The Backstory

The elephant shows up in my art more and more frequently.  I’ve posted this mixed media painting from 2018 a few times.  I don’t think that I mentioned the entire backstory for this piece.

I cut my little purple elephant from a photocopy of an earlier painting.  Whimsical, right?  But the actual photo of an elephant that I used as a model was an orphan in Dame Daphne Sheldrick’s Wildlife Refuge for traumatized baby elephants.  Many of them were orphaned due to poachers taking down their mothers and harvesting the ivory tusks for profit.  A very sad story that continues to this day!

I could see the trauma in the eyes of the little elephant.  A glazed, dazed look of dread.  For he had witnessed the violent death of his mother.  And then, he was left to wander in this confused and fearful state until he was rescued by a helicopter team and brought to the sanctuary.  Once there, it took these tender experts time to help him overcome the initial effects of the trauma.  Gradually, he was integrated in with a group of older elephants to help him with further recovery…to the degree that he could recover.

Dame Daphne Sheldrick and her husband, David, started the shelter for orphaned animals, especially elephants, many years ago.  He passed away in 1977 and Dame Daphne  continued the trust in his name.  She died in 2018.  I wondered if the work that she and her husband had so passionately lived was being carried on.  I am relieved to see that their daughter, Angela, who worked alongside her mother for twenty years, continues this heroic work with the help of her husband, their children and the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust team.  This is really a huge task as the poaching continues.  It occurs to me (and to others) that if there wasn’t a market for ivory, then the elephants might have a chance.  However, there is a market.  How does one address such greed?  I read recently that if someone is bragging to you about their ivory collection or even a trinket that they have…show them a few photos of whose life was taken to add ivory to their collection.  In other words, shame them.

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There are 415,000 elephants remaining in Africa.  Recently 350 elephants died in Botswana.  Cause unknown.  So far, these deaths have not been connected to poaching–no tusks were removed.  Elephants are deeply feeling animals.  Some have said that they are mourning the loss of lives in their community.  I can believe this to be true.

 

Red

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The story of Little Red Riding Hood wasn’t one of my favorites…however, it did impact me.  Early on, I rewrote the ending…the wolf was a good guy and everyone sat around together having tea in my final scene.

This painting was inspired by a class called Barn Painting, taught by Alissa Millsap in Paint Your Heart and Soul, 2017.  Entering the realm of this piece, it was painted on an 8″x8″ birch panel, I quickly decided that it wasn’t going to be a barn.  It was going to be  grandma’s cottage in the woods.  And then, in the forefront, I placed Little Red Riding Hood and her companion/friend the wolf.  I just realized that here I go again, making the wolf an ally.

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Taking a class from a fellow artist, I am presented with a formula of sorts.  This artist showed me the techniques and tools that she used to create a barn on a substrate.  I was guided through her process.  While I borrowed techniques and used the tools, I diverted and made different choices, incorporated my own style and personal perspective to create an original painting.  I was relatively new at painting faces, so this Red Riding Hood’s face is rather juvenile.  Yet, I like her and think that she works with the piece.  I love the wolf…a friendly fellow (so long as he’s well-fed).  The wolf is made whimsical and less frightening with the wisps of pastel colors in his coat.

In direct contrast, the color RED is dramatic and immediately eye-catching.  Some artists love the drama of red while others hide from it, modify it or use it sparingly if at all.  I’m learning to have a liking for a true red.  Used without apology.

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If you are familiar with the chakra energy system, you probably remember that red symbolizes the root chakra located at the base of the spine.  The root chakra can represent our origins, our quality of feeling grounded in present reality, living in connection to the earth and our core self.  We cultivate this connection by the choices we make in our lives.  Many people have a need for healing their family history–yes, root chakra taps into that.  To support this energetic healing, a person might eat red foods, wear red clothing, carry a red stone or crystal, write or make art around their family history, and if necessary, see a therapist and work on that early family bond.

When I wear red, it seems that I want to be noticed.  Red is not for wallflowers.

What’s your experience with the color red?

 

 

Mermaids I

Jane Davenport is an artist, teacher, author and inspiring creative woman with a lovely online presence.

Not long after I began painting, I discovered her.  She has a signature drawing style.  Her paintings are imaginative, whimsical and expert.  I took a few workshops with her, one of which was called Vitamin Sea:  Mermaids!  Jane took the participants on an immersive journey into the discovery and painting of mermaids.  The Mermaid Queen below is my mixed media piece.Mermaid Queen1

 

Following is an interesting excerpt about the Selkie.  In many tales, Mermaids and Selkies are interchangeable.  I appreciate this type of mythology.  Typically, mythology is based in some truth.

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Then, there are the manatees, an endangered species.  Sailors at sea–I’m guessing they were a bit delirious–spotting  a manatee sunning on a rock sometimes mistook it for a mermaid!

