I'm currently writing several books at once. (It's okay, don't be worried for me. They all know each other, and have a lot in common.) I've accepted the fact that whether painting or writing, my natural state is to work on many things at the same time. I'm happiest and most creative when overwhelmed with inspiration.
Fortunately all the stories I'm writing take place in the same "world". Working on one story feeds and informs another. A thread begun in this story, gets picked up in that one, and braided with another thread over in that story right there. (No no, not there - a little to the left - there.)
I'm anxious to share some of this world with you. I've struggled with exactly how to do this. I'm not ready to share bits of chapters with you. We aren't there yet. But I do want to share something. I'm used to just posting an image of my latest painting and letting the art speak for itself. But with writing, well it's a bit different isn't it?
So I'll just write, if you don't mind, like we are sitting here over a cup of tea and you've asked me about what I'm writing and I've said "Oh it's complicated, god I don't even know where to begin...um let me see. This is great tea by the way." And you thank me for the compliment on the tea since you brought it over (thank you) and you wait patiently for me to gather my thoughts together, settle back into your seat cushion and I begin like this:
"The world I'm writing about is familiar to me. It's the world I've lived in my whole life, inside my head. Its the story place I've gone to while bored with school, or sitting in traffic, or lying awake with insomnia. It's the story world I've been sharing for years with my art, without being fully cognizant of it. This world is living myth. It's our world, but with an undercurrent. It's recognizing the magic amidst the mundane. It's that prickle you get up the back of your neck when you are taking a short walk in the city, just to do some errands, and you realize that the wind is a little eerie today, and the leaves are swirling around your feet as if trying to get your attention. Its that feeling that even though it seems like you are just walking on a Tuesday, to pick up your dry cleaning, at any moment a Raven might approach you with a message from another plane. You're needed! There is another world hidden behind this thin grey film of ordinary life and you are a creature of that realm! Wake Up!
The stewards of my stories are the Muses and their world. The protagonists of these stories are artists and creative people of all kinds.
See, I want to read about artists. I want to read about jewelers and painters, potters and doll makers, writers, chefs, vintners, dancers, herbalists, poets, musicians - all of them. These are the people that inspire me. And while I'm inspired by the famous creatives of our times, I find I'm even more inspired by the forgotten artists, the almosts, the what ifs. The model that inspired the painter who was herself a talented artist. The unsung genius who died too young. The housewife who wrote the most heartbreaking music that no one ever heard. The accomplished winemaker who gave up a promising career as a painter to take over his family's business and ensure it's future.
The stories I'm writing are about these artists and their relationships and influence on each other - family, friends and total strangers - over centuries. Each story is a vignette with a thread that gets drawn into the next.
Beyond this, these artists I'm writing about - they experience the Muse in the same way I do in real life. My Muses are daemons. Fairy, angel and ancient god all rolled into one. They are wholly mystical and very real to me."
"Okay" you say. "I'm not sure I follow you...."
"Look, Harry Potter for grown ups. Except my stories have artists and creative people, instead of wizards. Muses are real and they interfere with you and talk to you and sometimes they are a help and sometimes they just mess stuff up. And there are these places, these magical towns where creative people have been drawn over the centuries and they just vibrate with that energy. And the Muses are stronger there. Oh and there are these relics, like objects that belonged to artists that are now dead, and they are infused with their essence and this can have an effect on people who use the objects."
"Oh like artifacts! Like Warehouse 13!" you say.
I glare at you. "Yeah I guess kind of like that but I thought of this before that show was even on. I mean it's not like a wholly original idea on either of our parts really." Grumble Grumble.
"That is a good show though right?" you say.
I agree and we fist bump. ("Artie!")
"Okay so you've told me about this world." You say. "What is the first story you are writing that is set in this world? What is it about?"
"Oh I'm so glad you asked." and then I smile and have another sip of tea.
To be continued.....
So about a year ago I made this Nikola Tesla image and it's been one of my best selling shirts EVER.
Tragically today I was a total twit and accidentally deleted it. Of course I re-uploaded it immediately but now the buying link for it has changed, which means all over the internet where this has been shared the link is now busted. (HERE'S THE NEW LINK IF YOU WANT TO BUY THE NIKOLA TESLA SHIRT OR HOODIE) It means all the lovely reviews and comments it got are now gone. I suck. I was sad.
To relieve my sadness I made this new design - Jane Austen!!! (HERE'S THE LINK FOR THE JANE AUSTEN SHIRT OR HOODIE IF YOU WANT TO BUY ONE)
All these shirts come in just about any size or color you want. You can also get hoodies. I'm thinking of making more shirts along these lines. If you have a suggestion of an awesome dead person you'd like me to do then let me know. Yes I'll probably do a POE one.
Energy, science tells us, follows the path of least resistance. All things moving through a system choose the path of fewest obstacles.* Water flowing down a hillside. Sand through your fingers. A landslide.
In my artistic life, I've found that I'm happiest when I not only remember this principle, but when I apply it resolutely.
The most magical projects, the endeavors that set my soul alight are the ones where every moment visiting with my Muse is one of revelation, utter joy, or transformation. Threads of inspiration connect and a tapestry of intention is woven with seemingly little effort. Suddenly the world is full of signs, all in support of my quest. Friends share links that are shockingly connected to my current work. Books are published that support a hypothesis, or are the perfect research tool for a character I'm creating. I discover new music that is the restorative for my creative psyche. These are moments when I feel like the universe is holding my hand, leading me down an ancient path, showing me the footprints of all the others that walked this way before me.
You don't have to be mystical to experience this. It's nothing supernatural. It's only magic. Whether the universe has truly risen in support of your work or whether you simply feel that way because you have risen in support of yourself - whether these are signs from your Muse or whether you are only recognizing them as such because you are in the throes of neurochemical love with your own art; it doesn't matter.
But when we are resisting, it's all a bit different.
My foray into writing has been a completely new path for me. This strange environment is humbling. I've sat in the dark with a tangle of words and a chord of a story thrumming in my chest, with no clue how to string it into song.
