Well, December is right around the corner. I have finally found a good rhythm for my studio work and my actual job. It’s been a little exhausting, but really rewarding. I’m so excited for what I have in progress and what I have planned for December.
I’ve made some progress on my “big” painting of Anna. I have the visual aids that I’ll need to paint in the cactus blossoms and succulent plants around her halo, which I plan to fill with geometric forms and designs.
I decided on a color scheme for my piece but I wanted to be sure it had the same feel in paint as it did in my head, so I created two mini poured paintings to test the color set. They turned out far subtler than I thought they would, with the copper paint almost disappearing or blending into gold when it mixed with the greens and turquoise. I really wanted the copper to be visible and stand out, so I went over the drying pours with the tar gel I had just mixed up. Even the tar gel sank into the greens and teals, fighting to stand out and stay afloat. It confirmed that I’d be using the copper on the whole figure and her halo as outlines, and that her halo will be mostly metallic.
Of course, then I ran out of tar gel. I had bought more, but it was at home and my hands were cramping from squeezing the gel out into lines all afternoon. I worked for a bit on another life painting of Anna, a large monochromatic portrait. It’s been so very cold here in Utah the past month, and unsurprisingly, very chilly in my basement studio. Cold enough that I had ended our session after about 70 minutes of painting time because my hands were not working the ways my brain was telling them to work. (Don’t worry, I bought a nifty space heater that does a great job)
So, I began tinkering on the purple piece from the reference photos I’d taken of Anna. While we were in session her two adorable doggos were either sitting with her or getting some pets. She would occasionally turn her head to talk to one of them, giving me a great profile. I had her turn for some references of her profile too. I’ still in progress on this one, and I don’t know how I feel about this piece yet, but I did like working on that scale. I am excited to work large from life again on Monday, and I have bigger canvases now. I just started a new job and so did she, so our schedules are still working at lining up regularly…
The third session with Anna I wanted to try something different- rather than paint her physical description I wanted to let the paint and color dominate the subject matter without being completely nonrepresentational. There’s a slight figure head, that may be a vessel filling with something, it may be a flower, it may be just lines. We talked through this session, having a really great conversation about so many random subjects that veered into deep moments, then back to laughable stories. I felt like we were getting to peek into windows of each other, always circling back to commonalities and similar experiences in our lives. I had a blast painting this with standard acrylics, and once it was all dry, I began to play with my acrylic pens and inks. I’m learning both the limitations and the benefits of each of these mediums each time I play with them. If you look closely, you’ll see some of the symbols of the 12 popping up in this piece, because they emerge in my work periodically.
Next, a project I’ve been working on for the past few weeks, in conjunction with a larger project my friends and I have been working on for nearly a year… Sooo, I play Dungeons and Dragons, like, a lot. I play in alternating campaigns on Sundays, and on Tuesdays and Fridays we played in a well thought out homebrew campaign. That’s the project that ties into my art pieces, but I don’t want to give too much away about it, since we’re still working on it regularly.
Suffice it to say when doing world-building for the campaign we decided to come up with our own system of gods for the world our characters would inhabit. We discussed the prevalence of monotheistic traditions in the modern world, but for the greater part of human existence gods have been just that- plural. We went over the fact that gods and goddesses were usually used as ways to explain phenomena that at that point remained unknown (weather, death, etc). While it was a possibility to use this framework we decided to model our deities on different aspects of conscious, sentient living (not just humans, but elves, orcs, and gnomes, oh my!).
Each deity represents a part of the human condition, a part of the cycle of life, aspects of our relationships with those around us. Every sentient being will fall under the influence of each of the gods at some point in their lives. We worked as a team for a few weeks developing the 12 gods who would ultimately fill our pantheon, and then it was up to me do come up with a symbol for each of these elements, each deity (we decided our gods aren’t gendered because everyone experiences these, not just one gender. The deity can choose how it manifests to their followers, so some characters refer to “him” or “her” when referring to their chosen god.)
I started sketching some really basic symbols for the easier gods, but some were harder to come up with an icon for that fit well. I also wanted to create a sense of cohesion, but was struggling with a way to make them all feel a part of a whole. My boyfriend Ian suggested that I draw with one continuous line, like I had done in other drawings and self portraits. It worked. I found a style that tied the pieces all together and that fit with my personal style. I also incorporated a smaller circle in each design as a linking element, to remind the practitioners of the larger pantheon, and also to reference back to the cycle that we are all a part of, life.
I drew the little bit of me that fit with each god, the part of me that I could see worshiping each deity, the part of me reflected in each of them. Each symbol is a mini self portrait of a part of my soul, my psyche.
So now, let me introduce you to our gods. Each has a name, a description, a color associated with their house, and their symbol:
The Primary gods, the ones who govern most of our life-
The Lifebringer (creator god, god of beginnings) Prismatic, the fire
The Deathbringer (death god, god of order) White, the smoke
The Chaotic (God of chaos, destruction) Black, the ashes and steam
The Secondary gods, who support the primary gods and have the next greatest influence-
The Guide (nature, wisdom, teaching) Green, the tree
The Builder (structure, law, kingdoms) Blue, the bridge
The Widowmaker (war, ambition, greed) Red, the sword
And the Tertiary gods, not lesser, but not quite as predominant as the first 6 gods-
The Nurturer (harvest, hearth, agriculture) Copper, the acorn
The Muse (art, inspiration, divination) Gold, the figure
The Gambler (luck, deception, games) Silver, the clover
The Guardian (protection, sacrifice) Iron, the shield
The Judge (justice, action, athletes) Bronze, the scales
The Lover (harmony, love, altruism) Platinum, the twin fish
Every day I feel the influence of The Muse as I work in my studio. I feel the warmth of the Lifebringer with every kitty cuddle, and the smoke of the Deathbringer evokes my tears, mourning still. The Chaosbringer fills my days with madness, and at the end of each the Deathbringer puts the order back to the day. The Judge grants me the strength to keep going each day, spurring me to action. The Widowmaker fuels my ambition, my drive, and the Builder and the Guide give me structure and wisdom to funnel it productively. The Nurturer guides my hand as I prepare meals for my family, helping the Guardian in me care for those around me. I see the Lover every time I look in Ian’s eyes, and I feel the Gambler smile on my luck.
The primary gods were some of the easiest to draw out a great initial concept- some of the others were much harder. I spent hours and hours coming up with concepts, researching symbols and icons, and doodling different designs before I finally settled on each icon that worked within the parameters I had set for myself and that my team had set for me. Next, I’ll be painting these into the symbol of the 12 and collaborating with Christie (one of our group) to create files to 3D print each symbol.
I even turned the symbol of the 12 (slightly altered) into the design for my holiday bags this year. I don’t do wrapping paper, so I print on a reusable bag to put gifts in and to use later.
Whatever you celebrate this holiday season, I hope you do so surrounded by loved ones, with good health and prosperity!