Tuesday, April 25, 2017

How to price art

I find very good advice on art blogs for how to price art in a savvy business way--but here is a way that uses playing cards like oracle cards.  It is completely out of any box of good economic sense because you are asking your client and yourself to gamble with the Ladies and Lords of Chance and Chaos.  If you do this, plan on the price itself, as well as the oracle card process, being a big teacher about trust and the willingness to let go.


When I give an oracle reading using the Journey Oracle deck I created, I price the reading with a wonderful art deck called The Key to the Kingdom, An Enchanted Deck of Transformation Playing Cards,created by Tony Meeuwissen.

I ask my client to shuffle, draw 4 cards, and then lay these face down in a horizontal line with a space between the second and third card.  No peeking!  I then explain the rules for this special oracle card game.  All face cards and 10's count as 0, Ace's count as 1, all other cards are their face value.
The client gets to decide who is going to "read" these cards to determine the price by choosing one of three possible versions.
1. The Lords and Ladies of the spirit realms get to determine the price.
This means the cards are turned over in their order and the price is whatever is shown without rearranging the cards.  It could be $99.99 or it could be $00.00! They are not called Chance and Chaos for nothing.
2. The client determines the price.
This means that the client turns over the cards and can rearrange them in any order; but is limited to using only these four cards.
3. The client asks me to determine the price.
This means that I turn the cards over and can rearrange them in any way I choose.

Issues about what time and effort is worth, and taking a risk, and trusting, come up for both of us.

This client chose #2.  She would determine the price.  And this is what she was given to work with. Fascinatingly, some quite dramatic choices:  30.00 dollars / 03.00 dollars / 00.03 cents.  I was grateful she chose the $30. but my part of the gamble is I must be OK with .03 cents.
 I do this oracle card pricing only after the reading is finished.  This is because I feel a value cannot be established for magical service until after the magic has happened.

We then read the nursery rhymes that matched the cards as some oracle card advice about her situation. We started at the least valued position.


In her situation, this was good advice about not waiting to begin the resolution: jump to it!


This poem describes both a solid sense of self-worth and some pretty inventive creativity.  Excellent advice for taking action.


This rhyme in Old English is about making something delicious using generosity.  A indication of the good results of taking action.


What good advice about not being timid from the oracle card with the most value.  The outcome of resolving the situation is becoming a "tiger-soul on elfin wings." What a fierce and yet delicate image to conclude an oracle card reading.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

How to read a painting

This is an interesting idea--to read a painting.  A story exists in time, and a painting exists in space. So how can we translate between the visual and the verbal in a way that heightens our understanding? My reflections  in this  blog are prompted by the book, Reading Pictures, by Alberto Manguel.
Here are some of his thoughts and questions that helped me read my own paintings in interesting ways.

Is the image part of a story?  Or is it a moment pulled from time--not in a narrative we can follow.

Photo-realist painting relies on the conviction that what we see was once actually there in a place at a precise time.  And yet photography allows for manipulation and censorship more than any other art. So what is this?

The tension in this painting is created, I think, by how we see a painting as a metaphorical translation of our own experience.  We can only see what in some shape or form we have already seen. If we cannot translate the image into something similar to what we know, we cannot "see" it.  And if we do recognize this as a bear skull, what is it doing beneath a cascade of water? What narrative could possibly contain this?


Perhaps in another context altogether we read that it is an act of kindness and remembering to give the spirit of a killed animal a drink of water....

Does the title create a shared vocabulary?

This question brought insight into my most recent large acrylic painting on matte board titled, How do you like the Underworld?  The subject is a most ordinary view of a roadside verge, filled with a tangle of ferns, standing and downed trees. A very typical coastal forest scene on Cortes Island.  And yet "the Underworld" conjures up a very different landscape filled with all manner of other-than-human-creatures.

This shared vocabulary acts as a spark to illumine a darker view--and suddenly there they are.  The dragons, snakes and alien faces.

We find ourselves reading a very different story.

Are we confronted by the subject confronting us?

I have always enjoyed other people's reactions to this portrait of my sister.  She didn't want me to paint it because its context was not the sunny scene as first appears, but rather the residue of an argument just moved beyond.  But I took the photograph anyway.  And to my surprise discovered another being in the meadow--gazing at my sister just as intently as she was gazing out at me.  The triangle thus formed puts the viewer on both sides of the painted surface at the same time--we are watching ourselves being watched. But if the painting disturbs, does it also illuminate?  Who is watching us?