Creating this way is agony. Nothing goes right, the work is joyless and insecurity rampant. This is not to say that just because something is hard that it isn't worth doing. Not at all. But in my case, when something is too hard, when a project I've been in love with turns to maggots in my hands, I have to examine why. More often than not it's because I'm just not listening to the Muse.
The agony only stopped for me when I finally remembered to stop resisting. The truth is that I don't have to have a clue how to do this. That's the Muse's job. My job is to clear the path. I'm not the energy. I am not the inspiration. I'm the system. And it's my job to not throw up obstacles.
The energy, the spark of inspiration, all of it will flow through when it's ready, when the path is clear.
Clearing the path is the challenge.
For years I've been writing a big story, what I refer to as THE STORY, in my mind. It's huge, there are parenthetical tales inside of parenthetical tales. It's a ridiculous project for a first book.
Which is why it won't be my first. <<--- a fact that came as something of a surprise to me.
See the idea that THE STORY had to be written first, that was the first obstacle I threw up for my Muse. I'm a web weaver when it comes to inspiration, but I'm very linear and full of self imposed rules when it comes to production. "This was the story I'd been working on longest" I thought "It gets written first and that's all there is to it. All other inspiration gets it's mouth duct taped shut and stuffed in a box."
Yeah right. While I was littering our path with boxes stuffed with muffled inspiration, my Muse was behind me, releasing the contents and laughing at me.
I was blind sided with a new story months ago. It was partly inspired by my life long obsession with all things Jane Austen and the recent 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride & Prejudice. I didn't see what the heck this new story had to do with anything I was already writing. I didn't want to move outside of the world I was building. I told my Muse that parts of this story were sort of well, embarrassingly hokey. WTF a magic pen? I wasn't sure where she was going with all this.
She rolled her eyes at me and told me the rest of the story.
I was hooked.
I stopped resisting. I stopped throwing obstacles into the path.
The world opened up. The heavens parted, the angels wept. Serendipity.
Suddenly its seems like almost everything new I encounter is shown to me by the Muse in support of my work. Whether it's magic, or just my subconscious rallying in support of myself, it doesn't matter. This is how I know that I'm clearing the path, that I'm on the right track.
*Well except for those Parkour folks
I've made you a pretty little graphic this morning.
I was thinking about the various projects on my plate right now. I'm illustrating The Raven, working on my own book project and it's various side efforts and I always have a dozen or so other paintings hanging around on my to do list (celtic stuff, goddesses).
At the moment I'm struggling with a decision to completely rethink my illustration style for The Raven. I like where it's going now, I'm happy, but I'm nervous....does it break the rules? Whose rules? Who cares? See, I tend to get caught up in "rules" a lot. They are self imposed rules really, brought on by stiff too-linear thinking or by my (often erroneous) perceptions of what the world outside my "art head" wants or needs or will "tolerate".
Rules destroy art.
I painted this the other day. He's a character from the story I'm writing. I was going for a daguerreotype effect and I'm rather pleased with how he turned out. I can't take complete credit for his beauty. Frequently I make up my characters faces with limited reference - that was not true with this piece. As I said on Facebook he's "3 parts Sean O'Pry, 2 parts Morten Harket, 1 part Josh Harnett and a dash of one of my cousins. Also a bunch of vintage photo reference found on Pinterest with the pose being lifted from one guy in particular and the tie is from a photo of my favorite poet Rupert Brooke."
As for more info about the character, I don't want to say to much but I will leave with you this:
There are many things by which he was judged, the tremor in his hands, his coarsely woven speech, the uncommon beauty of his face; none of these were the truth of the man, my brother. Others looked on him as a child does the clouds, finding form in mist. Convinced that what they perceived was a secret revealed to them alone, in truth they saw only their own longing, reflected back in pale blue eyes. A lie to satisfy a delusion - they created him as they desired him to be, as they needed him to be. They schemed to plunder his goodness.
~ Marie Detoilesaile speaking of her brother Raymond
(be gentle, that's a bit of unedited writing)
Anyone who's know me for a few years probably knows that I'm a huge fan of Virtual Worlds. At one point a few years ago I owned a large bit of land in Second Life. The area, known as Brythony was attached to the popular Steampunk Second Life area know as Caledon (shout out to Des). Faerie Magazine even did a feature on us. At that time I even dragged in a bunch of my artist friends to one degree or another. Lots of them joined me in hands on content creation and hanging out - others were gracious enough to let me sell their art for them in this world. (Ash Evans, Amy Brown, Jasmine Beckett-Griffith, Mary Layton, Jane Starr Weils - high fives ya'll. Thanks!)
It was an awesome time. I learned so much about 3D creation, texturing and all the digital arts. And as an artist, as a creative person there still is nothing that compares to me than the feeling of not only creating art - but being able to interact with it. Being able to (almost) live in a painting of my creation, well that is very satisfying.
In Second Life I earned a modest but solid reputation as a builder and a texturer. To this day I can wander any steampunk area in SL and see my art, my textures, my houses and my dirigibles flying proudly in the sky.
Unfortunately Brythony as it was in Second Life came to an end. Second Life went thru one of it's many transitions periods and it was one that my meager budget was not going to survive. See I rented land to tenants - and I sold content in SL. My SL content sales was not enough to cover the nearly $1,000 a month land bill I had. I counted on the tenants to cover the monthly fees and in fact I charged them cost. I never made a profit off of land rentals. Unfortunately during this transition land rentals dried up and I had to make the tough decision to let Brythony go.
But I've always kept a presence in SL and my content there has continued to sell well. I've also kept an eye over the years on "the competition" Open Source projects and competitors looking to do what Second Life does - but better.
I miss 3D content creation. While it is something I enjoy personally, it's also a formative part of my creative process. I think in 3D. Because of this I've missed my land in SL over the years. Many times I've wished I could pop in and work on mocking up a project or an idea so as to explore the concept completely.
I'm happy to say that after exploring all the other options I could find - I've finally settled on something. Kitely.com runs on the OpenSim idea but hosts their servers a little differently. I don't pretend to understand the technical side (if you do it's all on their website) but I will say that so far they've impressed the heck out of me.
The pricing is phenomenal. My $1000.00 a month bill in SL is now $35. For 4 times the amount of land. < That just, that's so unbelievable to me I had to read that sentence a few times myself just to believe it.
