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Walking the Spiral Brigid

March 29th, 2011

Walking the Spiral Brigid

Within the deepest reaches of the inner darkness, there exists the smallest ember. It is a tiny spark of light, that once given the proper fuel, has the potential to ignite into a blazing fire.

Brigid, the ancient goddess of creativity, inspiration, poetry, metal-working and healing, is a goddess of fire, but not the kind of fire made of flames. This fire is the divine spark, the ember at the core that ignites the body, mind and spirit into life. It can be related to the Kundalini energy rising up from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, activating power centers throughout the body. Brigid is associated with the dawn, because, like the sun rising out of the darkness, we hold in ourselves the potential to rise above our own inner dark.

This painting came after a long period of introspection. I was facing a challenge in regard to the direction of my art and was contemplating my ability to make a living from my paintings while following the spiritual path they were taking me on. Could I do it? Was it right to do so? Working on "The Morrigan" lead me to the darkness of this introspection. I learned that I had a connection to fiber as a creative medium. I developed skills in making sculpture from wool, which allowed me to continue making an income through my artwork, while I could let the paintings reveal themselves in their own time without the added pressures to produce and market them. Working on "Brigid: igniting the inner fire" lead me from the darkness of uncertainty and fear out into the light.

DoAn

Walking the Spiral Morrigan

February 22nd, 2011

Walking the Spiral Morrigan

I recently listened to the audiobook The Creative Fire by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in which she discusses the cycle of creativity.

Most people think of the artist as being moved by flashes of inspiration or asking for a blessing by the muse. Estes explains that creativity moves in a continuing pattern of rising and falling. This has been my experience of creativity.

After I completed the painting "Boann: transformation of a goddess" I felt I had reached a zenith. I felt inspired by this new insight into my artwork and I felt wiser and more aware as a result as well. It wasn't long before I felt a slow decline from this highpoint. My creative work slowed. While I felt more connected to the spirit of the work than ever, my connection to the act of painting felt strained. Suddenly, that light of inspiration grew dim.

The Morrigan is a dark figure in Irish Myth, probably even predating the arrival of the Celts in Ireland. She was a goddess of fertility, the controller of death itself, and later became associated with war. How could a fertility goddess be connected to death? It seemed strange to me at first. But it doesn't take much introspection to realize how growth is preceded by death and decay. Land is made fertile by the decayed plants and animals that enrich the soil. A fertile mind is enriched by the knowledge absorbed. A fertile body is nourished by the breaking down of nutrient-rich foods taken in.

The creative process is likewise nourished by a period of decline, a period of darkness that is the opposite of that outward expression of the flash of inspiration. Without this period of quiet, without this symbolic death, the creative expression loses fertility and richness. Estes uses the Demeter/Persephone myth from the Ancient Greeks as an excellent metaphor for the creative cycle, even making astute distinctions between the way the myth differed in Pre-Helenistic and Post-Helenistic Greece.

This analysis of the creative cycle can be used by artist and non-artist alike. For we all go through a period of darkness in varying levels throughout our lives. From waking at daybreak, after having slept in the dark of night, to the coming of spring after the death of Fall and Winter's sleep, to the ups and downs of any one of life's situations. "The Morrigan: The Dark Mother" taught me that there is a huge difference in outcome when one embraces the coming dark, rather than fearing it and trying to push it away. No matter what, the dark times will come; we have no choice. But we can choose how to move through the dark times. We can enter with awareness and grace, coming out of the experience like the spring sprouts bursting from seeds planted in the fall, with determination and filled with the joy of creation itself.

DoAn

Walking the Spiral Boann Transformation of a Goddess

February 3rd, 2011

Walking the Spiral Boann Transformation of a Goddess

Back in 2006 I began a series of paintings inspired by Irish mythology. I intended the paintings to explore the ancient Celtic gods and goddesses through a more modern and personal eye. What I didn't realize was that this series would set me on a personal, spiritual journey that has forever changed my relationship to painting. Over the next four blog posts I will share my journey, as it has unfolded so far, in relation to the painting of the first four pieces of the series.

