Thursday, April 19, 2018

Painting a frame drum, or the drum that painted itself (almost)

This drum skin was old and scarred and thicker than I like.  I did not at first even want to build a drum from it but I understand it is a gesture of respect to use well what is given from Nature and its creatures.

I tied the back handhold with an octagram, an ancient symbol of regeneration.  I hoped it would help the drum transform into a spirit companion.

When I paint a drum, I usually begin by painting what surrounds what I see, not the creature or story I see.  

This whale kept calling my attention, and so I used raw ultramarine pigment to dust over the area that wasn't the whale.

I added a few marks of black iron oxide.

And look what happened.

The whale was already in the skin in all its detailed magnificence.  All of the light edges of the fins and body, the subtle shading beneath the mouth,  the curve of the underbelly are not painted by me.

I positioned the drum in some late afternoon light to record the width of the frame and the position of the whale.

And it seemed to come alive.  Maybe this is what comes from honouring what is old and scarred and thick from life.  The wisdom shines out.

Monday, April 9, 2018

How to talk to spirits of place

I live in a beautiful place.  It is easy to imagine the light always glowing through stands of ancient cedar,  to delight in the sparkle children made of the sun's dance with mother ocean.

Yet not everyone imagines the same thing for a beautiful place.  Change is coming as new landowners carve driveways through old forest and design docks anchored to headlands of wild stone.  These changes are not necessarily bad--certainly most of us live in clearings that were once deep forest.

But what do the spirits of place want in regard of these changes?  How to talk to spirits of place so I can be awake to the other-than-human-beings when I meet new humans in their place.

I decided to do a Journey Oracle reading--not so much about how to talk to spirits of place, but to explore my hidden biases when I imagine change impacting spirits of place.  Certainly I assume that change is disruptive and dismaying for the creatures and forces that inhabit this land, but is it really?  Am I imposing my own answer even before I frame the question?

This is an image of my situation.  I did not try to focus on one aspect of the change in my neighborhood, I just let my feelings and thoughts circle about me in all their complexity.
My first impression is of a face with indeterminate features and somewhat blank eyes.  A lack of focus.  This is the oracle card representing Teacher.  It's message is "Don't need to know everything."  This creates a frisson of attention, but when I read this statement I feel a chill of recognition and responsibility: The momentum of this situation is fed by hearing the cries of the world. 

This is the oracle card representing my experience in this situation.  A figure partially outlined in blue is carrying a human form while moving up vertically. The blue figure seems to have wings.
When I read the phrases that are part of my situation experienced, they all feel potent:
insights from ancestors 
receiving blessings
the lightness of being in human form, facets, not quitting on relationships
light reflected, a bird is just a bird
giving into weakness
staying centered

When I treat this list as a map of my experience, I feel I am at the location called not quitting on relationships. So what's the next location on this journey?

This is the oracle card of change.  Creatures are watching, waiting, still patient. But the edges are burnt. This is the oracle card representing Halloween.  Its message is spirit prayers answered.  This feels very positive.  A statement from Divine Will is The wisdom of bringing back to life will empower the transformation.  I am beginning to intuit that asking how to help the spirits of place reassemble is the focus of my conversation with them.

This last oracle card in the Journey Oracle reading is an image of the resolution.  Wow.  What a powerful picture.   This is an oracle image of Lammas, sometimes called the holiday of hope and fear.  Feels just right for a situation of dramatic change. I see a skull with rivulets of blood, and also a creature striding along with considerable attitude.

In the Journey Oracle the resolution of the situation is presented as a fairy tale.   In this story a workshop leader finds a remarkable stone that becomes very important to her, but then she realizes that she must give it away in order to behave in an honourable way.  I understand the wild beauty of Cortes Island, and its spirits of place, are like this special stone.  Sometimes we have to give away what is dearest to our heart, in order to receive back its treasure in a new way.  I will ask the spirits of place how I can best support their transformation in this time of human change.

A Journey Oracle fairy tale
Several women were out walking when their leader saw a peculiar stone. It was a small piece of rough rock that looked like a bear, with a dirty piece of string holding a blue plastic bead around its middle. The leader picked it up and the others said “this will be our mascot!” But the leader placed the stone bear back on the trail. When none mentioned the stone bear again upon returning, the leader put it in her pocket.
At their lodging, the leader put the stone bear on a table, but no one mentioned it. Apparently the other women were not attracted to this, and so the leader believed she was receiving rewards for staying mindful, and took it home.
The leader carried the stone bear with her everywhere, and in a measured pace came to a great accomplishment: she could talk to the stone by deciphering the sensations she felt when holding it. The stone bear became a great and mysterious teacher to the leader—her most prized companion, sung to and feasted. But in her heart she had a small place that feels like chaos. The leader knew she had stolen the stone bear from the group.
       The group met again and the leader felt the anticipation and anxiety of Armageddon. She passed the stone to the first woman, telling the story of her caring for it. “Now I withdraw from it, she said, I give this away to the next to care for.” This woman was interested, but did not want to give so much attention. The second was not interested in stones at all. The third supported the leader keeping the stone, and so the bear arrived to the fourth.       
       “Grandmother Bear, I’ve longed to see you again” she said, and the leader felt an emptiness that looks like menstrual blood with no egg to nourish. But the woman said she did not need a symbol of a bear and passed the stone back. And so the leader learned that to receive what is dearest to the heart, she must give away its treasure.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

