painting

Will: The Power of Integration

INSPIRATION

Believe it or not, I wasn’t planning this. My initial chakra focused image, “The Flowering of Truth” was intended to be a single image. When I completed the work in February, I had no intention of creating another work on the chakras – nor the impetus to create a series. But it would seem that Spirit had other plans.

A large percentage of my inspirational and creative processes are dependent upon intuition and channeling. Most of my inspirations are brought forth through life-experiences and/or insights intuited/channeled/gleaned from my meditation practice. In a very real sense, one could view my creative practice as a spiritual development journal. In hindsight, I see that the process of strengthening my 5th chakra was in preparation for my departure from my day job in order to pursue my vocation full-time. I needed to connect with the expression of my voice and speak forth my truth in authenticity. “Will: The Power of Integration” is about the need for me to marshal my energies and resources towards the achievement of my goals so that I will have the strength to persevere despite all obstacles. It wasn’t until this image’s completion that I realized that this was the start of a series.

The third chakra is found in the vicinity of the navel and solar plexus. Its primary element is fire – thus it is associated with the pancreas and adrenals. It’s color – yellow is the core of the preceding two chakras (red and orange respectively) as the core of any fire is bright yellow-white with the reds and oranges radiating from that burning center. The 3rd chakra is the integrator of the 2 preceding it (1 = earth/matter, 2 = water/creation). Hence the power of the 3rd chakra is based in integration. It’s mantra, “I can” is reflective of human “Will”. Not society’s traditional notion of “will to power, conquer, push through…” but a dynamic force that transforms and shapes through integration. From this perspective, “will” is the integration of our desire and focus for the purposes of transformation and manifestation. Thus transformation and manifestation are based upon one’s power to combine and integrate the various aspects of one’s being in order to direct them towards a purpose. This is the power of “Will”.

Will: The Power of Integration

Will: The Power of Integration. The 2nd creation in my chakra series.

SYMBOLISM

As discussed previously, the color yellow is associated with the 3rd chakra and the core of fire and sun. I chose not to seat the figure because I wanted her to embody the energy associated with this chakra. This woman is standing, floating up and away from the lotus beneath her. She rises unaided, of her volition as she integrates her focus and desire in order to initiate her own ascension. She is the source of her own ascension and transformation due to her own self-integration (we are in truth the truth we seek). Her outstretched arms are symbolic of both praise and the discovery of her own inner power.  It is as if her outstretched arms and slightly lifted head evoke ecstasy and draw in the swirling matter that surrounds her as it becomes an integral part of her being. Her hair is both charged with the light of the chakra’s activation and the power flowing within. 

The graphic lotus symbol above her depicts the third chakra and its accompanying Sanskrit character. The open lotus beneath her figure is also symbolic of the chakras in general. 

Look out for a discussion of the crown chakra next month!

 

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The Flowering of Truth

INSPIRATION

The impetus for this work has been part of an ongoing struggle. A struggle that has been uniquely mine yet paradoxically experienced by each of us at various points throughout life. From the earliest stages of human development, each of us learns about self through the experience of contrast between us and that which is other. A baby begins to comprehend the difference between self and mother through the contrasts created by the touch. sight, and sound of its mother versus that of its own. Later in life, we often learn to distinguish who we are through the experience of contrast between the ways others (friends, parents, classmates…) are like us or different from us.
 
This process of self-discovery continues throughout the life cycle because each of us is always changing. The person you were at 3 is still present within your DNA and consciousness but is definitely not the same person who is reading this post right now. This process of continual growth and deepening consciousness requires that we not only discover who we are in terms of likes and preferences but also necessitates that we come to know self with depth and profundity. In a sense, one could postulate that we don’t actually learn who we truly are, but rather that we find the courage and strength to discover, and then become who we truly are. That living a conscious life is a continual process of becoming or embodying the spiritual beings whom we truly are.
  