The first painting in the series depicts the transformation of the goddess Boann into the river Boyne, after she had unwittingly released the waters from a sacred well. The creation of this painting came out of a difficult time for me emotionally. I didn't realize at the time that my relationship to my art was taking a more spiritual path. Like Boann as she was torn limb from limb by the raging waters she released from a sacred well, I felt parts of my inner self being stripped away. Intense feelings of sadness then rage surged through me. Many times these emotions had no context. I couldn't make sense of what they stemmed from. I did, however, have a sense that these emotions were connected to the collective unconscious. There was no particular reason I came to this understanding, it was something I just knew.

In the painting Boann looks out from the canvas to the viewer, her gaze squinted. She is looking at the physical world and the spirit world at the same time. As she loses her body, she begins to merge with the spirit. I also began to understand that spirit was influencing my painting process. Once I let go, realizing that nothing was going to hold back the waves of emotion crashing upon me, I found rays of light, like those that streak down upon the Salmon of Knowledge. Here, the Salmon holds a hazel nut from one of the sacred trees that grew around the well. Boann's curiosity not only freed the waters of the well, but the five Salmon of knowledge which is obtained by the senses. The Salmon, having fed on the magical nuts of the hazel trees, possessed the wisdom of the world and inadvertently brought this wisdom to mankind.

I gained a kind of wisdom as a result of this painting. I had a deeper understanding of who I was, what I needed and a clearer sense of purpose. This kind of wisdom often can only be gained by a severe and painful stripping away of one's ego. Boann, who had gazed into the well out of rebellion for having been barred from it, paid the ultimate price, but also evolved into something greater. Sometimes, sacrifice is necessary for growth. This painting taught me that great sacrifices were ahead, but they would lead me toward a deeper knowledge of myself and the path I was embarking on.

Once I completed this painting, I felt scoured clean. I was raw and open, but it was necessary in order to approach the next painting, which was leading me down into a kind of darkness I had never encountered before.

Next, The Morrigan.

DoAn

Ask the Artist

September 29th, 2010

I am starting a new series of blog posts called "Ask the Artist". Once a month I will be answering questions posed to me by my readers, which focus on art making and making a living with art. If you have questions about my art, how I create my pieces or just questions in general about art, please send them my way. I will answer them to the best of my ability, even contacting fellow creative people when possible to broaden the scope of the answer. The purpose of these posts is to help demystify the creative process for those who may not think of themselves as artistic and to help encourage other artists to find a life in the arts. Here is the first question launching this series:

At what point in your career do you go from considering yourself someone who makes art to a full-fledged artist?

I think this is a question that must be answered individually and determined by the artist alone.
I might even suggest that there is no dividing line between one who makes art and one who is an artist. In my training and practice of Buddhism, the Zen Master always cautioned about labeling oneself. As soon as we state, "I am this" or "I am an Artist" one limits oneself to that definition and must then begin to determine the parameters of this identity. Questions such as "what is an artist?" beg to be asked. Or "how do I know I am an artist?" These statements and the answers to them limit us as well: "if I am an artist, can I be anything else?" Such questions can take a lifetime to answer. Hence, the eternal Buddhist question: "Who am I?"

Instead, the Zen Master suggested, we identify with what we do. "I paint." "I make sculpture." "I write." "I drink tea." We are not limiting our identities this way, and thus, the question of when or how one becomes an artist isn't necessary. We are not self-limited to our ideas of what an artist may or may not be nor beholden to others definitions of what an artist might be.

Possibilities are wide open. We just create. I think that is what is important.

DoAn

Hello, Goodbye, Hello

August 12th, 2010

After five pleasant days in Canada, visiting where my great-grandfather was born, I came back home prepared to get back to work, only to succumb to a summer cold, which was brought on by an herbal detox that I had started taking. I took this as a cue that more rest was needed. So last week I moved about very slowly, only doing work when I felt up to it, but mostly resting.

During this time I thought about my relationship to the hummingbird, to the painting of Etain, to some writing I have been revising and to the planet we live on. Everything around me seems to be speaking about rebirth and renewal. I assumed it was just related to the theme of the art I am currently working on, but then I realized it is more than that. The world is changing and it is changing fast. Society is crumbling, though many people are expending a lot of energy to resist this truth. Climate change has already begun re-shaping the weather and the geography around the globe. It is beyond the time to make corrections to prevent climate change, it is now time to adapt to what has resulted. It is now time for a planetary wide rebirth and a renewal of our thinking and living habits.

