Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How I begin a new shamanic painting

Before I begin a new shamanic painting I often find myself in a place that makes a strong impression on me. This ancient tree was growing in the beach sand at a state park in Kauai. It seemed impossible to me that roots so washed by the tides and covered with barnacles could still be so fully alive. Of course many people passed by it each day--some left their belongings draped on the curved wood while they went for a swim; others perched on its ledges to put on swim fins, or fastened the dog leash around a wooden opening. Once back on Cortes Island I remembered the image of the old tree, and connected this with some family genealogy research I have been doing into my recently discovered Scottish ancestors.

This connection between a place and a lived experience is how I choose an image to be a shamanic painting--by wanting to return to that place in paint, and then to journey within the painting process to learn more about the experience I am associating with the image. In this way every part of the painting has meaning as metaphor and symbol: the ancient roots growing up through sand, the footprints passing by, the spreading green of the branches with the sun caught in their web. As I paint I will consider these colors and forms as they apply to my family, as I consider my family I will create emphasis and focus with color and form.

But like many significant journeys, this new shamanic painting called family tree will begin in a modest way--by choosing the acrylic colors for my palette. I sample many paint combinations to find just the right warmth or coolness, the right intensity or softness of color. And each of these decisions is also part of the dialog between the lived event and the painted image that teaches me how to see deeply into my feelings, and how also to feel into what I see in nature.