As our eternal being, our essence becomes more fully integrated and embodied within us it shines forth more brightly through us under the guise of personality. In order for this to occur, we must first find the willingness to look within, the strength to face what we find there, and finally the courage to be that person in the world regardless of what others may say or think about us because of it. This kind of courage requires that we commit ourselves to complete truth and authenticity in all of our interactions. That you find the courage and commitment to be and do YOU in every aspect of your life – no matter what the circumstances. No facades, no compromises to get along, no hiding how you really feel or think to fit in, no holding back your truth for another’s sake…etc. I’m talking about having the courage and determination to be who you are in every way you can, under any and all circumstances.
 
Each of us has the right and the responsibility, to be who we are and do what we want as long as we are honest and forthright in our intentions, and do not hurt or harm others in the process. This kind of freedom can only be achieved by operating from a level of truth and authenticity that most of us are not willing to live from.  In my opinion, this is the kind of commitment to truth and authenticity which lies at the core of 5th chakra symbolism.  
The 5th chakra’s core principle is truth. It is the first chakra to move us beyond the boundaries of our physicality and connect us to the higher realms of consciousness by acting as a conduit for the expression of vibration, sound, and speech. Thus it is associated with the throat, neck thyroid, shoulders, arms, and hands. When we deny the truth within ourselves, or continually speak or act in ways which lack integrity or truth this chakra can easily become clogged or choked thereby weakening its’ vibration. When fully opened, this chakra gives one the courage and commitment to express one’s self in truth and authenticity.  
This has been the focus of my struggle. To not only know, “Who I am” but to strive to authentically “be me” in all situations and circumstances. To stop worrying about, “how others view me or my art?” If speaking my truth will cost me friends or prestige? Will people not like me if I show them who I really am or what I’m about? To be true to self is the simplest yet most difficult of endeavors. This year I am determined to open and clear this chakra. To let the real me shine forth and open up like as a flower opens to the receive the rays of the morning sun! To open to my truth, and express that authenticity in all my interactions. This is the Flowering of Truth.

flowering-of-truth-72-5

SYMBOLISM

The symbolism within this work is focused on truth. The large lotus symbol floating above the figure is a reinterpretation of the 5th chakra symbol. The deep cerulean blue is one of the colors associated with the chakra. The symbol found within the inner flower is the Bija symbol (or seed sound) “Ham”. When repeated, this sound is the key used to activate the chakra and unlock its power. The symbol eye-like piece above symbol is my own additive that which is reminiscent of omniscient divine presence. The white outline used to outline the flower is symbolic of the full moon which is also part of the chakra’s symbolism. T

The flower upon which the figure sits is also a lotus. I purposely used the varying shades of blue for this composition since the primary colors associated with the chakra are cerulean blue and turquoise. This flowering lotus is opening because the figure seated upon it is chanting the seed sound “Ham” as a mantra as she meditates upon the qualities associated with the 5th chakra. 

Since the seated figure is meditating upon the 5th chakra and chanting its’ seed sound, I chose the lift her head and expose her neck – the primary body part associated with the 5th chakra. I intentionally placed the tale end of the seed symbol in the lotus above her head near the figure’s throat in order to further accentuate her neckline and the connection between sound/mantra, the symbol, and the chakra’s connection to the throat. 

My intention was to strike a balance between the areas that were more highly rendered (the opening lotus and the figure’s flesh) and the more graphic areas (the lotus above the figure and the figure’s clothing in order to create a visually energetic push-and-pull between the various portions of the composition. This tension helps to create a downward movement which draws the eye from the face down through the opening lotus. I chose to keep the background soft and muted so that it would not distract from the main focal point of the composition – the meditating figure.

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Moonlight Blues

Greetings Family,

I know its been 4 months since you heard from me, but you haven’t been forgotten. I’ve been pressing on, but there  hasn’t been much creating. My last post in July was part of my normal summer slowdown, but unforeseen circumstances burst onto the scene commanding a large portion of my time and attention. The darker sides of life and people often present themselves to us at unexpected times in unexpected ways.