Now you might be asking - "Brigid what the fudge? Aren't you working on your book project? What's with the trip down virtual memory lane?" Yes, you have a point but - The reason I went on this little side excursion into Virtual Worlds this week is BECAUSE of the book. See my NaNoWriMo project is set in Brythony - well the Brythony that evolved in my mind, which is rather different from the one that we had originally in Second Life.
I need map.
I'm at the point in my writing process where I really really really need a map. I've tried to just draw the map ya'll and it's not working. Because I KNOW what's possible in virtual worlds I kept longing for that freedom as I was creating. Rolling hills, sparkling streams, moody forests and waves of grasses rippling in the wind! I CAN MAKE IT ALL! MWHAHAHHAHAAAA!
And what author wouldn't want a 3D interactive version of their world? I mean C'MON! It will take a while to make. I know this. Especially since being the psychotic person that I am I will want to hand paint each and every texture so the whole world feels like a Pre-Raphaelite painting. But ya know, whatevs - because at these prices I don't have to feel guilty about how long it will take. And I'll have an interactive Map for my story in the meantime.
A few key points about Kitely. They work differently than Second Life. Every user gets their own FREE island. They also bill for play time just like WoW but unlike Second Life. (They have a free option with 2 hours a month + 4 hour sign up bonus and a FREE ISLAND. Rates are very reasonable rates beyond that - also some areas are free to visit)
Allow me a moment to lecture. I've encountered some belly-aching about pay to play with virtual worlds "Waaaa, Second Life doesn't bill for play time - I can play for free" Yes, you can. Know why? Because they are charging the Second Life land owners for you to play. Which is insane. Because Virtual Worlds like this rely on their user base to create the content, and because the users that create the best and the most content are major land holders, the worlds that work on this Second Life Model are basically penalizing their most valuable customers. I was being charged out the nose to increase SL's value as a product. This didn't fully hit home to me until I saw Kitely's pricing model which I think, while a little complicated to understand at first, is BRILLIANT.
If you want to visit my area in Kitely you can do so here. Remember a free account gets 6 hours to start and a free island. What are you waiting for?
Well 9 days later I can say I've hit the 50,000 words mark for NaNoWriMo. While this is definitely pretty satisfying, the truth is the project itself is nowhere near finished.
Ultimately since I see it as three books (or more if the muses keep abusing me at this pace) I know the word count will continue to grow. And then I can begin the joyous </sarcasm> task of editing and re-writing.
The NaNoWriMo page for your novel asks you for a Short Synopsis and a Novel Excerpt. This makes me laugh so hard every time I see it, because no way in Hades do I have anything polished enough right now to share with you in the excerpt section, and honestly at this point I'm utterly incapable of a synopsis.
But since I've been asked a few times I figured I'd tell you as best as I can - what's in the book. This will be a handy post for me to direct people to the next time I'm asked and I just stand there stammering like a ninny "God it's - so much - lots o'people - do cool stuff - I dunno!"
Yeah, not impressive.
Word dump in list form representative of stuff in the story:
History of Optics - CAMERA OBSCURA!
Art DURING War!
The Otherworld - (Fairies, Ghosts, Gods and Goddesses oh my!)
Uncovered secret history of marginalized people especially those that are artists.
French food (soooo good)
Arts & Crafts
WWI - flying aces!
WWII - occupied France
NAZIS! (boo! hiss!)
Deep dark secrets (ooooo)
Yeah so, there's that. Pretty much anything I've ever found interesting seems to be making an appearance in this mess.
Three years ago I had the most unexpected encounter with the Muse. Until this experience inspiration came to me in the form of images, sometimes still, sometimes moving like a film, but never with sound. I'd often feel the presence of the "characters" I painted (they like to live in my left shoulderblade until I finish painting them) but I'd never "heard" any of them. But that all changed one night in 2009.
I'd just finished a years worth of oil paintings and silverpoint drawings for a gallery exhibit. I was looking forward to sitting back and doing positively nothing for a few weeks. Oh the muses, they had other plans. The very night of the opening, after hands were shaken and the wine was gone, after I said goodbye to friends and hugged my husband, I fell into bed looking foward to the easy sleep that comes with contentment. I woke up to voices. Voices in my head.
I'm not being melodramatic, promise. I literally heard the voices. People were talking and I knew it was no one that was in the room. I closed my eyes and tried to see "them". They were shadows. I knew I wasn't hallucinating so I wasn't frightened for my health, and I think some part of me had been "hearing" the voices for months. I'd simply held them at bay. I didn't allow their words to pierce my consciousness.
I remember going downstairs in the middle of the night and hoping the words would morph into pictures. If I could just draw this new inspiration I thought I'd be okay. I'm so comfortable with pictures. Painting, drawing, this form of expression is HOME to me. I feel ashamed to say, even easy.
But writing, I've never been as comfortable with words. I covet them, admire them, play with them like knickknacks on a shelf, but I've rarely tried to make art with words.
Words scare me. Because of this I tried to push the voices away. They wouldn't leave. Not for two weeks. For two weeks I was flat out. Done. I barely slept, hardly ate and didn't know what to do with myself. I had no tools for dealing with words as art. I couldn't get the words on a page and I couldn't get them to stop. My husband thought the whole thing was very exciting. He recognized the voices for what they were, characters in a story. I resisted this idea, even though part of me knew he was right.
Eventually I won the power struggle. The voices faded and I got back to making visual art. My husband, I recall was disappointed. He seemed unaffected by my sunken eyes and snappy disposition. He is unfailingly supportive always, even when I don't want him to be. He told me the voices would be back. He said I was infected with a story that needed me to tell it. What a horrible thought that was. He was right.
For two years I resisted. I cursed and denied, bargained and lied (<-- apparently I also rhyme). Just when I'd think I'd won the battle, it became clear I'd utterly lost the war.
A year or so ago I stopped fighting. I've let the story come to me as it may. In November I'm doing NaNoWriMo - just to get myself started. No pressure to finish, it's simply time to start manifesting this thing already.