Rebirth is a painful time. But it is also a joyous event. Clinging to what we know, fearing the unknown, only prolongs our suffering. I often experience these feelings of fear and clinging when creating a new painting, or a sculpture. Fear of doing the wrong thing of not being able to create another successful piece always hovers in the back of my mind. Clinging as I am afraid to try a new thing. Now suddenly, it seems we are all facing this kind of fear and resistance in some form.

It is easy to become sucked into despair, as we hear all the bad news out there. The oil spill, the loss of income, the instability of the economy, wars, the collapse of society...I don't need to go on. I admit that at times I get bogged down by the overwhelming inflow of bad news. I wonder, sometimes, why does making my art matter. Does it really matter? Who really cares about what I am working on? There are so many other things that are more important. Maybe I should stop and move to the Gulf and clean oil-slicked birds for the rest of my life.

But, part of rebirth, is also about trust and faith. Giving up is not honoring the process, it is accepting the status quo. I don't think obsessing about the negativity really honors the wonders and richness of life. The planet is changing--has changed. Nature is designed to adapt. Change is the reality that touches us all, for to believe that things can stay the same only invites suffering. The planet is working to readjust, heal, and continue to evolve. It will do so with or without us humans. Society too is changing. It is likely collapsing, but it doesn't need to be perceived as the Big End. Instead, it can viewed as a rebirth process, and we can enter into the collapse with grace. Societies are similar to a cultivated field, for they grow beyond their capacity to sustain themselves, collapse, and new societies grow out of the wreckage.

Instead of feeling helpless and frozen with fear and despair. I have chosen to see this time as beautiful and inspiring. It is not easy. Change is hard. Especially when that change is forced upon you. But, change can be the catalyst of tremendous growth. My art is a way to process this change. My art helps me to understand the world, how I fit in with the world, and how we all are connected during this time. My art is a vehicle of communication to others who are interested in learning about the world around them and how we can relate to each other and to all living beings.

Does my art matter? Maybe, maybe not. But I know it teaches me how to navigate in the world. Art quite literally keeps me sane and centered, when all around is chaos. I believe that art is how I can contribute something positive to a society that is overly addicted to the negative. If we are to leave a legacy behind, I would like it to be one the resonates positive positive energy with the changes in the world. I do not feel comfortable adding to the fear, anger, frustration and resistance.

Rebirth is always easier when it is viewed as sacred, when it is respected and is assisted with loving spirit. We can all enter this rebirth time with helping hands, rather than clenched fists or flailing arms. When we reach out and embrace those around us contributing to each other in whatever capacity we are able, rebirth into the new world becomes an act of love and healing.

Now is the time for support, coming up with new and innovative ideas, and sharing resources. This is why I do my art. This is why, despite the bad news already, I stay positive and seek out the good stories. One doesn't need to wear rose-colored glasses and cling to an outmoded way of being to exist in a changed world, rather, it is best to open one's eyes and see the whole picture and trust in the process, even if that process is so much bigger than little 'ole me and you.

DoAn

Economic Recovery

August 2nd, 2010

I recently read the book Plenitude by Juliet Schor, and it really got my mind rolling. Many of the things she said were ideas I already had tumbling around in my head, but she articulated them much better than I ever could. She had a lot of research and analysis to clarify her points, which really helps. Some of these facts are rather shocking and sobering. She talks about shifting away from the business-as-usual mentality and work toward a future of stability and sustainability. It is not easy work, but necessary is rarely easy. I highly recommend this book, what she says is a real wake up call for all us.

Then I came across the blog of creative person Amanda Palmer, her blog entry about the relationship to art and income was of particular interest to me. What she says, echoes some of what I read in Lewis Hyde's book The Gift, which talks about the role of the artist as a necessary contributor to the health and well-being of society. Hyde talks about the struggle within the arts when turning something necessary to the culture into a commodity. Amanda Palmer discusses in her blog that financial support is necessary and should not be tied in with feelings of guilt. I have been working for the last three years to shift my income to one that revolves around my creativity. I too have struggled with the feelings of guilt and the strangeness of turning art into a commodity. As a result I have turned toward looking at how my creativity, which as been with me from when I was a small child, is a valid contribution to society. This has opened me up to exploring different ways to make a living.

