Should that concern me?  Before I could answer the inner question Jeannine brought out her really BIG guns.

I mean you might as well be Emily's direct reincarNAtion!!!

Despite how affronted and rebuking this very unique and irreplaceable friend clearly felt - I fell over sideways on my bed in pure delight.  There was no higher compliment/soul recognition a person could have offered me.  When I told her that she made a final noise of complete vexation and informed me she hoped this would be the very closest she'd ever have to come to feeling she had no choice but to hang up on me.  This ... was revelatory on a whole other level.   Levels of levels because that's how she was and how I am and damn do I ever miss her still to this day.

The Sisterhood is eternal and never-ending.  Grief only feels that way.  Addressing the conclusion of something that doesn't ever end while beginning something that sometimes doesn't know how to begin let alone finish feels - and I'm gonna say this sincerely rather than cynically as I usually do - very much on brand for me..  I hope the combination and juxtapositions will inspire you somehow.

Who's your Emily?   What friendship lives eternally within a longing to have it last just a few more hours or days?   If you had to pick one book from your shelves that you loved and learned from in more ways than you can even remember - what book would it be?

What way(s) are you happiest working?  Were you taught to work that way or did you cobble it together for yourself over time?


mercifully mellow

Robinfortressblg

Today has been warm enough to open windows on both sides of the studio.  The pleasure of naturally fresh air - and the fact that it's still possible to say we live with such a blessing - left me hungry for spring.   Am in the throes of pretty much going through everything I own here in the studio and elsewhere.  It's been an ongoing process for about a year now.  The more I lean into it the more it picks up speed and volume. 

Think it's my sane response to the increasingly insane world.  I want and need this space to have energetic flow and practical workability.  In addition to very lo-fi yet optimum storage reconfiguration it's become really important to me that all dust and bits of debris be corralled and removed.  (note as is obvious in above image I do not consider flaking bark fragments to be "debris")

There is much going on in my family - thankfully nearly all of it of a purposeful and positive nature - that's pulled my energy back to the basics of the Householder path.  Last night I had a chance to sit quietly with the new moon in pisces vibration.  That's when the phrase mercifully mellow popped into my head.

Bulbsplantedonsolstic22420

Here in the studio we have two very unglamorous pots of bulbs I planted on the winter solstice.  Sunny yellow and orange sweet scented daffodilly energy is on the rise!  It's a ritual I've enjoyed since a friend and I declared ourselves the Inventresses of the practice roundabout '81.  Then we had an old fashion metal milk delivery cooler to store our pots and now I have a left-behind refrigerator that just sort of hulks at the edges of our garage.  For the two months of winter the bulbs give it purpose.  At this point (other slower to rise bulbs are still sequestered) the narcissus have been slowly acclimating to light for 5 days.  Tomorrow or the next day I'll put them in their permanent spot for budding-up.

Malachiterescue

Have also been breathing life in a long-neglected and pretty much ossified tube of discontinued (malachite) Daniel Smith watercolor from their primatek line.  The color doesn't handle reliably and it's streaky.  But the specific green itself is rather marvelous and I've been thinking of ways I could use the smaller chunks as mark making tools.

Herbacrafterspouch

Today I also sewed a silk-lined storage pouch for a tarot deck I acquired very late last year - The Herbcrafter's Tarot.  Although I'm quite aware dandelions aren't pink it's the scrap that kept calling to me.  I lined the quilter's cotton with a green dupioni silk that stops just short of chartreuse.

[note:  per a request I'll soon be posting about Herbcrafters in relation to the way I approach a new deck upon unboxing.  Will do that on my main blog as I know some who read there but not here will be interested and inspired by the card imagery.]

I just cut long rectangles of the outer fabric and silk, eyeballed to leave sufficient room for a front, back, and tuckable flap.

Pouch unsewn

The two fabric's raw edges are folded inward (sometime with unravelling silk involved it winds up being as much as a half an inch for the silk and then easing-along the cotton to keep the edges even.  Below you can see how the folded seams look when the finished rectangle is positioned in the proper place for its intended contents. 

  Pouchedgedges

You can also see how the two fabrics are folded inward to self-seam with a continuous well spaced running stitch and (sometimes gently botched) mitered corners. 

Today I had to work with set dimensions based on what I had of the dandelion print.  And within that constraint long experience has taught me that if I set further folding and sewing lines based on the booklet and cards placed horizontally as it is above...