It's a weird story, and I love it. I get terribly insecure about it all the time. I think that's normal, and probably okay. There are bits I worry about, will other people get it? Does it seem contrived? Does this part seem totally separate and disjointed from that part? But all those thoughts are quicksand, and you'll get stuck in them if you linger too long.
I've learned to translate what I know of making visual art into a tool-set for painting with words. It's been working for me relatively well for a year now. And quite well for a few months.
I think one turning point for me was allowing myself to draw an image from the story. It's a pivotal image for me, an illustration that embodies so much of the essence of the story (that's it above). I suppose they call these boiled down bits - back story, or world building, or whathaveyou. Whatever it is, it was essential to draw this moment.
Art & Words - for me they seem to be dancing partners. (In fact this story I'm writing will ultimately be illustrated if it ever gets published - BUT let's not let the Muses get ahead of us with their delusions of grandeur)
To support my artistic soul this month I'll be working on a complimentary project along side of "the story". After a frightening day of I'm certain, near-drowning in a lake of prose I'll be able to find refuge with the original tortured writer - Mr. Poe.
I'm illustrating a new edition of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven for publisher Candlemark and Gleam and I'm so delighted. I suspect that Edgar is the only one who can truly understand the dense ache that lives between the shoulder blades after a long day of word torturing. Interpreting his words to images will be my great honor. Although I suspect, not easy.
I thought I'd address this for the record, because it comes up a lot. People often ask me what medium I work in, or they make assumptions that I only ever work in oil or only ever work digitally based on one image they've seen.
Here's the facts: I am a fine artist trained in classic mediums like oil, egg tempera, silverpoint, graphite and watercolor. I'm also a graphic designer who adores her Mac. A few years ago I started painting digitally, I LOVE it.
Today my body of work is comprised of oil paintings, acrylic paintings, watercolor paintings, colored pencil paintings, silverpoint drawings, and graphite drawings and digital paintings. They were all made the same way... with my hands.
I would love for more people that have a bias against Digital art to understand that 'It's not the medium, it's the method that counts'.
I've never liked or disliked an artist's work based on the medium they worked in. I think that's just silly.
And I think people don't realize that many "new" mediums went thru a time period where they were considered base or inauthentic as creative mediums by the status quo snobs of the art world. Watercolor was considered the "surveyors medium" for ages and many galleries STILL won't accept pastel or colored pencil paintings.
(On a personal level it is mildly distressing when people praise my art works in "traditional" mediums and then proceed to malign digital art seemingly unaware that I also work in that medium. It's offensive, a weird sort of art bigotry that I'm just tired of.)
I'd like to challenge those that "don't like" digital art to dig a little deeper into why they feel that way. Why blame a medium because you don't care for a particular artist's style? Why don't you simply identify that you don't care for that painting, or that artist's work? Why malign the whole medium? Why make assumptions about how all digital art is made because on one occasion you didn't care for what you saw?
I think part of the negative bias is because of a perception that it's "easier to cheat" when painting digitally - or the idea that there exists a "make a pretty picture button" in the various digital painting programs.
Again this idea is confusing the medium, with the method. First let me state that the only thing I consider "cheating" in art is lying about your techniques or stealing. Other than that I don't give a flying fig HOW the art is made. Just as I don't care if you swept your kitchen floor with a broom or if you sat there and picked every crumb up off the floor yourself, either way if the result is satisfactory that is all the matters to my eyes.
But some people do care how the art is made. (In fact some people care so much there is a whole movement about this called Process Art)
My personal opinions on the idea of "cheating" aside - I think the issue that some people might have with digital painting is that digital art has an "Image problem". People have the false idea that traditional mediums are more pure, harder to master or harder to cheat at. They think that digital paintings are all made the same way and are easier to do. This is just not the case.
I work harder and longer when painting digitally because I can. I paint the same way I always do. I sketch an idea, I acquire reference photos if needed, set up my color palette and begin painting. I lay down a ground color, fill in my base colors and begin painting light and shadow building depth as I go.
It's just no different, except there is an undo button, I can paint in layers, and I don't get physically ill after hours of exposure to turpentine. Yay! Because of the flexibility of the medium I find I spend longer on each painting, I challenge myself to take the image further, add more depth, more detail then I ever would consider when painting in oils.
Lastly…guess what? If the method is important to you - if you need to believe that the artist "didn't cheat" (whatever that means) when they drew that drawing… then you are in for a disillusionment. It's just as easy to "cheat" with traditional mediums as it with digital mediums.
THE ASHWOOD TAROT ORACLE SYSTEM
WHAT'S THIS ALL ABOUT THEN?:
I'm a Tarot enthusiast. I just love tarot and oracle decks of all kinds. I collect them and yes I even use them, reading for friends and for fun. I met my husband when I read his cards. (But that's a story for another day.) I enjoy the tarot from the perspective that it's a tool to unlock the subconscious mind, and it can challenge the reader to think outside the box. For more insight into my philosophy of Tarot check out this great article. )
But I digress…
IN A NUTSHELL: I've made my own Oracle Deck system based off of the Tarot - and I'm sharing this system for FREE under a Creative Commons license.
WHY FREE?: I'm releasing this under a Creative Commons license because I would love to see this system widely adopted. If a variety of artists use this system to create Oracle decks that would be a lovely thing, we'd have some semblance of familiarity with at least a portion of the Oracle decks on the market, and EVEN BETTER - readers could mix and match their decks, selecting their favorite cards for each archetype and customizing a deck for their own use.
HEY ARTISTS: I know a lot of artists that find Tarot fascinating. Many of us have ambitions/fantasies of creating our own deck. But creating a deck of 78 original works of art is a daunting task. It can take years to finish the art for a Tarot deck. The Major Arcana offer layers of symbolism and diverse imagery, a joy to paint but the suits are full of monotony.
Because of this many artists resort to creating an Oracle deck instead of Tarot. But there are issues with Oracle decks. There is no standardization with Oracle decks, unlike Tarot which you can count on to have the same cards, with the same meanings, despite a change in artistic style. Because of this lack of standardization a reader might be learning a new system with EVERY Oracle deck they buy. I find I long for the familiarity of Tarot whenever I'm playing with an Oracle deck. I know the Tarot system so well that I instinctively look for parallels in oracle systems. I've not found an oracle deck yet that made this easy.
