Fine Art Prints ~ Shamanic Art

Purchase a fine art print of the shamanic art of Kristen Scholfield-Sweet. Enter the spirit- filled landscapes and stories of these visionary art works.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Painting with Chalk Pastel

I have recently completed a series of painted chalk art and although this is not a new art technique, I have not seen my method taught anywhere, and so I thought it would be interesting to share.

I begin with a loose pencil drawing of the entire image so I don't have to think about where shapes and colours are going to be placed.  I begin in the upper left corner, applying a rough layer of chalk over a small area.  I then smooth the chalk with a paper stump so I am not trying to work uneven areas of pigment.

I next apply a wet brush as if I was "polishing" the surface, smoothing and blending colours and areas in a spontaneous way.

As each area gets added to the last, the water seems to fix the chalk so the painting surface becomes stabilized as I work across the image.

I discovered this way of painting because chalk pastels are sticks of pure pigment and I figured pigment and water mix, right?  What I didn't know were some of the ways of working that this technique would require.

I create detail, not by adding in but by lifting out.  Even when dry the chalk will lift off with subsequent water applications so light areas are pulled from the already dark surfaces.  This is the technique that created the water flowing over rocks.

It is possible to add in white and other light colours, just the opposite of my watercolour training when white areas must be left as the original paper.

Since I love detail, it was a hard lesson for me to grasp that less is more.  Minimal gestures seem to read as a more complex surface because the texture the chalk creates is already complex.

It is hard for me to just stop.  Yet this is perhaps the most demanding working requirement using this technique of painted chalk.  Areas can be worked and re-worked two or three times and then watch out!  The paper surface begins to degrade and the delicate relationship between color and texture is lost.

This finished piece titled Naming it makes it so has a complexity and liveliness that really captures my interest.  But then I took the title to heart and turned the image over, and a whole different world emerged.  Art is like that.


More about the other four paintings featured here in a future blog.  This series, titled 5 Conversations with Water, will soon appear on my website and as prints in my Etsy webstore.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Paint a beautiful picture of nature

Here is a beautiful picture of nature.  Autumn leaves amid birch trees in Nova Scotia. Something about this image compelled me to paint it, but how?

 I use acrylic like watercolour on paper and so I anchored a large sheet of Arches watercolour paper to a board and began painting leaves.  How disappointing and frustrating!  My attempts looked amateurish and so I cut off the top several inches of the paper and began again.  Again with the disappointment and frustration.  More cutting.

On my third attempt I  asked myself, "What am I really seeing?"  What a discovery--I am not seeing a leaf at all but a brown shape with this slightly darker area near the lower edge. And so I painted that. No attempt to name the shape, or render what my mind was saying this was--just paint the brown shape.

And suddenly the leaves appeared in all their usual magic.

The lichen on the tree trunks came alive with shadow and shine.

A complexity emerged without my emotional engagement.  Indeed, it emerged because I was't emotionally entangled in "getting it right."  I was just painting what I saw.

This painting is titled "The day I learned to read."   I remember that day more than 60 years ago.  I was sitting in bed on a Sunday morning with my Mom and Dad, insisting  that I could read the funnies by myself.  And as a little kid I was quite insistent.  I think to humour me Dad propped the paper in front of me...and I could do it!  The black squiggles in the balloons made words.  I didn't get every word right, but suddenly something clicked and I was reading.

This ability has extended  into all my art.  My paintings on the frame drums I make emerge from the patterns in the skin, and not from my imposition.  The oracle cards images I painted for my Journey Oracle deck were seen in fossil shells, dried rawhide, and slices of agate.

Perhaps in this way everything seen is given the respect of being able to name itself.

I have fine art prints available of many of my realist paintings of nature.  Contact Kristen at to receive an annotated list of works, or visit my Etsy webstore.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Shamanic lessons from a photo-realist painting

I started my artist’s life early in watercolor classes after school, and the flow of paint over paper enchants me still.  I see the magic everywhere without making it up anywhere.  

Every shape and tone and shade really existed at the moment I saw it in nature, so when I paint every part, and every part between the part, is whole. 