Herbcrafters

When all is said and done the cards and accompanying booklet will be housed in verticially snug comfort with just enough space to slip in a polished stone or crystal if you do that sort of thing.  

Pro-Tip:  Join the finishing side seams of the pouch with a continuous backstitch. 

Begin at the BASE of the sides rather than the top. When you get to the top take one or two small but sturdy stitches that are perpendicular to the rest of the stitches.  The top edge of the pouch will receive the most stress and wear.  Mindful stitch planning significantly increases the timeline before you have to repair or outright re-stitch the joining seams.


this day in 2008

Healingemissary

Was planning to post in response to a comment from Liz regarding her interest in a Beautiful Memory Jar project she could do with her grandchildren.  Like, tomorrow or the next day.  But then while editing pics for a post on my main blog I noticed this lovely image beaming up from the bottom of my screen.   Eleven years ago I was taking a wonderful embroidery class given by Sharon Boggon called Developing a Personal Library of Stitches.   The center rectangle is what I produced for one of the lessons.  We were supposed to keep things very small - 3 x 5.  But I found after the first two weeks that I just couldn't Work Small.  The compression of space makes my dyslexia go haywire.  Takes so long to untangle from a design perspective that it's far more pleasantly challenging to just work on a scale where it's easier for me to keep things looking like I know it's "supposed" to look.

I marvel at how much more stitching time I had when this was pretty much the only visually-based creative outlet I consistently allowed myself beyond photography.

live and learn, eh?  Am definitely on the Beautiful Moments trail though...


invaluable companion

30days

This is the single filled sketchbook I keep in my studio go-bag.  At least that's where it lives when I don't have it out as a reference source for whatever reason.  It's my favorite size of 8 x 8.   I made it using a super-simplified bookmaking technique taught by Mary Ann Moss in her Sketchbookery class.  The method works so well for me that I've been using it ever since. 

30daysinnercover

For about a week this journal was meant to be a colorist exploration of the designer gouache I received as a holiday gift.  But then I heard about Wendy Brightbill's 30 day creative challenge that ran as a free offering of her creative spirit throughout January of this year.  I've taken a number of online painting and collage classes with Wendy and find her to be a very inspiring teacher.   Each day of the challenge she presented participants with a pair of videos.  One featured her speaking in an inspiring way.  Throughout the month she covered a variety of themes integral to maintaining a daily creative practice.  The second video contained process/technique details to match the prompt of the day.

While watching the very first video I impulsively grabbed this volume and repurposed it.  On crisp New Year's instinct I knew this was going to be a process I'd want to preserve in a cohesive and structurally sound way.  Indeed, by the end of the challenge I'd amassed a cohesively strong collection of seed-stage ideas that can be expanded whenever and however I'm moved to explore ... whatever.  By assigning a full spread to each prompt I created a working field  of 16 x 8.  I quickly found I like working on this scale just as much as I like working within 8 x 8 parameters.  I also appreciated that the book signatures were made from high quality water color paper scraps and leftovers.  The quality allowed me a reliable substrate that didn't bleed. The scrap status allowed me to feel creatively resourceful and unrestrained for an average time investment of 20 minutes a day.  This book holds a valuable record of what happens when I show up for myself - on several days, for even half that amount of time  - in order to create in a purely joyful and spontaneous manner.

30daysshamandeet

Above a shaman "older than dirt" awakes from a nightmare in which he finds himself unable to Save The World.  This is the lower left hand corner of the Layers prompt spread. It's an example of the handful of occasions when I had the luxury of moving slowly and with a leisurely sense of time management.  I worked on this one off and on throughout a sunny January day in which I was studio-puttering.  Greatly enjoyed the experience of grounding my time alone & away from family/domestic responsibilities via periodically returning to the work desk to add a new layer of paint or ink.

Campdogs

Above two dogs seek shelter and comfort from each other during the Camp fire.  The prompt of the day was color background.  I had a newly purchased tube of rose madder acrylic paint.  Thought it would be a far darker/more oxidized color based on paint chips.  When I saw this much lighter and intensely red color my brain went straight to those dogs.  I imagined a fragment of their story through inky line drawings with a dip pen; sometimes feathering or widening the lines with a 1/4" one stroke brush.

30daysmarkmakingCU

Above a recurring dream motif from last winter was detailed within the mark making prompt spread.  Used another new tube of paint but this color was a dependable old favorite rather than a startling surprise.