(NOTE: Yes there are some Oracle decks on the market that are openly based on Tarot. In my experience these decks, while lovely, change some of the standard meanings of the cards. My goal was to leave the meanings intact, while reducing the size of the deck. My goal was also to create a system that creative people could freely use as a resource to make their own decks.)
So what's a lazy artist to do? I'd love to create a Tarot deck. I don't want to paint 78 cards. I certainly don't want to paint the boring cards…..
Necessity is the mother of invention as they say - so I created my own Oracle system based off of Tarot. I've been using it for years. I've given it to friends to try out. It's easy. It works. I'm sharing it now with you - for free. I'm releasing the Ashwood Tarot Oracle System under a Creative Commons license. You can use it for personal or commercial use to create your own decks. You don't have to pay me to use. BUT you do have to give me credit. More about that later. The main point here is FREE!!
BONUS! An added benefit to this system is the flexibility it offers an artist. This system uses the 22 cards of the Tarot's Major Arcana, so when you complete an Oracle deck, those 22 cards are finished. You could then choose to continue creating the cards of the Minor Arcana at your own pace, and release them with the previoulsy created Major Arcana as a Tarot deck.
HEY NON-ARTISTS: This is still for you! Even if you have no ambitions to paint your own cards. Guess what? You can still use this system. Maybe you've always been attracted to plant energies of classic Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Using my Tarot Oracle system as a guide you can MAKE YOUR OWN DECK. Just find images that match the energies and themes of each card, and create your own deck. Awesome, a custom deck all your own... FREE!
Free stuff is awesome.
GET ON WITH IT!
THE ASHWOOD TAROT ORACLE SYSTEM
Intro: This system relies heavily on its association with the Major Arcana. There is much tradition in creating an Oracle deck that mainly consists in associations with the Major Arcana. The earliest Tarot Decks featured only the Trump cards - the Major Arcana, with the suits following in later adaptations. Indeed to this day there are many readers who work with Major Arcana only when doing readings. However this deck does accommodate the minor Arcana as well thru the use of an Elemental suit.
Extras: This Oracle deck uses a set of Dice (or 10 sided die) and a Polarity Coin for readings. These props are not necessary, readers can rely on their intuition, but are a helpful addition for readers that are interested in fine tuning a reading. From a creative standpoint the Polarity Coin and the Dice offer another opportunity to customize the deck according to your own aesthetics.
DICE: provide numerological associations with each card. Clearly the pip cards in the suits are numbered 1-10, but the rest of the Tarot has numerological associations as well and the dice can be used to further deepen a reading. (NOTE: When using a pair of dice the reader will simply ignore numbers 11 & 12. A simplier option is to use a 10 sided die.)
POLARITY COIN: The coin is used for readers who prefer to include right side up and upside down cards in their readings. (Also referred to as justified and ill-justified). A basic Polarity standard for this coin would be Sunside/Positive/Male Moonside/Negative/Female (note that positive and negative are used from an energetic standpoint not a social one ie negative = bad positive = good)
The 22 Archetype Cards
Twenty-two cards of the ASHWOOD TAROT ORACLE SYSTEM correspond with the twenty-two cards of the major arcana of the Tarot. The cards represent timeless archetypes and are powerful divining tools. In the creation of this deck I strove to break down each card of the Tarot's major arcana into the essence of it's archetype. Artist's painting these cards can feel free to draw upon the traditional symbolism of the classic Tarot cards, or explore their own unique take on the card's energy. However care should be taken that the point of this system is that the reader should be able to use the card's Tarot based correspondence to rely on an instant connection to the card.
On the left is the name of the card in the Ashwood Tarot Oracle System - on the right is the name of the card as found in the Major Arcana of the Traditional Tarot Deck.
Balance – Justice
Caution – The Moon
Confrontation - Judgment
Destiny – Wheel of Fortune
Development – The Empress
Freedom – The Fool
Fulfillment – The World
Integration – The Star
Manifestation – The Magician
Meditation – The Hermit
Movement – The Chariot
Partnership – The Lovers
Patience - Temperance
Prosperity – The Sun
Rebirth - Death
Revelation – The Hanged Man
Security – The Emperor
Self Destruction – The Devil
Strength - Strength
Tradition – The Hierophant
Upheaval – The Tower
Wisdom – The High Priestess
WILD CARD SUIT
The 3 Wildcards
Three additional cards reside with the 22 Cards of the Archetype Suit. These are the Wildcards and have been added to specifically address issues that are frequently found in divinatory readings. Choice, Mystery and Passion each address specific needs. These are issues that often come up in a reading yet do not have a clear and dedicated corresponding card in the traditional Tarot.
Choice - Empowerment, it's up to you
Mystery – The Unknown, this just isn't knowable right now. Akin to the Magic 8 Ball answer of "ask again later"
Passion – Desire, is there to much or too little of this emotion at play in this situation?
The 5 Elemental Cards
Five cards are added to the 22 archetype cards to represent the 5 elements of Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit. Four of these can be used to represent the elements associated with the four suits of the Tarot. Spirit (card title – The Divine), while not represented via a suit in the traditional Tarot is still a powerful card in representing our relationship with the divine and can be freely used in the same manner as if it were a suit of its own. There is great benefit to breaking the suits down into their elements. For years debate has raged in the Tarot community as to the original elemental associations of Swords/Air Wands/Fire - Many reverse these associations. Using the Ashwood Tarot Oracle System removes the association completely, and these suits are represented solely as their elements.
PIPS: When reading an Oracle Deck based on this system the reader will use a set of dice. To fine tune a reading and explore cards 1-10 in the suits, a reader simply pulls an elemental card from the deck and rolls the dice to find it's numerical accompaniment. This number will give the reader the cards correspondent in the Tarot. So for instance pulling the Imagination card (Element Air) and rolling the dice for a result of three would be the 3 of Swords in Traditional Tarot. To further fine tune the interpretation of this card the reader flips the polarity coin.
