Watching unscripted faces and characters come to life beneath your brush is a remarkable experience that anyone can enjoy, regardless of artistic skill. This is a short story about my experiences, coupled with a few images that I've collected.
It goes without saying that most artists have pretty fragile egos - that is to say, we're often struggling with feelings of rejection and inadequacy but paint it over with bravado and bolster to hide our insecurities. We are beautifully human and incredible fragile - well I am anyway. Artists are among the bravest people on earth - over and over again we put ourselves out there on a giant stage of judgement, hoping to swim in the endorphin pool. Some days a "like" on social media is the fuel to create something else. It's pretty easy to make us happy. Sometimes I create art so I can swim in that endorphin pool - and why not? But there are those unique times when my creative flow moves more deeply into an ocean of colours and my mind gets restless and hungry for something spiritually bigger. The pull is unmistakable. In those times, I burn the sage, set my brushes down with the sweetgrass and the paint so they can all talk about what to make. In the end, we're all merely tools being used to create or destroy. Finding the privacy and peace to create at a deeper level is a true gift. Those nights or days are very special. It seems to always be accompanied by a feeling - from within the Ether I imagine the stars and the Ancestors are taking an interest in what I'm doing. I can feel a connection to something so much greater my small self. Often the medicines that surround my painting table begin to chatter - lights will sometimes flicker (a glitch in the wiring?), the drums will pop and hum (the house shifting I'm sure), and peripheral shadows dance in and out of my view like the tease of an idea not quite ready to be birthed (lack of sleep, without a doubt). So I dabble and play until an idea begins to form through the inspiration of a line or a blend of colour. The "dabble" is the life-seed of creativity for me - when I am unsure or have no intentions set in my creative mind, I dabble and invite the energies to come in. I verbally invite them to talk to me about what I might try to create. Sometimes the fog of colour and line untangle themselves in my mind and I see an image that I'll use in the beginning of the painting, but very often, I'm not sure where the whole thing is going. So I dabble and try to remain open to whatever trickles down through the veil. When inspiration comes it's pretty exciting. (Likely too much coffee late at night). The magic of ground mineral watercolours on synthetic paper happens in the small ignored corners of the work. In the featured image is an example of something peeking through the veil at me. A Blue Lioness creeps forward through the water like a hunter on the savanna. She goes unnoticed at first, only showing herself when I decided it was time to check in on the pools of water I set down moments ago. Often the small faces or spirits that show up are comical and make me laugh out loud. And maybe they're even a little bit heyoka in how they teach me to stop being so serious and mission oriented all the time.
I strongly encourage my students to keep their cell cameras ready and to take photos of the work often, zooming in to see what's happening beneath the water as the minerals dance with each other.
There's a science name for seeing things through the spiritual eyes. "Pareidolia - the tendency for perception to impose a meaningful interpretation on a nebulous stimulus, usually visual, so that one sees an object, pattern, or meaning where there is none." But that's not true, is it? The images are in fact there, depending of course on your own perspective. Our brains process objects for emotional expression much like we do for real faces, rather than discarding the object as false detections. How can science explain Spirit? (It's a work in process)
I have seen remarkable images in the paints over the past half dozen years. I have seen Sundancers come forward from the paint while I was painting a huge image of the sun. I have had buffalo walk onto the page through the water and paint. I have seen a hand open up and move across the stones in another painting as though reaching for the other side of the paper. Once I watched a lovely gathering of shawled women offering prayers to the moon I was painting. It was meditative and serene to just let myself hold space and find peace for them while they created themselves.
Often, I feel that through my art, I have been seen by the spirits on the other side of the thin veil that separates us from the Great Mystery. I sometimes feel as though I'm creating their intention, interpreted best way that I am able to with my limited capacity as a pitiful human being. These connections are sometimes very powerful and often chilling. Many times they catch me by surprise. No matter how many times it happens, and no matter how many years it's been that I've experienced this phenomena, it takes my breath away every single time. Someone once said to me, "You've worked with spirit and art, ceremony and the Great Mystery for the past 30 years of your life - how can you still be surprised by these things?" - ?? - How can I not?
And so perhaps "surprise" is not the correct word, but instead "unexpected" might be the better description along with "humbled", "grateful" and "awe-struck".
Working with ground mineral based watercolour paint on synthetic paper is a new and virtually unexplored medium. I am so grateful to have been shown this doorway to an exciting and powerful form of expression. I encourage all who have taken my class, to keep painting, don't let the flames cool - let the water and minerals of the earth use your brushes to bring you small gifts like these ones. The water is a brilliant conductor of spiritual energy, as are the paints. It is a trifecta of unique creation tools that work in harmony with your own spirit.
Always respect the water's power along with the privilege of using the minerals birthed by our Mother the Earth. Minerals carry many unique properties that speak to our ancient selves on a natural level. It is only through the generosity of this planet that we can explore such a beautiful connection to the natural world.
Watch for free paint nights throughout July, August and September up to September 15th. The free nights will be spontaneously announced on social media. We will be painting bookmarks. This is a great way to introduce yourself to the medium without a lesson commitment. We recommend this exercise for anyone 13+.
(The patience required for this process doesn't often lend itself well to brilliant young minds that move too fast to sit patiently while paint and water interact beneath a brush.)
"I will paint until life tells me I can paint no more. And when I am finished painting, I will colour the Earth with flowers and play the wind like music, and you will feel me in your love of these things." Miigwetch. Thank you,