A “big” painting in acrylic on matte board takes me a year to complete.  An underpainting of Hooker’s Green and Prism Violet creates a foundation of detail.

Ten or more layers of complexly mixed colors are laid over this foundation, like building a symphony of color above the base notes. 

Broad washes of color tone the temperature and emotion to finish the work. 

Luther Burbank said; "Nature is an exacting mistress and a jealous teacher; she does not reveal herself wholly to the amateur or the dabbler, and she will not cooperate fully and generously with the man who takes her lessons or her work lightly."

Such is the shamanic lesson of a bank of ferns and brush beside a gravel road.  It asks of the student, "How do you like the Underworld?"


How do you like the Underworld?

please visit my Etsy webstore for price and shipping information. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

How I paint a photo-realist painting

It may seem odd to those who appreciate my shamanic paintings, but I think that like an architect, I build a realist painting, rather than paint it.  Although I begin with a photograph which is akin to seeing a finished house, many steps must happen before the space, or the vision, can be occupied,

My first step is to draw a light web of detail, indicating where the major shapes are, and more importantly, how these hook into the shapes already painted and yet to come.

 I then mix acrylic paints into what I think of as the "base."  Usually a combination of Hooker's Green and Prism Violet. Although this reads as dark grey, it has the ability to shade to the warmth of the violet, or the coolness of the green, depending on what brighter colors are laid over it.

This painted sketch mostly helps me find my way as I glance between the photograph and the painted forms.  This ability to rapidly "find" the area I am working on is the single most important skill contributing to the success of the painting.

As the painting progresses, this technique is like a colorless image gradually taking on life and light. Like a house is first a shell of framing timbers, and slowly receives a skin of sheathing.

While I am painting the monochromatic sketch, I am also painting back into the surrounding areas.
First with pale washes of color which build in intensity and richness.

Every overlaid color washes back into an area already painted with the base color, just as the interior wall treatments and trim layer onto the basic construction of a house.

Eventually the intensity of form and color become a place worth living in.  So what am I painting?
A painting of this scale and complexity takes me about a year to build, and the construction is not yet complete so you will just have to wait a bit longer for the open house.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A personal style in art making

A personal style in art making is not the same thing as a style of art in history, or culture.  A personal style in art is a deep reflection of how I, as an artist,  respond to the world.  I am thinking of the visual arts because I am a painter, but this response to the world is parallel for writers and dancers and musicians; for all creative effort.
To catch a glimmering of my personal style in art, I look for patterns that emerge across the years of my art making, and not just within individual pieces.  I have discovered three patterns of apprehending and responding to my lived world that form a core of my personal style as an artist.

I attend to density.  Every part, and every part between the part, is whole.  Density is not just physical complication, it is a feeling tone that suffuses every mark and material.

This painting originated from a failed drum head intended to be a frame drum whose surface just kept inviting me in and then in again--layer upon dense layer until I realized I was creating an ovum and the sperm were reaching its rim and the blood was coursing around the feather soft nest of the mother dreaming her child to her.  In my art making, my style is saying density is not a result of confusion or a welter of data, it comes from a full weight of meaning.

I attend to edges.  The lost and found edges in these original paintings for the  Journey Oracle cards are what pulls me into the mystery of who and what I am seeing.  We are none of us complete, and when I allow an image to be incomplete, I feel a kindred vibration. 

Even a simple sketch of the BC coastline made while leaning on a ferry railing can become suffused with awe if I do not anchor the sensory impression to my urge to control the form.

Perhaps the most predominant aspect of my personal style in art is my love of curves.  I seem to not be able to render a form with a hard angle--

no matter how sharp and dramatic are the angles of the total composition.

The qualities of a personal style in art are mostly unconscious.  These Oracle cards are filled with lines, and yet the overall sensation is of density, lost and found edges, and curves.  We each respond to the feeling tone of forms and spaces based on our unique way of being in the world.

 If you are not sure you have a personal style in art, just look at your signature.  The pressure, width of line, boldness of stroke, size and flourish are all a mirror of the patterns and preferences that flow from your fingers whenever you sign your name.