How to change your art style

I have been a photo-realist painter for 40 years.  And in February I changed my art style.  Not just a little bit but dramatically.  How did this happen?

This piece was done in 1978 and even though it was before I worked with photographs, it already anticipated my attention to natural appearances, to subjects that maintained the illusion of reality.

So where did my wild ride into surrealist painting come from?

In part it came from discovering a new media and technique: painting with chalk pastel.  I have worked with pastel on paper in the past, but never have I added water to the mix.   A remarkable fluidity emerged that was both "realist" and abstract.

This new art style also came from trying another new material: yupo paper.  Which is not really paper at all but a plastic surface that allowed me to lift away, repaint, and lift away again.   Nothing is permanently fixed on this plastic paper, and so some of the rigidity of being "photo-dependent" also lifted away.

Most of this change in my art style came from just following what was happening on the paper and with the materials, rather than having a plan. 

In fact, this new painting is of a dream, and I had no plan.  Only a few cryptic descriptions: of two women in rough water trying to get back to the dock which did not seem to be attached to anything;

and a strong sense of danger in the dream's final question: How safe is this repair?

Although this new style of art is closest to may painted shamanic frame drums, their deer hide surfaces painted with earth pigment do not have the same depth or complexity.

My Journey Oracle deck of divination wisdom cards also have images that well up from the unconscious.

But again, these are nothing like the part of my brain that opened to a new art.  I don't really know where this art style came from.  But I intend to fly with the bird into this new sky. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Tips for successful self-employment

Here are some tips I have learned about being successfully self-employed. 

Develop a skill.  More than having a business plan, having a skill is essential.  Find something special and unique about your product or service that you do well.  And then practice--and practice some more--to become really good at it.

Being a visual artist may not be that remarkable, but being skillful with my craft is. With skill comes wisdom and integrity.  The wisdom to know how I work, and why--and the honesty to express this clearly.

When people purchase one of my drums, they often remark on how well made they are.  Something being well made translates as being durable and beautiful.

Develop discipline. Having discipline does not mean having lofty intentions for your craft.  It means staying home from the dinner invitation, choosing not to watch just one more episode on Netflix, resisting an afternoon scrolling through facebook. 

Develop a web presence that is excellent as you can afford.  If you are not tech-savvy then invest in someone who is to create a online presence for you.  I maintain control of how my art is presented by inserting blogs within my website that allow me to update, delete and manage how and when my work is seen.

Tell your story.  A large part of the Journey Oracle divination deck is the story of how I created the oracle cards across 23 years of puzzlement, mystery and insight.

Teach what you know.  This is the fastest way to discover what you do not yet know. 

And this of course creates more opportunities to practice more skills.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Free Oracle Reading: Why am I afraid to take action?

Think of a situation happening now in which you are afraid to take action. You have skillfully completed the preparation and nothing seems to be preventing you from moving forward, but you are experiencing a frozen inaction.  What is the change that will shift your fear?  Is it actually fear that is blocking your action, or some other feeling? 

Your inner wisdom will lead you to a resolution when you follow the prompts of this four card oracle reading and meet the Journey Oracle. The reading will be even more effective if you print this post, and then write out answers to the questions posed by each oracle card. This way you will have a record of your Journey Oracle reading for reflection.

An Oracle translates a problem or question into a language of image and symbol like that of dreams.  It changes the way you experience a situation to connect you with the inner forces that are shaping it.  An Oracle dialogues with your imagination—the creative basis of experience we call the unconscious.   

This is a picture of

Describe your first impressions of this image using simple phrases.  Do not analyze, doubt or discard what your inner voice is saying.  When you feel inner quiet, go to the Oracle’s identity.

Identity of Oracle: Hunter's Full Moon Qualities of this Oracle: finding balance, slowing from growth, protection, release

Time of year associated with this Oracle: October Full Moon
Why this is the Oracle of your situation?

Question from the Oracle about your situation: Are you holding back what's just right?
Why are you receiving this question?

An Oracle reveals the forces that are moving beneath your situation.    These sentences are not statements of logic or reason.  Write brief first impressions next to the statement.  If a statement draws a blank from your unconscious, move on to the next sentence.  