I have been working on painting, sculpture and my writing as a way to diversify my income. I am careful now about the kind of jobs I choose, to make sure they support in some way my creative work, rather than just take time away from it. I do some freelance web and editing work that is flexible with my art-making schedule and I teach. Right now, it is tight. I live precariously, but I am frugal and careful. This is not how I would like to keep living, nor is it healthy to do so. Right now, I'm afraid, too many people live like this...and far too many of them that do are creative people.

As we try to recover from the "financial crisis" (that politicians like to call it), returning to the status quo is not the answer. This is our opportunity to fix what didn't work and create a new system. For me, it is building a living around my creative work. And a way to do that is to keep my work as close to me as possible. I am avoiding the middle-person to sell or distribute my work, so that I can keep my work priced reasonable and, more importantly to me, maintain relationships with the people who enjoy my work. When so much of my time is spent alone as I work on my art, it is crucial that I maintain some contact with the people that appreciate and enjoy my work.

But, in order to be able to sustain a living, I need support. And it isn't just me. There are so many wonderfully creative people out there doing wonderful work without big contracts with record companies, publishers or galleries. We need to support these people. If we listen to their music, we need to buy their music or attend their concerts or invite them to house concerts. If we need greeting cards, artwork, sculptures, gifts for others or ourselves, we need to buy them from those independent artists. If we cannot purchase their work because our own money is tight, then we can help promote them by telling others, we can give the artist supplies to do their work, we can donate in-kind materials, we can make them some dinner, and so on. Supporting an artist so they can make a living, isn't only financial. There are many ways to help. This is part of the new financial model that we need to build.

I believe this kind of purchase power and support will help tremendously with the economic recovery. By supporting independent artists we help allow work get made, we support the local community, and we play an active role in the kind of work that gets made. We don't need big companies to choose for us what work gets made. We don't need to pay the higher costs of products to cover the big company leaders salaries. We don't need to support big businesses shady practices that come back to hurt the consumer. We can support the artists we know and whose work we enjoy. As Amanda Palmer puts it so well:

itís about empowerment and itís about SIMPLICITY: fan loves art, artist needs money, fan gives artist money, artist says thank you.


I ask you, please, the next time you go buy a CD, a greeting card, a print, a painting, a book, a gift or home item, consider supporting an independent artist or writer. They are making good work and it deserves to be noticed and supported! As an artist, who works hard at what I do, I say, THANK YOU!!!

DoAn

Spring Rebirth A New Focus for DoAn Art

June 6th, 2010

Spring Rebirth A New Focus for DoAn Art

It has been quiet on the blog lately, but the apparent stillness is only on the surface. Behind the scenes much has been going on. So much activity in fact, that I have found it difficult to pause long enough to write a post.

It took me several months after coming back from my three month residency at Osage Arts Community (OAC) in Missouri. Naively, I thought after spending three months deeply connected to exploring and being completely immersed in my art, that it would be easy to fit back into the routine at home. I spent several months trying very hard to fit back in, until I realized my mistake. I couldn't fit back in, because I had changed. My time at the residency opened up my life to what I could accomplish if I devoted my life to art completely. It was counter productive, and potentially damaging to go back to compromising my art by squeezing it in between this or that. I have worked very hard for the last four years to make art a priority in my life. I have willingly and joyously given up a lot of comforts to make this possible. I realized it was not possible for me to come back home and return back living the way I used to.

I spend the last three months figuring out how to continue from where I left off at OAC. Which has resulted in a new focus on my art, which I hope will allow me to support myself through my creativity. This year will be a challenging one, but I am eager for the challenge. The alternative to this direction is not attractive to me: depression, soul-smothering, emptiness...