So I was reminded that into each life, some rain must fall. All of life is a revolving series of endings and beginnings – the sun rises and sets, the seasons transform and change, joys bring us light and sorrows bring the blues. The people and things we love most are very often the sources of our brightest days and darkest nights. The winds of change blew a storm my way and I got the blues.

People say that time heals all wounds, but what we do between the hurt and the healing can make a world of difference.  It’s not just the time, but what we do during the time which determines whether we heal in a manner which is conducive to future growth, or just an exercise in repression which eventually leaves us with more psycho-spiritual baggage. These unseen scars cause more damage and heal much slower than our physical bodies, so we must be more intentional about our healing by doing so from the inside out just as our bodies do.

So I sunk into the blues. I prayed, I wept, I was angry, I felt as if everything in my life had suddenly just shriveled up. I wanted to work, to create, to wash these blues away by birthing something truly powerful from this darkness, but nothing came. I was numb, paralyzed, creatively mute. Sitting in my studio, staring at my sketchbook, living with the blues. There was no light and there was no muse. The only light to be found was reflected from the moon. Moonlight Blues

Every day, everyday I have the blues.

When you see me crying baby, you know it’s you I hate to lose

Seems like nobody loves me, and nobody seems to care

Speakin’ bout hard times and trouble, you know I’ve had my share. 

I’m gonna pack my bags and move on the down the line 

Ain’t nobody worrying and ain’t nobody crying 

Everyday I have the blues

B. B. King 

moonlight-blues-72-5

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Ascension II: The Buddha Nature Ascends

INSPIRATION

The term enlightenment is derived from the notion of light. The light of consciousness, the light of knowledge, the light of awareness that breaks through to us, and in us. Light comes to us in the midst of our ignorance, blindness, our will to power, and our pain. As we receive that light we slowly but surely ascend. We accelerate the process when we consciously and deliberately choose to consistently go within. These epiphanal glimpses of light inspired Ascension II.

As I reflect upon it now, the creation of Ascension II was almost inevitable. The thoughts and feelings which led to its creation are evidence of the natural process of expansion and deeper consciousness that accompanies the path to enlightenment. The Buddha is not necessarily a person. A more accurate characterization  would be to identify it as a state of being, or conscious awareness that can be reached by anyone. This truth ensures that there have been, and will be many Buddhas throughout the course of history. The Buddha is a nature which one acquires as one seeks to go ever deeper within. It is believed that some who have reached this state were able to literally shift their vibration to such a high rate that they disappeared into the realms of higher consciousness. 

Ascenion II72.5

SYMBOLISM

One of the first things you will notice about this piece is the horizontal format. I intentionally chose to use this format because I wanted to emphasize the point I made in my discussion of Ascension I regarding enlightenment as a process of expansion and not the upward movement we so often assign to it. Just as the first piece was long and vertical, this piece is wide and horizontal (36h x 48w) to reflect the notion of expansion as both upward and outward movement.

The four figures located in the corners of the image are seated in various meditation poses. They represent adepts who are following the teachings of the Buddha, and the Four Noble Truths of the Buddhist tradition (suffering, craving, there is an end to suffering, follow the path). Each figure is surrounded by an auric field which is not complete because they have not yet achieved enlightenment but are still walking the path.

The Buddha is encompassed within an eight-rung wheel which is reminiscent of the eight-fold path that is followed by all who seek to ascend in this tradition. The Path is characterized by the concepts of: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, mindfulness, and singularity of mind (enlightenment). It is the possession of these virtues which leads one toward ascension. The deep purple which comprises the wheel and the four figures is indicative spiritual strength-an essential for any transformation.

The Bodhi tree at the bottom center of the composition is a historical reminder that it was during meditation under a such a tree that Siddhartha achieved his enlightenment and thus ascended into the realms of Nirvana.