FACE CARDS: To determine if a card pulled from the Elemental Suit is a Face Card (King, Queen, Knight, Page) the reader will flip the Polarity coin and interpret it according to their own assigned symbolism. For example Sunside flipped twice = King ------ Sunside followed by a Moonside = Knight -------- Moonside flipped twice = Queen ------ Moonside followed by a Sunside = Page
Creation - Fire (suit of wands – creativity, drive)
Emotion – Water (suit of cups – feelings, relationships)
Imagination – Air (suit of swords – mind, intellect)
Practicalities – Earth (suit of pentacles – body, security)
The Divine – Spirit (suit of the sacred – divinity, higher self, true purpose)
I'll be adding more resources to this page in the near future. Correspondences, symbolism, reference material etc are all forthcoming.
You are free to use and share this system for personal and commercial use. You must give credit as follows:
You are free to change and adapt the system to your needs. HOWEVER you must indicate the changes made if you are publishing the resulting materials. You may not sell the system as is, or take credit for it as your own.
PRINT PUBLISHING: If you use this system to create a deck and you subsequently publish it as a printed deck for sale to the public, you do not have to pay me any royalty. HOWEVER, I ask that you contact me first and inform me, and I do require a credit to me in the printed materials.
BUY A DECK!
Very soon I will have a deck available for purchase that uses this new system. Something for you to play with. The images will be very familiar - Pamela Colman Smith's beautiful drawings from the classic Rider Waite Tarot Deck. The twist is that my images are cleaned up and beautifully restored, by hand, by me! So if you are looking to learn or try out the Ashwood Tarot Oracle System - this deck (which I'll probably call Oracle of the Tarot or something) will be available for purchase soon. It will come with all 30 Oracle cards, a small guide book, a 10 sided die and a Polarity Coin! (Price to be determined)
I've been meaning to share this story with you all for a while now. It was a really strange experience. And I think there was a lesson in it for me (and maybe others as well). A lesson about people's perceptions and about recognizing a situation for what it is.
Here's the tale: I had an email from a lady who wished to interview me for her blog. I said sure (I always do - being interviewed is fun!) I told her to send along the questions and I'd answer them.
She immediately emailed me and told me she'd be sending the questions one at a time because she develops her questions as we go thru the process. Okay, fair enough - although I'd have to say that that's usually what follow up questions are for.
When answering interview questions via email it's best to have the first set of questions in front of the subject to avoid redundancy. But hey, what do I know right? Anyhow she also stressed to me that she wanted me to VERY THOROUGH with my answers and to dig deep etc etc.
So I sent the first response below. When she wrote me back she, well, she chastised me. She said my answer was too thorough and that I'd jumped ahead, I'd answered her second question with my first answer. She didn't like that.
Okay see I've interviewed people via email. If they answer your follow up question in your first - you adjust your questions - no biggie. Cut and paste! Heard of it? Whatever.
Okay then she said she'd send a new 2nd question in a day or too. Already this was becoming less fun and more of a chore, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt. She sent the second question and I answered it (see below). When she received the answer to the second question she sent me a very long email about how she could sense I was going thru some sort of trauma in my life right now (I wasn't) and that she wanted to do the interview another time because I "wasn't coming off very well". She said she wanted her readers to like me - she wanted me to have the opportunity to "put my best foot forward".
Ya'll? I'm just me. I'm never "trying" to impress you. I just make art. That's it. Maybe my writing style, to someone who doesn't know me came off stiff - or some people might even find it pretentious. But it is what it is.
I told the lady that I was fine, I was happy to continue the interview and I didn't really know what she was talking about. My answers were HONEST.
She dumped the interview. WOW. I took a look at her blog, and what I saw was that the other interviews she had done had her voice injected all over the interview. It was less an interview and more a conversation between her (she's also an artist) and her subject. There was a lot of mutual flattery. That's cool. I didn't get the memo that this was supposed to be an ego stroking and art chic bonding session for this woman.
I thought she was interviewing me. Instead she was trying to "have a moment". Ya'll, I've got a mortgage, two dogs, a kid, a husband, a career - ya know - all the stuff you do. If there is mandatory bonding involved in an interview process - I really need a heads up. This stuff just flies right by me. Call me thick.
Anyhow if you want to read my pretentious, alienating, grinchy and cringeworthy interview questions....
1) This question was about my background, childhood, schooling and why I create art.
My Mother says that from the moment I could hold a pencil I was drawing. She recalls that as a toddler I drew sheets full of tiny circles and curlicues. So I'm afraid the answer to how I got my start is rather a let down, because I don't recall ever starting. For me art, and specifically drawing, has always been as innate as breathing. Or perhaps a better comparison would be eating. There is similarity in my feelings towards these acts. Sometimes, like an incredible meal at a 5 star restaurant - making art is a sublime event full of nuance and sensory revelations. A moment in time that leaves me full of warmth and contentment and forever a little changed for the experience. But much of the time it's simply something I MUST do every day in order insure my survival. I'm compelled to create the same way I am compelled to fill a nagging tummy with food. I could no more stop creating as I could stifle my instinct to nourish my body. This all sounds rather heavy and gloomy. My intention isn't to sound like a brooding and labored 'artiste' but rather to authentically share how I feel about what I do. I've met many artists who proclaim "I love drawing/painting/writing! It's my favorite thing to do." I wish I could relate. But I can't. I love WHAT I do, I rarely love DOING it. Top on my list of favorite things to do is probably reading a good book, spending time with family or friends, a lovely meal, a good movie; doing just about anything other then making art. I don't associate making art with pleasure or relaxation, therefore it's not my favorite thing to do. Rather, I'm simply driven to create. Often against my will or better judgment. Still, this makes me happy for the most part. I've been blessed with an incredibly supportive family who didn't for one moment have any problem with the idea of me as a professional artist as my career. Indeed the matter was treated as pre-ordained. As a child I had the good fortune of a familial relationship to Pennsylvania artist George Bockius (http://www.schwenkfelder.com/museum/Bockius.htm), who to this very day is the single most influential teacher I'd ever had. As a young adult I went to art school, with no degree to show for it. I'm both traditionally educated & self taught (although I have issues with that proclamation, is anyone ever really self taught?) I've had many jobs in my adult life. It's something of a joke amongst friends all the various things I've done. Every one of them has contributed positively to my ability to eek