One of the dilemma's I encountered was in my relationship to painting and the marketing and selling of my paintings. Over the last four years, with increasing intensity with each year, I have found my painting has become a deep, personal spiritual exploration. I am often guided by something outside of me (or something deep within me) to explore a subject and create a painting. The process in creating these paintings are long, challenging, sometimes exhausting. It requires intense focus, a lot of meditation, introspection and letting go. I have found it increasingly difficult to continue this process when I also have to think about how I will market the piece, whether it will be received well by others, if the piece is too personal, or that I am taking too long to create the painting. Some paintings take several months to complete, which doesn't help my income, because I can only produce a few paintings a year. I found I was forcing myself to create smaller works just to provide an income and to prove I was still around working. But the small paintings often were just a distraction, they usually didn't not excite me or challenge me, and few of these pieces sold. I think others sensed the lack of spirit in these pieces a well. They were, in many ways, a fraud. These pieces didn't contain within them, that special something that drew people to my larger paintings. I was forced to pick up multiple part time jobs, and thus the compromise begins.

There is a great challenge in working side jobs that one is completely disengaged from. It is exhausting, draining and sometimes spiritually demeaning. It became more and more difficult to come home and work on a painting that requires intense focus and a lot of energy. Even starting the day with painting was problematic. I could begin really connecting to a piece then suddenly have to pull away to go to a job, which often left me out of sorts, making silly mistakes at the job because my energy and focus was distracted. I needed to find a way of generating income that supports my creative energy, rather than detracting from it. I needed to stop compromising this energy, but I was at a loss as to how to do this.


The last two years I have been exploring fiber, which lead me to needle-felting sculptures. I have been enjoying the challenge of this new medium. I like that it is environmentally friendly medium and that it allows me to work in three dimensions. I have had good success marketing these sculptures and thinking about marketing while creating them doesn't interfere with the process. It actually inspires and excites me. This has lead me to setting up booths at local arts and craft fairs, which growing success. Additionally, I have found setting up the small wool sculptures is far easier and much more mobile than lugging around heavy, fragile framed pieces and delicate prints for shows. Because of this, I have decided to direct most of my marketing energy to the needle felted sculptures as a way to support my art career.

This does not mean I am giving up my painting. Not in the least! The need to paint is deep-rooted and necessary for my emotional and spiritual well-being. By focusing my marketing efforts on wool sculpture, it will free me up to connect more deeply and without conflict to the paintings I am creating. This will also allow me to create a painting first, then reflect on whether it can be marketed afterwards. I believe some paintings call out to many people and some are not meant to be sold, others must wait to find the right person. I will be better able to find the proper homes for my paintings by downplaying the marketing and letting them connect to the right individuals. In the future, I will continue to share my paintings with you, though at times there may be fewer of them and they may be more widely spaced apart.

I am excited about this new direction in my art and life. I feel like with the arrival of Spring, I have gone through a rebirth of sorts. In fact, the next big painting I will be working on will feature the Irish Goddess Etain, who represents the notion of rebirth in all its forms. I am taking a big leap. I am putting faith in the guiding spirit of my art. I have come to learn that when I follow the guiding voice of my art spirit, life seems to fall into place. Obstacles cease being obstacles, and become opportunities for growth. Challenges become ways to stretch myself, rather than a means to defeat.

I appreciate your support over these last four years. I do hope to continue seeing you as I move into this new, exciting territory. It has been wonderful to share my journey with you, and without you along the way, this work would be quite lonely. It is, after all, your continued support that has allowed me to get this far on the path. I deeply believe that no effort is accomplished by one person alone. I have been able to refocus my life, focus on creating art, and give it back to the world because of all of you. I am forever grateful for the relationships that have been forged and the support generated by embracing this life of art making. You are directly responsible for art being made in the world. Thank you! I believe the potential of what I can do creatively will blossom dramatically with this new focus, it will be wonderful to continue to share these new discoveries with you!

DoAn

Honoring the Spirit of Halloween

October 31st, 2009

Honoring the Spirit of Halloween

Today is Halloween. For most, today is the day to dress up in crazy costumes, go to parties, lead children to stranger's houses to collect candy, and, for many adults, to act like children. America is really good at degrading tradition to its most base of qualities. I have long thought it strange that Americans have adopted an old pagan holiday, but then, the holiday hasn't really been adopted, as much as usurped and corrupted.

Celebrating Halloween doesn't have to be just frivolous and empty fun. It also doesn't even have to be observed in conflict with non-pagan religious belief. At the heart of Halloween is a celebration of the closing of the year and an honoring of the spirits of our ancestors.