My use of the star-shaped figure around the wheel symbolizes both light, and the sudden flash of spiritual insight which can often accompany periods of deep meditation. One is often privy to sudden flashes of understanding which lead to even deeper levels of inner light and spaciousness.

In the center of the composition, we find the Buddha himself. He is sitting in a full lotus position with his eyes closed in deep meditation. He levitates above and within the spiritual energies which surround him.  I wasn’t really interested in representing the chakras in this image. My main concern was to depict spiritual light and create a sense of vibration and spiritual power. The lighter pastel colors which form the auric field, are not necessarily based upon the chakras.

All of the colors used in this piece were carefully chosen after numerous color roughs to determine which tones would work together seamlessly. It may seem random but the placement of the colors was carefully worked out so that they would all work together and compliment one another. Many pastel colors can be symbolic of higher energies without necessarily referring to the chakras. From a frequency perspective the many of the colors we associate with cooler temperatures (blue, green, violet) are actually of a higher wavelength frequency than  those we think of as warm (red, orange, yellow).The magenta cloud is juxtaposed to the deep blue clouds in an interplay of light and dark. The deep blue representing spiritual darkness or the unexamined state while the higher vibrations of magenta and the rays of green and yellow light break through the darkness.

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Ascension I: The Son of Man Ascends

INSPIRATION

Inspiration is a funny thing. It is often born from the most unlikely sources and flashes into consciousness at the worst possible moments. Yet these capricious insights are an integral  part of the creative process. To be inspired is to be “in Spirit” and that was exactly how the seeds of this image began to sprout.

Over the course of 3 weeks, I had been listening to several talks by various thinkers and intuitives on the topic enlightenment and the expansion of consciousness. The more I absorbed their perspectives and meditated upon the topic the more insights poured into my mind and spirit. Over those weeks, I felt a growing need to not only synthesize these insights but to share them with others.

As human beings, we often think of ascension as an upward, and often hierarchical  movement, but in reality, ascension is circular and holistic. Ascension is about expansion! The expansion and integration of one’s consciousness throughout all levels of self. Thus, one becomes fully self-actualized and self-aware physically, mentally, spiritually, and  energetically. From this perspective, one can only ascend outward and upward to the level or depth one has also gone downward and inward.

This can be evidenced not only in Jesus’ life and ministry but in the writings and biographies of all the spiritual masters. We see what can best be described as a kind of implosion. Each master first begins by going within in an effort to know the self’s inner world and locate that quiet, silent place of inner spaciousness. But in each instance, the master begins to discover that the journey within is simultaneously connecting her/him more deeply to all that is without and beyond. Paradoxically, each one discovered that the universal resides within the particular. Yet each reached a point upon the inward journey where there was no further they could go. The journey inward was then replaced by an opening, a flowering, or a rapid outward expansion which completely altered their way of being. This transformation occurs as a result of the inward exploration and is directly linked to the act that we refer to as ascension.

SYMBOLISM

I chose Jesus because he is the most easily recognizable figure within my particular context. Since Jesus’ ascension is directly linked to his death and resurrection, I felt it was extremely important to make reference to these events within the work so that one can see the continuity between them. I began researching Jesus and the ascension using various theological texts and the biblical narratives. The main features of the biblical narratives are Jesus ascending up into the heavens, the presence of heavenly beings, the elements, and the disciples who stand in witness.

Materials

The image is painted using acrylic paints on a large solid wood board. I actually found the piece of board lying outside near a trash pick-up site. I was walking down the street and noticed this large piece of wood supported by a couple of trash bins. The wood’s surface was distressed by scrapes, peeling layers, and various rippling textures. Normally I wouldn’t even have paid attention to something like this but the surface was so intriguing that I decided to take it to my studio.  It literally sat in my studio for a month and some days I would just sit in the studio and stare at it. I felt a connection to it in some way but I had no idea what to do with it? It wasn’t until I was halfway through my sketches for Ascension that I understood why I had been drawn to this block of wood.