Reading a painting is like reading oracle cards because although our translation may give a glimpse into the artist's intention, there is no sure way to know what was meant.  We just have to believe that we are seeing what is there to see.

The title of this painting, Finding Alice, brings startlingly clear a quote in Reading Pictures.  "Confronted with Alice, a human child, in Wonderland, the Unicorn suggests to her, "Well, now that we have seen each other, if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you.  Is that a bargain?

Sunday, April 9, 2017

a drum to call old wisdom

This drum has a voice and inspires a rhythm that can join heaven and earth. It is not only oracle cards that call old wisdom. The art of divination may allow us to glimpse the will of the gods, but this drum allows us to dance with them.

The design of this tom tom or kettle drum is thought to be Native American or Asian in origin.

The two drum heads are goat skin.  A hide which is remarkable for its strength and thinness, giving a percussive, "bright" sound.

The shoulder strap and braided thongs are made of elk skin.  Elk is one of the keepers of old wisdom in my family.  My father was a skilled and respectful hunter of elk in the forests around my childhood home on the Oregon coast.  When he died, his grave was located along the edge of woods where he often hunted.  For years the elk would come out of the dense stands of trees along the border of the cemetery, and paw the grass off the top of his grave.

Perhaps the most remarkable part of this drum to call old wisdom is the cedar wood shell.  Like oracle cards whose history travels back into the mists of time, the process for making  fire-hardened wood is ancient.

The bark is tied onto the outside of the log to prevent the shell from being scratched.  Then the inside is hollowed out with a long handled chisel until the thickness of the rim is twice what the finished drum base will be.  And then the really exciting part of the process happens.  The inner wood chips and strips are put back inside the log and set on fire.  The drum shell is rolled continuously for several hours to keep the fire constantly moving so the inner rim is evenly burned.  The outside of the bark-covered log is regularly sprayed with water to prevent "hot spots" from burning too far into the wooden rim.

When the drum shell is cooled and the charcoal is chiseled away from the inside of the rim, a spirit hole is burned into the wood so there is a doorway between this world and that one.  This becomes the threshold where the drummer and the gods may connect without connecting, as the drum's voice is the translator that is always in between.

You can hear this tom tom drum being played by the talented hands of Immanuel McKenty of the Merry McKentys family band, by clicking on this youtube link:  https://youtu.be/xoQanPe0Gg4.  This drum is available for purchase in my Etsy webstore, or you can contact Kristen at journeyoracle@gmail.com.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

How do Oracle cards work?

You have a question, a puzzlement, a messy place in your life that needs clearing and clarifying. You go to a friend for an oracle card reading, or perhaps you purchase an oracle deck for yourself.  The oracle card reading contains some amazing Aha moments and also some comments that seem to obscure as much as they enlighten.  So how do Oracle cards work?  Can you trust the reading to be showing you a way to resolution or revelation?  Or is the whole enterprise just smoke and mirrors.

My thoughts about this have been prompted by reading Trickster Makes This World, by Lewis Hyde. What a fascinating examination of those creatures such as Coyote and Raven, and figures such as Legba, Eshu and Loki who inhabit the shifty landscape between earth and heaven.  Hyde shows that in several indigenous cultures, it is the trickster figure that brings the art of divination to humans.

In the I Ching Chinese system of divination, and in the Yoruba palm nut Oracle, the reading is based on chance. This is also true in the Journey Oracle that I created.  Because of the random nature of throwing yarrow sticks, flipping coins, dropping palm nuts and drawing cards--chance empowers something to speak that is beyond your conscious control.

And yet beneath this randomness must be the willingness to believe that apparent chance actually follows grand design.  That apparent chance is in fact an Oracle.  So this is a very tricky place. The person receiving, and giving, the oracle card reading must both suspend what seems unreasonable--that palm nuts or oracle cards are speaking--and accept what seems equally unreasonable--that a dense weave of meaning can be understood by singling out images, aspects of nature and dream-like pronouncements.

Hyde quotes the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chugyam Trungpa as saying, "magic is the total appreciation of chance."  Hyde goes on to say that we are more likely to appreciate chance if we stop trying to control what happens.  So oracle cards work in the borderland between order and chaos, where we are given an accidental glimpse of the divine, and no sure way to know what it means.  Just the sort of landscape where you might meet Raven or Coyote, who have just caused a problem that only they can solve.  Just like the "burning question" asked of the oracle cards can only be answered by the oracle cards, because those answers change the way you see things.