We see the cycle of death around us, as the landscape transforms and goes into its dormant stage. It makes sense that the Celts would see this as the end of the year, for endings are occurring all around us at this time. This becomes a wonderful time to reflect on all that came in the previous months and let go of the negative influences and burdens of the previous cycle, while celebrating the achievements and preparing for the new. It is not certain where the idea of costumes came in, there are lots of speculation, but nothing conclusive. I like to think of dressing up as a way of re-creating your new self for the coming year. It is an opportunity to try on a new identity, see how it fits, before starting the new cycle. We are not limited to mundane, well-defined roles. We can become archetypes, heroes, spirits, fantasy creatures whose attributes of which we can connect to and carry through into the next year.

There is a dark aspect to Halloween. Many dress as monsters, attend haunted houses, talk of the ghosts and ghouls that run rampant through the neighborhood. Much of this stems from a very deep-rooted fear and misunderstanding of death and endings in general. But, if we look at this dark aspect as something positive, rather than frightening, what might we discover?

The painting posted here is of The Morrigan, the ancient goddess of death and fertility and the land, now most commonly associated with ancient Irish myth. The Morrigan is a symbol representing the dark aspects that we all experience and possess within. Everything emerges from the dark, the child from the womb, the day from night, light from the void, and The Morrigan symbolizes the power that exists within this place of potentiality. She is the perfect symbol for Halloween as we celebrate the end of the cycle by returning to the dark and beginning the cycle again. We acknowledge that day gives way to night, that the trees and plants die around us, only to return again with the light of spring.

The dark aspect is not something to be feared, for to fear the dark, is to be afraid of our own nature and the action of creation itself. Darkness is to be understood as part of a natural cycle of rise and fall, expanding and contracting, reaching out and turning inward. The symbol of The Morrigan offers us a way to understand and navigate the dark paths throughout our life, if only we overcome our fears and reach out to accept the ďfruitĒ (or perhaps candy!) of knowledge she offers us. I am not suggesting that we all worship and idolize the image of The Morrigan, instead, I am encouraging that you look upon her as a symbol and archetype, representing the energies and qualities that your particular belief system supports. You can find your own symbol that represents the qualities of The Morrigan and use that to help you connect to the energies of the season.

Ultimately, Halloween can be a day of transformation and an evening of celebration, it doesn't have to be empty and meaningless. We can use this time to honor what has passed before us, let go of that which burdens us, and remember our ancestors who sacrificed their lives to give us what we have today.

Have a safe and transformative Halloween!

DoAn

Completion The Waning Moon

October 11th, 2009

Completion The Waning Moon

Today, as the full moon recedes into the Waning phase. we come to the end of the lunar cycle.

The decreasing of the moon's glowing appearance signifies the need to focus energy in order to tie-up all the loose ends of the project started at the beginning of the cycle. If the project is complete, this is the time to double check and make sure that nothing was left out or forgotten.

Soon, at the start of the New Moon, it will be time to reflect on accomplishments and rest and prepare for the next cycle. But, for now, during this last week, let the moon be a reminder that there is still some time left to complete and finalize the project and achieve the goals for the month.

Thanks for sharing this cycle with me, I hope you found it a helpful way of re-balancing and giving guidance for a healthy and natural way to operate in daily living. In order to follow the moon's natural rhythm all one needs to do is look up in the sky. It's free and it's there to guide you with its gentle light.

DoAn

Reaching the Peak Full Moon

October 2nd, 2009

Reaching the Peak Full Moon


The full moon phase begins its influence a few days before its completely full state. It offers heightened energy and stimulates productivity, which aids in the completion of a goal. The full moon tends to influence emotions (we have all heard the stories of the rise of activity at police stations and hospitals at the full moon), however, the heightened emotions rarely lead to lunacy. Instead the full moon's influence assists in gaining new perspectives, experiencing breakthroughs and revelations.

Now is the time to pour energy into a project or task. This is the time for high productivity and more investment in creative and physical resources. In a healthy productive cycle, as guided by the moon, a week of high production and extra effort is much more realistic than continuous and unsustainable action. The full moon offers the light of inspiration and serves as a beacon that our goals can be met when we work toward them with balance and clarity.

Additionally, a day or two after the full moon is the best time to remove old habits, end unhealthy relationships, or quit an addiction.

DoAn

 

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