Of course, there are times when the Art in nature conspires to show the human artist a deeper version of her style.  For this remarkable image on a frame drum I only added the eyes, the ochre and black iron oxide of the nose, and the lines defining the mouth.  It was mostly painted by mold as it grew the dense, curved, indeterminate edges of its art across the hide surface while the skin was drying.  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Best sources for names of paintings.

The unexpected comment is one of my best sources of names for paintings.  Just like a Journey Oracle card reading singles out images, aspects of nature and dream-like pronouncements that empower forces to speak that are beyond one's conscious control--chance is my favorite origin of painting titles. A name that both conveys a sense of my intended meaning and also provides insight into the mystery behind all art.

usual magic

This large acrylic painting completed during my tenure at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design had one of my favorites sources for painting names: the television.  While watching TV one evening I was suddenly brought to attention by an After Eight chocolate advertisement.  The announcer's voice said, "Catherine worked her usual magic at the dinner party...."  That's it!  A title that both captures my sense of nature, and also opens to the sensation that just beyond reach there is something more.  

What time is this?

What story is this?

These two drawings in colored pencil were completed as nature lessons for a young art student.  The titles are literally two assignments.  Can you look out at nature and say what time of year this is just by identifying the presence and condition of the plants you see?  Can you tell the story of the plants you see: their First Nations lore, medicinal uses and local mythology?

not an exit

While attending Martin Prechtel's school of spiritual ecology in New Mexico, I would go for walks to sketch the area cemetery. When standing next to the fence gazing at possibilities for a composition, a local man mistook my interest for trying to find a way through to the road beyond and said," There's not an exit from here, you know."

no more waiting

Later I was telling a friend about my work with Martin and how the study was changing my sense of purpose, especially with my work on the Journey Oracle divination deck, and she said, "There is no more waiting for the time to be soon, or better, or whatever.  Just do it now!" 

nothing is coming

My favorite name for a painting in this cemetery series is the one that I completed after I returned back to Cortes Island.  I asked my partner John what he thought would be a good name, and he said, "nothing is coming."  

The true magic of these three sketches is that no one title carries the full impact of the three pieces together.  When taken as one statement these three names certainly open to the sensation that something deeper and more thought-provoking is afoot.  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Make new art

I  paint large photo-realist acrylic paintings, make native style frame drums, and teach about my Journey Oracle cards, but some of my most fun comes from always trying to make new art. New in every way: new materials, new techniques, new ideas for subjects and ways of working.

This watercolor work was continuously turned in a circle as I painted faces I saw in a stone.  A wonderful example of how art changes with one's point of view.

Some of the most exciting, and dangerous, art I have made involved sealing drawings, found objects and extruded letters inside Plexiglas boxes.

This tiny extruded acrylic letter inspired a favorite phrase that I still use when writing my artist's statements: "I feel like a little hook reaching into mystery."

When I learned that throughout history artists have died from toxic fumes, I decided to put down the propane torch and chemical mask, and go for safer materials.

The drawing became beading on a loom, the wood became the frame, and the construction process itself became rain.

While this small acrylic painting seems to echo the painting I do on my frame drums with raw earth pigments, the new art here is the process itself.  Lots of different kinds of mark-making materials were smeared around inside a cereal box.  While this was drying a slip of paper was drawn from three different piles of nouns and verbs.  A section of cereal box was copied and then embellished to become the image for the title made from the three words:  Welcome to Swim House.  Years later this is still one of the most enigmatic pieces I have ever painted.

Sometimes what makes new art is not doing anything new at all.  This accidentally double exposure while on a camping trip became a symbol of Waiting for Apocalypse to me, made all the more potent
with the technology itself as the subject.

I think my favorite way to make new art is to transform something old and damaged into a new form.
This failed drum head became a pen and ink drawing, and then a raw earth pigment painting, and then was sewn inside a warped drum hoop which became filled with turkey feathers.  Somewhere in the middle of this process I realized I was creating blood lines, and swimming sperm, and the egg of new beginnings.