November 2019 and it is six months on from when I started ink painting with a newfound passion...
For several weeks daylight has faded at a ridiculously early time of about 3pm, most days littered by wind, rain and heavy cloud. Yesterday our lane flooded badly. Right now a stranded vehicle sits in it waiting recovery, or for the flood to recede. I know which I put my money on happening sooner.
Ahead of winter, the fields are sodden. Wellies needing a wash on every return. Autumn seems to have been missed out – its glory certainly couldn’t be fully appreciated in recent weeks. High wind zapped the trees of colour in days and we never truly saw them sing out. They faded fast and without ceremony, unable to shine against a dull grey background.
Today, because of the flood (and because it’s long overdue), I ventured out to make an offering to the beech tree I visit in local fields, the one I term ‘my tree’. I think in 'tree years' it’s most likely a teenager. From beneath it looks like a tree piggy-backing another, and its left arm and hand reach toward our house, pointing, or beckoning for me to come outside. It faces north-west.
I left a few grapes as an offering. Alternate times I leave burnt sage, a few nuts or a handful of ashes after a moon burning. I never leave anything that is manmade, poisonous, that will seed or won’t rot.
This afternoon I stood under Beech for scant seconds, looked up and noticed most of the leaves have dropped since last weekend, though it still has a few dotted in seemingly equal distance across the branches, in a scattered pattern.
There is always a message I get as I stand in silence under Beech. Today it was simple...
Buying inks can be deceptive. On many art supply websites the similar bottles all come under the banner of ‘ink’ and some are actual Indian ink, but others are acrylic ink, and others diluted watercolour. In addition there is calligraphic and fountain pen ink. So easy to get confused and misled.
My first dip into inks (sorry, unintended) was a multipack of Windsor & Newton’s. Excellent and reliable, if only the bottles lasted longer. Well, I say that – I bought a Black, a Violet and a Crimson in the mid-1990’s at art college and I still had half a bottle of crimson left when I began this lark back in April. My very first attempts were via squeezed contents of old fountain pen refill cartridges (yes, my fingers were black for a week) combined with the 15 year-old crimson, which in 2019 I discovered had ‘matured’ to a vibrant neon pink.
BRANDS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE
Other brands and products I have used since are Daler Rowney Acrylic Ink, Dr Ph Martin’s Bombay India Ink, Chinese Black Calligraphy Ink (from the Manuscript Pen Company), and Ecoline Liquid Water Colour, as well as a cheap Liquid Watercolour I found in high street shop Tiger (Flying Tiger), which not only was surprisingly vivid – though in limited colours – the black also produces exciting effects and blue-edged tints when it runs into the other inks. Since it appears to be discontinued I’m using it sparingly – ironic seeing as it’s the cheapest one I’ve so far found! I’m thinking of trying a bottle of Parker Quink or other fountain ink and see if I get a similar result. [continued]
During the past several months of painting in what I thought were inks, I’ve come to realise they might not be the same sort of ink, or even inks, at all.
Does it matter? In my case, no, because what I do is experimental. The papers, tools and inks are pretty much irrelevant, it’s the process that matters more than the equipment, which is how I prefer it.
However, I found it absolutely does matter when I have my work on show and curious artists ask me about my bold colours, the medium I use and my technique. In my naivety I suppose I didn’t think anyone would be that interested so I wasn’t pre-prepared with definitive answers to give, especially where inks are concerned.
SO WHY INK?
My ink experimentation is contrary to my past painting attempts. Originally using gouache and watercolour at school, I progressed onto acrylic paint in my twenties, attracted to their shiny boldness and the fact they were quick-drying. Nothing worse for me than getting out of creative flow waiting for paint to dry. This isn't purely down to impatience – I bore easily and move on to the next project quickly. You will not be surprised to hear I’ve never tried using oils...
15 November 2019
I realise that might sound grim to you, but don’t be put off. It’s not. It’s life.
Let me first tell you about the Death card in Tarot.
Misinterpreted as an actual death or a grave tragedy that’s about to occur, death is actually linked to change and endings. In Shamanism (using the Native American medicine wheel and four directions/elements) it is denoted by West.
West is the colour black, the physical and tangible, human/animal, earth element, the sub-conscious, root chakra, autumn, maturity, adulthood, ancestry, and death.
MARS, SCORPIO, SEASONS AND CHANGE
Death has been prevalent for weeks in the UK. Don’t take that the wrong way, either – I’m speaking of Nature. Autumn is rapidly coming to its own end here, and the Death card has been cropping up in my own tarot readings for a while, for one of two reasons:
1. Death card represents the Astrological sign of Scorpio, October/November and autumn in the UK. Astrological sign Scorpio was originally ruled by Mars, being fiery, masculine, of activity and animal passion (traits mentioned above in my description of ‘West’). Scorpio became associated with Pluto in 1930 but the original Rider Waite Tarot had already been in use for some time by then, so I would say the Death/Scorpio link is Mars in this case, as I described.