What is your belief around mermaids, fictional or factual…magical or mythological?

I wonder if mermaids believe in us.

Under the Sea

This mixed media painting was a collage experience.  It is a fanciful rendition in recognition of the variety of fish and life forms who live in the ocean.  Our earth’s  oceans are a source of health to us, to the environment and home to innumerable creatures.  In 1951, Rachel Carson wrote a poetic book about the sea —
The Sea Around Us.

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Sadly, we have used the ocean as a dumpsite for our discarded, non-biodegradable waste.  Everything from plastic to radioactive waste has been dumped into the sea.  Not to mention the oil spills.  I wonder how advanced a civilization we are that we don’t realize the intricate weaving of the ocean into the dynamic energy of the ecosystem of which we are part.  And if we realize this deeply, are we going to change our ways of disposing of stuff?  We have great minds in this world, surely we can change our habits of use and disposal.  We better get with the program very soon as the earth is reacting to such waste.

 

This three-minute video clip from a lecture given by Maria Popova is too beautiful for words.  She reads a segment from Rachel Carson’s book about the sea.  The sheer beauty of it brought tears to my eyes.  I hope that you take a moment to get present, shut your eyes and listen deeply.

Grouse

Why Grouse?  This bird signifies the Sacred Spiral Dance in the Native American Tradition.  According to author, Jamie Sams in her book, Medicine Cards:

“Many spiritual disciplines ask that you cease all external movement in order to recognize the inner life.  Grouse medicine, however, is an invitation to the dance.  Grouse celebrates the Divine Source through its sacred spiral dance…you can spend a lifetime learning…how to harmonize your dance with…” the cycles of the earth.

Jamie Sams recommends that you “Analyze the way you move through your world…In the final analysis, is your movement compatible with your greatest desires and goals?”

It is interesting to consider these things in this time of slowing down and sheltering in place.  How do I conduct my dance when I’m at home, alone?  Or in relation to my
family or housemates?  Or out in nature?  Or when social distancing with a friend on a trail?  Or when on a Zoom Call?  Or when in conversation over the telephone?  This forced slowing down is an opportunity for me, for you to observe how we move in the world in the midst of a pandemic.  And, how are we going to choose to move in the world when the virus has run its course?  Is it going to be different?  Reverential perhaps?

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What did this painting mean to me?  At the time I painted it?  Of course, it’s whimsical.  I typically use an actual image, or several images, of who or what I’m painting to ground it in some recognizable reality.  Then, it becomes fanciful.  I call this Grouse Takes a Walk.  Doesn’t he look purposeful.  And even like he himself is a celebration of being.

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Thomas Berry talks about The Great Story.  He talks about life celebrating itself.  The universe loving expressiveness through all of its variety of manifestations.  That’s what I feel when I look at this grouse!  CELEBRATION.

The question for me is how am I harmonizing with a celebratory universe?  Or, am I adding to the devastation of our earth home within the universe?  I feel that these are the questions that are before us in this time of pandemic.  What am I going to do differently to preserve our earth home for future generations?  I feel that this is our job at this time, to give this some serious thought.

“…the universe, by definition, is a single gorgeous celebratory event.”

THOMAS BERRY,

from “Returning to Our Native Place,” in The Dream of the Earth p. 5

Galana…an Elephant

I first came across Dame Daphne Sheldrick and the work that she and her husband were doing–via a Sixty Minutes program.  With her husband, David Sheldrick, she created an orphanage for abandoned elephants…the mothers were poached for their ivory tusks.  Dame Daphne and her husband developed a sponsorship program to support the care of the young elephants.  One young elephant, Galana, was found on the Galana River in Kenya.  The trauma was visible in his eyes.  I wanted to draw him.  I used a graph to get the proportions right.  Then, he translated into my more whimsical purple elephant.

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Dame Daphne’s (1934-2018) legacy continues.
This one-and-a-half minute film says so much.

 

In gratitude.

Duck Whimsy

I love this painting even today.  It touches me in a way that I don’t expect.  The original image was in a nature magazine.  I portray it in my own whimsical style.  The black and white of the duck, the furry duckling going for a ride, the shadow on the water and the background of total colorful whimsy–I find them entrancing…and fun.

When you enter into a painting, when you are so engaged that everything else in your life and the world falls away, if only for a few moments, you are in the creative vein.  What a special timeless place to dwell.  What a gift.  This is something artists and writers share and understand deeply.  Everyone has the ability to enter, but not everyone does.  It saddens me to hear someone say that they don’t have a creative bone in their body.  I know otherwise.  I truly do.  Many of us over the course of our lives stand on the precipice of our own creative vein.  But we don’t take the leap.  Why not?  “I’m not an artist,” is the refrain.  Or, “I’m not good at that.”  I disagree.