out a living as a working artist. My background in graphic design and website building as well as small business marketing and consulting have been most valuable; allowing me to do for myself many tasks that other artists have to hire out. My professional career as an artist I suppose started with my first paying jobs, which happened sometime in my teens. I worked as a portrait artist, illustrator, sign & display maker, and graphic designer in one form or another until 2000 when my daughter was born. At that time I started the current incarnation of my career which is a bit of a mish mosh. At present I work in two overall areas with lots of overlap. There is the "personal" art I do, which is whatever I'm compelled to create. Then there is the "commercial" art I do, which is whatever my agent tells me is a "good seller" right now or whatever a manufacturer that I work with asks me to create. But as I said, there is lots of overlap here. Often something I create that is "personal" gets picked up for licensing, or something I do that is "commercial" becomes a series that I grow fond of making and I make more of my own accord. As to the practical aspect of how I got "my start" in the current phase of my career. Well the internet helped a lot. I already knew how to build websites so I built one for my art. Then I put my art on it. In the early days I just had up pictures and a guestbook. This was 1997-2000-ish time frame. People started asking for prints. So I made and sold prints online. Then I started getting requests to do cons and shows, and I was approached by some licensing, and a few publishers. I took those opportunities and began pursuing some on my own. Eventually I signed with my beloved agent Joe Tate and I've forever grateful that he handles all the messy business stuff now. At present my career includes licensing, and professional commissions such as book covers, magazine illustrations, and concept art/design for manufacturers. (I rarely take private commissions.) I also do talks and presentations at cons and events, where I also sell my wares. :) I work in several different styles and several different mediums, partly because I get bored easily and partly because it diversifies the portfolio of my work, which I hope will contribute to a long and successful career. Behind the scenes of all this I continue to do my personal art, which I now compile into themes and collections to give it a bit of cohesiveness. I can't wait to share my next collection of private paintings.
2) This question was about why I have different styles and focuses in my body of work.
For me, the key to being a working artist has been to be versatile not only in my style and subject matter, but also to be open to different opportunities. This means doing different kinds of art for different projects. I define commercial work as just about anything I do with "the market" in mind. I define personal work as the art I do that feeds my soul, the work that comes completely from the heart and from personal motivation. That said, there is a third group where these two motivations and considerations overlap. This third group is often the most satisfying. After all, it's great to paint something that you are in love with, and that ends up being financially lucrative. Subject matter for commercial work is whatever I think (or my agent thinks) might be popular right now, or whatever a manufacturer has asked me to paint. For instance Celtic Knotwork, animals, Goddess Imagery, Angels, Fairies and Vampires are all themes I have painted that have been requested by a manufacturer or solicited by my agent. The mediums I work in with commercial work are really whatever feels appropriate for the piece, the "look" I'm going for and the deadline. For instance, if a piece is due in a week, I probably won't paint it in oils! Subject matter for personal work varies tremendously. I tend to go through phases as do many artists, and my personal work can be best lumped into collections that reflect a time frame in my life. At the moment my personal work is informed by a novel I am writing that features the hidden history of family of artists who live on ancestral land rich with history and enchanting tales. As a result the work I'm painting now is full of symbolism connected to sacred landscape, goddess myth and and all the creative arts.
^This is a present for you!^
I know a lot of us are going through tough times right now. Things are rough - the economy sucks, politicians seem to be going crazy, family members get sick, people are being laid off. Yikes, there's a lot of hurt going around! And a lot of stress. I wish there was something I could do.
I know when I'm feeling down, what helps me fight the stress the most it is to keep gratitude in my heart. (I know this is all very sappy, bear with me). I think about how things could be worse - I think about the positive things in my life - what I have to feel fortunate about. Gratitude helps so very much.
I was thinking about this all the other day as I watched my Facebook timeline fill up with a lot of rather depressing status updates from friends, aquaintances and members of my Facebook Fanpage. I wished there was a way to give all my "virtual friends" a gift, a little warm fuzzy to cheer them up. If you all lived in my neighborhood I'd bring you a batch of chocolate chip cookies. But you don't....So what to do?
So I'm doing what I always do - I'm sharing art. I love to share freebies of course (desktop wallpapers HERE, Geek Kid Crafts HERE) but I wanted to share something that people could share forward, that you could pass around, email to a friend etc. Hmmm....
Then this week I read this article about butterflies and it all kind of came together. The article says (in a nutshell) that scientists have discovered that butterflies, with their looping trajectory that looks random and directionless, actually follow a flightpath.
I thought this was such a great metaphor for life, especially the kind of life many of us are living right now. As much as our path may loop and dive and appear to veer off course, we must still keep our eyes focused on the future and our wings committed to the flightpath.
So there's your gift (above) .... please feel free to share it however you see fit! (No commercial usage of course)
And I promise to make you more. Because I'm so grateful for you.
Thanks to everyone who entered the Giveaway! I cannot tell you how charmed I was by your answers. I have to say that I went into this thinking that at the end of the Giveaway I would give you the "right answers" what I found was that you had more "right answers" than I did!
Many of you guessed creative influences that I had not intentionally added to the piece, but in retrospect I must admit are clearly present in the drawing; a subconscious addition culled from the collective unconscious, the creative aethers, that we all have access to.
So for the curious, the creative spirits that I intentionally added to the piece are:
- Van Gogh - his face can be seen in the palette on the left
- DaVinci - Vetruvian Man in the stack of papers on the left.
- Shakespeare - his signature on the spine of the first book under the door.
- Virginia Woolf - her signature on the spine under Shakespeare's book.
- Hemingway - his typewriter on the right.
- Isadora Duncan - her ballet slippers
- Klimt - stylized carvings on the tree limbs
Some of the fabulous guesses made in the comments include:
- Lewis Carrol
- Anton Pieck
- J.M. Barrie
NOW! I extended the giveaway by a few days last week because some blogs had picked up the info and I wanted to give more people a chance to enter. I also added another winner.
The two print winners are Jenny Davies-Reazor and Sam (chosen randomly)
Since this was so fun - I'll be hosting another giveaway soon - so stay tuned for another opportunity.