This situation began by unexpected arrival.

 The prevailing energy of this situation is shifting fog.

The core energy pattern of this situation is black.

The Mother of this situation is red opening.

The Father of this situation is growing on stone.


Your relationship to the prevailing energy is flowing with light.

Your perception of the situation is veiled.

The impact of your perception is red.

The connection between the core energy pattern and the situation
 is felt as warm.

The momentum of this situation is fed by found treasure.


This is a picture of

Describe your first impressions of this image using simple phrases.  Do not analyze, doubt  or discard what your inner voice is saying.  When you feel inner quiet, go to the Oracle’s identity.

Identity of Oracle: Saille/Willow  Qualities of this Oracle: adaptable, hardy, intuitive, enduring  
Time of year associated with this Oracle  April 15 - May 12
Why this is the Oracle of your experience?

Message from the Oracle about your experience:  tension
Why are you receiving this message?


Why is this the name of your experience?


unexpected calm, multiple focus
not to stop here, competence
this is the one for me, falling into insight off spirit tower

Which of the above phrases are you experiencing most directly right now?

Which phrases are you trying to avoid experiencing?

Which phrases are you seeking to experience?

If these phrases and spaces are a map of your experience--where are you on the map?


An exterior or support system for the situation is non-importance.

What is the meaning of this for your situation?

The Journey Oracle’s answers change the way you see things. Your anxieties, fears and desires emerge to be recognized and resolved, and hidden transformative energies are released.

This is a picture of

Describe your first impressions of this image using simple phrases.  Do not analyze, doubt or discard what your inner voice is saying.  When you feel inner quiet, go to the Oracle’s identity.

Identity of Oracle: Nion/Ash  Qualities of this Oracle: initiation, patience, expanding awareness
Time of year associated with this Oracle:  February 18 - March 17
Why this is the Oracle of change?

Message from the Oracle about change:  endless dancing
Why are you receiving this message?

These statements bring an in-depth recognition of the change you feel coming.  This change is an expression of the healing that is asking to happen. Write brief first impressions next to each statement.  If a statement draws a blank from your unconscious, move on to the next sentence.  


The power needed to shift this situation will be a sound of contentment.

Change will come by starting a war.

Your relationship to the change in this situation is frigid.

The moment of letting go into the change will smell of sex.

The concern to be avoided within this change will taste of famine.

The wisdom of life still going on will empower the transformation.

Completed transformation will be felt as a quality of drifting in and out


Are you willing to trade places?



This is a picture of
Describe your first impressions of this image using simple phrases.  Do not analyze, doubt or discard what your inner voice is saying.  When you feel inner quiet, go to the Oracle’s identity.

Identity of Oracle: Mystery Qualities of this Oracle: finding truth, wisdom 
Time of year associated with this Oracle: all time
Why this is the Oracle of your resolution?

Question from the Oracle about your resolution:  Are you happy here?
Why are you receiving this message?

The dense weave of meaning in a fairy tale provides insight into the hidden forces behind your situation, and points to the resolution sought by your unconscious wisdom.  In this fairy tale, your unconscious wisdom knows the names of all the characters, all the connections to your situation, and what is the happy ending. 

A pair of robins built a nest outside a woman’s kitchen window. Back and forth the sleek, strong parents flew, and yet she did not much attend to the new life’s manifestation that might be curling inside that twiggy bowl. Then one day she saw a wee curving form and a flash of translucent orange greet an adult bird’s arrival. The gaping mouths wavering on rubbery stalks counted three, and from that moment the woman’s attention often rested on the little family.
The hatchlings grew until their jostling with each other for the offered morsels threatened to send one over the edge. The woman began to wonder what she would do if a chick fell out, or if the nest itself came down. She plotted how to keep the birds safe, but always stopped short of action because it seemed this is how they are, even when the chicks were so big that they would teeter on the edge of the nest, buzzing their wings like whirligigs, reaching out always to say there is not enough food.
One morning the woman saw a chick sitting on a branch near the nest, receiving a morsel from its skinny overworked parent. It was weaving a bit on its untrained feet and rebalancing frequently with wild flutterings. “How can this be?” The woman thought in alarm. “Surely it’s not time yet for the survival of the species story.” But she resisted trying to help and just kept watching. And then, as if someone said “one of you has to go”—all the birds were gone. No chicks were left in the nest, the one on the branch could not be seen, and the parents no longer came.
The woman went outside, and saw a robin a distance away in the garden. Then another flew past in the yard. A third dropped to the ground at the edge of the forest. “Is that you, my friend,” she wondered, “or maybe your child?” Suddenly the woman was seeing what she loved everywhere.

Who are you in this story?  

What is the meaning of the story for your resolution?

Based on your character in the story, now what are you now going to do?