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If you dare to take my dare…find a magazine with images.  Choose one that you like.  Start with something easy.  Trace over the image a few times.  Get a sense of what it feels like to trace this particular image.  Then, draw the image on a piece of paper, in a notebook, whatever you have.  Draw it today, draw it tomorrow, draw it everyday for one or two weeks.  Notice the lines in the image.  See if you can spot shapes.  Notice the lines and shapes in relation to one another.  Let your hand practice drawing what you see.  For it is in showing up and practicing that we get good at something.  Don’t strive for perfection.  Let it be your perspective, the way that only you see it, that guides your hand.

Engage with it and notice where you go.

Stay safe and healthy.

Calico Cat

I remember painting this piece–the discovery of images, shapes, making designs and loving the colors, the whimsical cat and dog that appeared.  I was following the flow of what wanted to be seen next.  I was certainly a beginner when I painted this piece.  I would do it differently today.  And yet, there are people who really love it.  So it sits in a little gift shop waiting for the just right person to adopt it and take it home.

I see the naivete of myself as an artist.  But this piece, any piece, is important to one’s development as an artist.  Recognizing images, finding ways to enhance those images, blocking out images with color, learning about design, placement of objects in relation to one another and so much more.  Each is a necessary step in the learning process.  We can’t know something before we know it in life or in making art.

CatFish copy

I recollect that I painted the initial background in an abstract way.  Following the intuitive painting process taught by Flora Bowley.  But then, as I typically do, I see an image or two and leave abstraction for images.  The cat, the dog, the fishbowl with swimming fishes.  Flowers…this piece was pure play.  I think that comes across to the viewer.

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Today, with the necessity of sheltering in place and social distancing, when I can approach the day as I did this painting, I do better.  I ask myself what the next step is, what can I do in this one moment? Paying attention to my feelings and when I need to pause, step back, observe and wait and let the wisdom of the moment inform my choices.  Then, I’m in conscious conversation with my life as it is right now.

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For those of you who want to explore your creative side, there are many online art classes and teachers.  They typically offer free tutorials on their websites.  A few of my online instructors:  Flora Bowley, Tracy Verdugo, Olga Freeman, Lucy Chen and Galia Alena.  Check out their websites and see if something calls to you.  We start somewhere.

Be safe, stay healthy, find your calm in the midst of the storm.

Ballerina “Degas Style”

As the social distancing continues, we are finding other ways to connect.  It’s not easy.  I took a walk with a friend for the first time in two weeks.  We stayed six to eight feet apart.  If anyone was approaching on the trail, we split further apart to allow the person(s) to pass.  I have alcohol wipes with me when I shop for groceries.  The checkout clerk wears plastic gloves and a mask.  When I get home, I wash the packaging that my food comes in, the fruits and vegetables, etc.  These are some of the precautions that I take at this time.  It is difficult.  And I do believe that deep inside each one of us is something that knows how to be with what is occurring at this time.  I have no answers…except to give myself something to show up for every day.  Blessings.

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I don’t know the names of the variety of ballet positions.  Except for one, plie.

Being in the phase of painting ballerinas,  I was leafing through a magazine and came across an image of a ballerina stretching towards her toes.  I believe it was by Degas but I could be wrong.  He certainly painted a plethora of ballerinas!

Regardless, I wanted to try and paint her.  In my whimsical style, with a touch of collage around the hem of her tutu.  I remember how challenging it was for me to get her form close to being true.  The arch of her back, the tilt of her head, her fingers that touched her ankle.  The proportions.  The angle of her face and neck.  Even the color of her skin and the tonal values.  Urgh.  I wasn’t entirely pleased with it.  But after a lot of tweaking and fussing, I called it done.

I named this painting The Sugar Plum Fairy as behind her is a fanciful forest of perhaps, trees of a sugar plum variety.  And doves that form a heart.

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Then there is the famous Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker.

 

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Today is a good day to STRETCH!  Being homebound for now,
don’t forget that your body loves to streeeetch.

 

 

“Um…do we need paddles?”

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Where on earth did these three cuties come from?  I set out to practice painting a small grouping of women, meditative and emanating peace.  My painting took a turn which I was compelled to follow.

Was it because life had become too serious once again, dragging me along in the wake of  too many challenges at once?  On a bit of overwhelm, perhaps?  I needed something whimsical, fun and colorful.  There is definitely a story here. Fellow artists offered captions for this trio.

Writing Prompt:
What caption would you give this little painting?  What is your first response?  Or, what’s the story behind this scenario?  Write it.  For the fun of it.

Share your caption under comments if you like.

Note:  Don’t writers see the story in everything…the story behind what is on the surface?