To those that didn't win, but wish to purchase a copy of the print you can do so here:
O! for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.
After weeks of painting and drawing quite a lot of "commercial" artwork I've finally something new to show that is wholly personal in nature. If you follow this blog you know I'm in the midst of a writing project - a story, that will be an illustrated novel (or 2 or 3 or whatever-the-hell-it-is-that-is-not-up-to-me.) It's scary working outside your comfort zone, yet it's the only way to work if you want to be an artist that works at the highest level you are capable of - if you want to grow, and if you want to create meaningful work.
So I've been plugging along, committed to the story, indeed the story won't have it any other way. It's emerged in layers, it's made it's own connections independent of my hand, it's told me things I found astonishing, yet I know them to be true. The story is set in this world, now and in the past. There are many stories in the story - and one that is apart from the others, yet at the very heart of it all. It's incredibly personal to me. It's the embodiment of my relationship with my muse, although it's not about me, it's about the characters.
It's always a challenge for me creatively when I'm sharing work that is very close to my emotional heart. I tend to be frightened of it, and then I procrastinate. So, in the grand tradition of creative procrastination my Muse has allowed me a small comfort, she's given me a drawing. Happily, two of the beings in the story have taken form on paper for the first time. At the risk of waxing poetic (too late?), I have to tell you - this was such a joy for me to draw. I felt like I was meeting old friends for the first time, and every bit of the design flowed like cool clear water from my hand.
The figures present in the drawing are:
Mina - the doll-like figure. She is a Muse.
Traipser - the crow, he is also a Muse, although he doesn't know it yet.
Muse's like Mina work with many humans over many hundreds or thousands of years. A piece of a soul might reincarnate over and over again, the same spark of inspiration being present in many different artists during many timelines. So for instance the same bit of spark present in Beethoven, might reincarnate and inspire a DJ in London now. Muses's are responsible for awakening the spark present in us all. It's a hard job, often we are resistant, and not all genius is good.
The original is 8x20, silverpoint on toned paper. The title is 'Entreating'.
Since I'm so happy to share this with you, I thought I'd have a bit of a "contest". There is a great deal of not so hidden symbolism in this piece. If you find the symbols present, please note them in the comments. I'll choose a random winner from the answers. The winner will recieve a large format signed print of the piece. And I'll be sure to reveal the "right" answers at that time.
Here's a little help:
This drawing is an important scene in the story. In the drawing there are elements that represent some of the creative geniuses that Mina has worked with over many decades.
Can you spot them? If so name them, and leave your answers in the comments. I've included large snips of the drawing so you can investigate clearly.
This year my art goals are pretty lofty. One major thing I'm working on is a drastic expansion of my commercial body of artwork. As an artist I work in two main categories of art, with some overlap.
- My Personal Work: This consists of whatever I want to do, exploring themes and projects that appeal to me on an emotional level.
- My Commercial Work: This is comprised of commissions and concept art for manufacturers, or trends my agent suggests that I explore because they are highly marketable right now.
Often these two groups do overlap. For instance when steampunk hit big, I'd already been exploring themes along those lines in my personal work and suddenly all the images that I had that could be viewed as steampunk were gaining a whole new audience.
It's a challenge in a slow economy to eek out a living as a working artist. For myself, succes in this area has meant continuing to build and maintain my commercial work, while also persuing personal projects. From the outside looking in, fans of my work might not see much difference between these two categories. And that's fine, I work no less hard on my commercial pieces then I do on my personal work. And many of my commercial pieces follow my personal interests. For example a new painting - Lord Ganesha was painted with several commercial pursuits in mind, and yet he's always been a favorite of mine and I've hoped to find time to paint my version of him for a long time.
Remover of obstacles - Ganesha (aka Ganesh) is one of the most beloved of Hindu Gods. A recent Facebook meme reminder Ganesha devotees to "Don't tell Ganesha how big your problems are, tell your problems how big your Ganesha is".
BUT.... you knew there was a but...didn't you? ;) For the working artist, well for THIS one anyway - the ongoing struggle is the balance between painting what feeds my soul, versus what feeds my tummy. The eternal hope is that most of what I work on will fall into that sweet spot I illustrated above. Work that feeds my soul, and inspires my audience and also pays the bills. So while I'm working on all those commercial paintings this year, I'm also working on another project - a project that began as an inspiration for a novel and has now turned into something a little richer.
At this point I've mostly given up trying to force THE PROJECT into a recognizable shape. It's decided on it's own that it first wants to be an illustrated short story, then a series of paintings, and lastly if I can get my literary shit together, a novel. That's what it's told me. So there you have it.
Yesterday a piece of lovely from THE PROJECT decided to come out and play. A simple sketch, a moment from the short story that has been bouncing at the back of my eyelids for weeks. I finally pulled it out and set it down. The doll in the sketch is Mina. She's a Muse. Her crow friend is Traipser, he's a kind of Muse too, but a little less gentle with his methods of inspiration. I'll leave you with the sketch and ask you to feel free to share your thoughts about balance, work, art and inspiration.
P.S. WHOOPS I forgot I've got large format prints available now - for those that are interested!
I just finished a series of commercial paintings I've named Flower Angels. It's a series I've had on my "to do" list for a while but not having eight arms I just hadn't gotten to it yet. But as trends ebb and flow, so does the pressure from the manufacturers one works with. So when my manufacturers get louder, I tend to have to rearrange my painting schedule a bit. This is how these four angels flew (so to speak) to the top of my list. ;)
Angels are calming and inspiring (my friend and fellow artist Jessica Galbreth paints lovely, ethereal angels ) and while they are always beloved, it does seem they are enjoying a bit of a spike in popularity right now. And why not? With roots that run as deep as Ancient Sumeria and being an integral part of the spiritual doctrine of many of the worlds religions; angels are at once a symbol of hope and comfort to many people.
I hope I did justice to the spirit I was trying to capture. I hope you find the images inspiring. (To Buy Prints CLICK HERE)
I'm working on an Angel series right now. Here's the first. Pansy Angel. (There are four images in the series, lotus, rose, poppy & pansy. Others coming soon)