Fine Art Prints ~ Shamanic Art

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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.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Acrylic painting of mystery

Sometimes I feel compelled to paint an image that is more than just 'mysterious'.  It is like the image itself has a task, a something to do that is not of this human realm. The composition and title may push me further into the depths of confusion, rather than bring me to the surface of comprehension.

This painting is named Grief's true reckoning.  When I think of these words their meaning seems to just slip pass my sensation of aha! into a darker place of what?  Webster's Dictionary says to "reckon" is to consider, to judge, to estimate.  Grief's true consideration, judgement, estimation.

The image came as I was walking about in the garden looking for some photo ideas that might make a new painting.  Suddenly I felt compelled to return to the house and take the bear skull from above my altar and return to the little waterfall that flows into the splash pond.  This is it.  I put the skull in the pond without considering any of the art qualities of arrangement, balance, form or color in the scene.  Just take the picture.

I don't remember how the title came, or why I call it this, or what my action completed for the bear skull so long separated from its body and the earth.  Art may be the only thing that makes us pay enough attention to know there is mystery.   As I quote from Diane Schoemperlen in the book that accompanies my Journey Oracle cards:
The opposite of knowledge is not ignorance, by Mystery,
the opposite of truth is not lies but Revelation.


To purchase a print of this painting, please go to my web store.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

How I title a painting

The titles for my acrylic paintings are very important to me, because they reflect the idea behind the image, and also direct how I apply the paint.   Often, I have the title at the same moment I have the image--sometimes even before. This dappled forest image was taken while walking in the backwoods of Nova Scotia, near Tantallon.

At home that night I was watching TV when an commercial came on for After Eight Chocolates. There was a line of dialog that when something like, "Marie worked her usual magic" showing a woman offering a plate of after dinner mints to a guest. I remember saying, "that's what that stream was today--usual magic."  And so the painting, and the idea directing the painting, had a name.

The first thing I establish is the focus which is a function of light and distance.  This is usual, which to me means common, regular; downed branches, twigs and moss.

Light is movement.

Focus, light and movement create magic on the painted surface. 

Contrast is drama.  Watching the usual magic of water flowing, and how the light juxtaposes darkest dark and lightest light becomes a lesson in creating drama. 

I think the secret of usual magic in nature, as well as in art, is to not let the net be broken.  No matter how dense or small the detail, every part and every part within the part, is whole.

Usual Magic
acrylic on matte board