2. I have personally been working on accepting and embracing change for most of the year through meditations (journeys) and full and new moon ceremonies...
3 October 2019
I’m about to launch my new art venture which in its initial stage involves trance and painting. I am calling it meditative painting but my meditation ability fluctuates from day-to-day.
Having located an old black shawl, I drape that over my head to try to cut out the light better than a silk scarf. I’m sitting cross-legged on my cushion amongst all my painting paraphernalia on a reversed waterproof sheet (to save the carpet a further ink catastrophy), with this found shawl over my head and shamanic drum beats playing loudly through the computer.
I’m alone all day in the house and the neighbours are away, hence the loudness. Today proves the ideal circumstances in which I can paint as freely as I like. Perfect, in fact, because the delivery man arrived with my order of A1 paper at 10am this morning, so I’m all raring.
NOT BEING PREPARED
Just now I gladly launched into a relaxed state with spirit guides and imagery to hand, right where I needed to be and visiting a tribal camp back in the eons of time somewhere, when I remembered I hadn’t prepared paper ready to begin my 'blind' mark-making. I hastily ask all to bear with me and halt a moment so I can grab a sheet of paper, but realise I have to get my inks ready too...
A ubiquitous term, but this all began with a 'journey'.
A journey entering into ever deeper, darker territory, into the soul, where reality, ego and physicality are consciously left behind.
A test of inner strength in battling and quieting the mind – of allowing the imagination and the brave, curious inner child lead the way.
Two years on and many journeys later, the creative spark is re-lit. It emerges unconsciously through spirit, in fluidity and colour and bold marks, reflecting feeling, emotion, shadow aspect...
The journey for me began ten years ago, in actual fact. It has been a long decade of self-discovery and learning to let go a lot of emotional baggage, unwanted thought patterns and engrained behaviours. It has involved psychological support, self-learned methods of healing, creative therapy – such as writing and learning drums, and dabbling in all sorts of weird and wonderful subjects that have not only helped open my mind further but revealed the high expectations and limits I put on myself and also placed on others.
I'm not going to delve into all that now – maybe another time, when we know each other a little better. This is a new era of anticipation and excitement; a new start. Tinged with anxiety, I admit, but being an intense sort of person, I rarely experience one without the other.
I do know that the threads of where I am now began in childhood, with a depth of imagination I don't think anyone around me realised was quite as vivid as it was. I kept that a secret like many other things. Such as my creative exploits. To me creating was precious and magical, somewhat sacred, the act as well as what came of it. The experience was mine, for me alone, and I liked nothing better than being free to explore it for hours and days at a time, without interruption or being brought back into the real world with a holler and a thud.
Little has changed. In later life and hitting middle age, I have accepted this is me. Imagination and creating is my core existence. The years I fought off the temptation to delve, and instead tried to fit in with others and their reality, practically ignoring my soul urge, I became ever miserable and deeply lacking in inspiration. It was like having the light and life sucked out of me. I told myself a graphic design career provided all the creativity I needed, but really, that is pretty much about satisfying briefs, about pleasing the client and whatever company you are working for. And behind what you produce are 'trends' rather than your own unique style.
Much of my life centred around others, around work, family, friends: whatever anyone asked of me, I tended to fit in where I could, even as an introvert and a highly sensitive person, factors I've come to understand about myself much more recently. For a long while, I was dutiful and loyal and did my best to keep others happy, forgetting about the little girl in me that needed to find joy, to experiment, to be left to do her own thing however odd it seemed to others. The truth emerged that she needed me to show my loyalty to her.
I believe she waited in the shadows, biding her time, silent and watchful. She waited until I began to lose my grip, to slip into lost memories and start remembering her. In her surrounding chaos sits the need for control, relieved only by creating. Only in that space can she be her true self, feel free and alive, and be open to the pure flow of ideas.
That is where the art happens – in flow, where consciousness falls away and, as creatives, where we enter alternative, unconscious states.
I practice shamanic journeying specifically, which all began with visualisation techniques and mindfulness exercises undertaken in 2013, if not right back when I was very young and open to letting my childlike mind wander into dream states more often than I cared to admit.
If you have never meditated, the very first practice you might try is breathing: deep, single breaths. In... Out... Until the lungs reach maximum capacity, until there is nothing left to bring in or let out. Seeing and feeling your thorax rise and fall, the rib cage expand. The most helpful word I remember my yoga instructor using is 'sinking'. Lying down, let your self, your body, sink into the floor or the bed; feel reality slip away as if you feel yourself landing softly into comforting layers, like soft feathers, or cloud.
This is essentially the first stage to entering a state of trance. It is no great magic, though the effects can be. As you let go the physical, and the mind (the ego's will to control and daily thought chatter), then the imagination and the little boy or girl in us steps out to lead the way. However young they may appear, sometimes they know what's best for us, as we get caught up in the illusion and disillusion of reality. Try trusting they know how best to enter into the soul of an artist. Trust they know the way to go.
Let's leap into the unknown, who knows where it will lead?