Welcome to the Land of Woo-Woo
or Packing Prayers into your Painting
I have always had the hardest time explaining my process and my work to people who see my work in the secular gallery in which I exhibit. There is so much spiritual and magical context packed into each piece that starting from square one can overwhelm folks who have just a passing curiosity at the opening reception.
Sometimes I ask them if they want the short version or the”woo-woo” version.
The short version is easy: My work is an integral part of my spiritual practice. Each piece is a tangible product of my working with an aspect of the Divine. For example, this is a shrine for Dionysus; he is the Greek god of wine and ecstasy.
The “woo-woo” version starts off much the same, perhaps peppered with a few more specifics about the spirit for whom the work is dedicated. If the gallery visitor hasn’t adopted the deer-in-the-headlight look, then I may go more into my process.
If you are reading this, I’m going to assume for a few minutes that you has asked for the “woo-woo” version and talk about my process, which I learned and adapted from Nikki Shannon of http://www.energypainter.com.
My artwork is created in sacred space. I have an altar to Eleggua and another to the Dark Mother in my studio. I light tea lights and incense before starting my work sessions. I have also spray painted personal sigils on the walls that represent me and my work. I choose music that feels right to the spirits I’m working with.
I start off most of my canvases with a prayer, invocation, or intention written right on the canvas in colored Sharpie or metallic paint pens. I may also draw sigils and symbols to bring in the energy of the intention to the canvas. I recommend doing some research into Chaos magic and/or runes to help with creating sigils.
The intent for this piece is establishing a healthy and loving relationship with my physical body. But beyond a personal intent, this piece is dedicated to the energy of loving one’s body as it is and accepting it as a physical temple of the Divine.
The first layer of paint is the core essence of the intent laid on in thick paint and just a few colors. Here, bold pinks, reds, and oranges are put down with a palette knife in a simplified vulva shape.
The following layers are built up one on top of the other to pack as much energy and meaning as needed into the canvas. Since I was dealing with the physical body I wanted to create a layer for the four elements of air, fire, water, and earth, and then connect those with the spiritual aspect of the starry heavens. I used the colors and sigils used in my tradition.
The final layer is the image that people will see. For this piece, I used the Goddess of Willendorf, an image of the great mother that I have always had issues with. I didn’t choose this image specifically — it was part of a class assignment. But I took the image and confronted my body issues with it head on. I wanted that fat body writ large and “in your face,” not ashamed, just big and bold and taking up the whole [email protected]&$ing canvas. All the things I wanted to hide about my body, there was no hiding in this canvas. This Goddess COMMANDED the whole galaxy, and thus the whole canvas.
I first drew her in chalk before committing the shapes in gold metallic paint.
Then, I needed to give her some substance, some dimensionality. Colors of the earth — red ochre, burnt umber, raw umber, burnt sienna — brought it back from the cosmos into the physical.
When the image is complete, I use gloss varnish to seal and protect the painting and to make the colors really pop.
Throughout the process, I’m talking to the spirit coming through the canvas. I’m dancing for the spirit. I’m breathing on the canvas. I’m praying over the canvas. Sometimes I will anoint the canvas with oils or I’ll smudge it with incense or sage. If the image is of a particular spirit or deity, then I am developing a relationship with that being and creating a portal through which they can for them to communicate with this world. Throughout, I am listening to and guided by the spirit. Painting for me is about placing myself in the hands of Mystery and trusting that, through the journey, we will create something powerful together.
I invite you to experiment with bringing your spirituality to your art process and welcoming your gods, goddesses, spirits, and ancestors to create with you.
Blessings from a full and open heart