Tuesday, August 23, 2016

How I paint Oracle cards

The 94 oracle card images of the Journey Oracle deck took me five years to paint because of the limitations I put on the way I created the pen and ink paintings.  I understood that the Oracle card images could not come from only my imagination, but just as importantly had to come from natural objects, because for me, the Oracle speaking in the cards is Nature in all her many guises.


The first images came from gazing into disks of dried rawhide that were made from deerskin off-cuts when making a drum.  Just like when I paint my shamanic journey drums, I would gaze into the patterns of light and dark on the disk and lightly draw the image in India ink wash.

The little painting on rawhide became the new source for the pen and ink painting.  I limited my artistic preferences in two ways: every painting could only be done once (no do-overs); and I had to finish each painting once I had started it (no taking a break to consider how things were going).  This kept chance in control of the art, rather than my art school training.

Sometimes the image seen in the rawhide was severe and serious, with a chilling lack of softness in evidence.  Since the oracle cards were connected to the seasons of the year, the full moons, and the months of the calendar, such an image gave me pause to wonder if I had always misunderstood the energetic "signature" of it's time.

But when the pen and ink was applied to the 300 lb water color paper--without allowing time to stop or edit the painting--a very different energy emerged.

Because each oracle card had two different yet related sides, I turned the rawhide disk over and painted whatever version of the original drawing I could see from the back view.

After painting 35 of the oracle cards this way, I discovered some Brazilian agate in a rock shop.

The 6 oracle cards based on these slices of stone have quite a different energy.

This led me to look for something even more unexpected to complete the last 6 oracle card paintings. These polished amonite shells were just right.

The oracle images based on these spirals were truly inspiring.  It was easy to not discard any of my attempts to render their mystery and beauty.


But what of the reverse side?  The amonite shells were polished on one side, but rough cut and unfinished on the other.

True to my agreement with these beings of nature, I painted what I was shown.  And these oracle card paintings are possibly the most powerful of all.

So how did I paint the Journey Oracle cards?  By empowering chance to direct the source of the images, by allowing each image to be fully itself without my editing or judging its appropriateness or attractiveness, by working in one dream-like flow from start to finish. And most especially, I did what I was shown.