Today's post is a lateral move on the same underlying subject for much of this blog. Above is the finished cover of an art journal I've worked in since January '18. At that time I impulsively signed up for a year long online art journaling class called Rituals. This was the brainchild of Vanessa Oliver-Lloyd. In her introductory video for the course Vanessa spoke of bringing participants closer to their own forms of ceremony and sacred self-care rituals. For me it certainly did that - in a few instances beyond anything I would have imagined or thought to actively set in motion. I wound up working on this project, off and on at very specific concentrated intervals, until the end of last month.
I allowed myself to take more time because it was clear to me early into the process that I was doing more than introspectively recording a consciously mindful year in my life. I was also just as consciously developing a ceremonial announcement to myself that, following a decade of making my way through the vestibule of the Croning process, I felt I had arrived in the welcoming embrace of this ever-significant third stage of a woman's life. The journal was to be a celebratory acknowledgement of that arrival. I aimed to include all that mattered (heavily codified of course) from the first two stages of my life. This allowed me the grace of consciously choosing what form(s) of myself I wished to bring into the future with me. I figured I'd work largely in metaphor but sometimes in direct linear relationship to ongoing daily life.
I worked in a larger format (11 x 14) than any of my three previously established size comfort zones. Mainly this happened because I hoped to avoid spending any money on this project - at least not beyond raw supplies that were already on my radar and thus I knew might tempt me because it's how I'm wired. Beyond that - I had what I had, period. My cache of supplies included a purchased-at-half-price Strathmore sketchbook. I rewatched a video I recalled bookmarking about how to systematically break the spine of these books so the smythe binding becomes more pliant and copic-like. I relished making a conscious ritual of that. I also embraced the ongoing challenge of thinking/designing in an unfamiliar size/shape of blank space.
Just before the class officially began I determined that I wished to create a dystopian on-the-fly graffiti wall version of a classical illuminated manuscript. The very idea thrilled me with both its audacity level and the uncharted potentiality for personal growth of a visual nature. At first I began working with the months' various themes without concerning myself over the cover. Then while sifting through a pile of kinda-forgotten collage fodder I came upon the substrate version of a free Holistic Health magazine I'd picked up years earlier.
At the time I found it the kind of meaningful that lasts for ages - to offhandedly encounter a boldly illustrated woman who looked a lot like me from the back wearing a color of dress that was at the time highly significant to me. As soon as I got home I tacked the cover above a small dresser filled with rattles, crystals and tarot cards. For years the image reminded me of who I most imagined myself to be in the spiritual and idealized senses of Being.
My first plan was to leave the cover in place and simply collage over parts of the original cover that didn't fit my theme and the design mood I wanted to set. I thought I'd have the former me entering the book and then at the end of the year I'd paint myself face first emerging from the back cover. As is always the way of an ongoing introspective creative venture, this worked until it didn't. I wasn't, after all, entering this project and whatever it might become as the "old" me. The most obvious change I'd have to make as a nod to deeper acknowledgement of who I already was: fix the hair color.
The next thing I changed was the dress color - choosing my fave deep red-violet ink to painstakingly apply with a tiny round brush - around and about the botanical patterns on the dress. I gambled this color of relatively transparent ink over stationary bright yellow might yield something of a purple-ish mahogany color similar to manzanita bark.
Pretty soon after that I gesso'd over everything but Earth Star and the sashaying female form. Stared at that I don't know how long before I realized the title of the actual journal in front of me was both obvious and profound. Furthermore, the lettering could be constructed in a way that would give the cover just the kind of vibe I'd envisioned without yet knowing what it would mean at any level of detail. Among many other things this project brought me home to a core/eternal version of myself that was inextricably linked to flower essences in a variety of different ways. Most congruently and deeply it brought me home to self-relationship as a flower-based alchemist. During the summer of '18 I began to prepare essences after three growing seasons of the co-creative web maintaining a form of radio silence that's quite difficult to describe with words.
In the end I got all artist-ish picky and specific about the hair and how it wasn't at all right and I just wasn't gonna be happy until I gave into the fairly loud as opposed to quietly still inner voice that kept suggesting just let yourself go with a paint pen. Also was compelled to do some sandpapering until the skin was lightly dark or darkly light and thus more like my own. In the very beginning, before I'd changed anything but hair, I'd wanted to paint the skin violet or the color of manzanita bark. Then that felt far too exposing. I mean this directly in the context of having decided to go on instagram in large part so I could share portions of this project while it was still happening -with other people who were sharing individualized responses to a collective endeavor. Those ladies would have actively applauded I'm quite sure but at the time my reasons for wanting to do it were very vulnerable and significant in a way that was raw and demanding of protection.
I feel strongly that this particular creative project belongs on this blog rather than something separately devoted to personal creative output. I wasn't sure why I was so certain when I started to write this post but now as words find their intentional conclusion I see it's pretty obvious. Earth Star Alchemy Rituals is a way I both synthesized land/interspecies communication and codified it for easy carrying, lifting, and sharing as my life moves forward. So much of what goes on when we consciously deepen our connections with other species is far beyond the scope and limits of language. I don't think any single group of inter-species wisdom keepers understands that better than flowers do.
This project didn't just help me to get everything I've written about on this blog into a congruent form of personal meaning at that beyond words level. It also taught me how I was choosing to be seen by all the other species here on this small piece of land where I live. Had never thought of any of this from that particular angle - the idea of choices in self-presentation being important rather than a terminally human preoccupation...