The panel is 1.5 inches thick and weighs about 80lbs. Its surface is rough, pitted, and unfinished. This large piece of wood is reminiscent of the Jesus’ death on the cross. Its surface and texture are not only symbolic of a cross but it is earthy and grounding just as Jesus’ death truly was. It reminds me that life, death, and ascension are not heavenly conceptualizations to be spiritualized, but real-world, natural, embodied experiences that are played out within the earthly realm.

Ascension I: The Son of Man Ascends

Imagery

The two angels found on the upper right and left portions of the composition are representative of heavenly witnesses and guides. The angel on the left holds an ankh which symbolizes rebirth and new life. The angel on the right wields a spear which makes reference to Jesus’ death by human hands and the piercing of his side by the Roman centurion’s spear during his crucifixion.

The elements of cloud and sky have always held a prominent place in spiritual symbolism. The clouds symbolize both the divine presence and the biblical narratives’ description of Jesus ascending up into the clouds as he entered the heavenly realms. In the biblical tradition, the divine presence is often symbolized by clouds so I felt they were appropriate for this image. The golden-yellow sky is symbolic of light and spiritual illumination. The divine light pours forth bringing both physical and spiritual illumination to Jesus and the disciples who see and comprehend the events with supra-natural clarity. The symbol floating in the sky above Jesus’ head is the West African Adinkra symbol for transformation.

The silhouetted figures found in the bottom portion of the composition represent the disciples who not only witness the ascension but later receive a portion of Jesus anointing and divine power with the arrival of the Holy Spirit as it is described within the biblical book of Acts. These figures are in various positions of prayer and supplication as they worship their ascending master. Each figure is not only connected to the next, but each is connected to Jesus through the orange mandorla which surrounds Jesus who is ascending up above them. The deep blue depicts the figure’s silhouettes since they are surrounded by the dark clouds of divine presence. They are also encircled by red and orange halos (respectively). The former represents Jesus’ shed blood which covers the figures and provides both protection and connection with the divine presence. The orange halo is symbolic of the disciples sharing in the same spiritual power that Jesus himself possesses.

 Jesus is depicted within the very center of the composition floating upon a cloud as he ascends into the heavenly realms. The viewer’s eye is directed to this focal point by the use of an orange mandorla surrounding Jesus. The same orange also surrounds his actual figure as an aura. Orange is an expansive color that is often used to symbolize energy and power. Since ascension is expansion I thought the orange was an appropriate means of symbolizing this reality. In addition, the biblical narrative clearly connects Jesus’ ascension with the notion of power, both spiritually and physically (“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me…”). This power pours forth from the figures’ eyes and body (if the eyes scare you stop watching so many horror films).  The symbol that accompanies this new state of ascended transformation is the reiki symbol for enlightenment emblazoned upon his forehead in red.  The red robe is reminiscent of Jesus’ death and the blood he shed upon the cross. His sacrifice will be the catalyst through which those who follow him will gain access to the heavenly realms. His hands are outspread in a gesture of welcome as his forefingers grasp his thumbs to form a mudra.

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Leap of Faith

LEAP OF FAITH

INSPIRATION

There are times in life when we are compelled to take a “Leap of Faith.” Times when we must step out into the unknown with no possible idea what the outcome may be. Times when it has become just too painful to stay where you are. You may not know where or how to move, but deep in your gut you instinctively know that something must change. Oftentimes, we begin to examine our lives and the ever fearful voice of the rational mind says, “No, don’t do that you had better play it safe.” In those moments of decision we can either: let fear win and once again settle for less than what Spirit had intended for us; or we can listen to that still small voice, and take the leap of faith.

Every moment of life is an opportunity to step back into safety, remain where we are out of anxiety and fear, or leap forward in faith. We will never know what we are truly capable of until we begin to release our doubts, disbeliefs, and fears in order to replace them with optimism, hope, and faith. Last month in Winds of Hope I quoted the famous biblical verse from Hebrews 11.1 “Now faith is the substance of things we yet hope for, and the evidence of the things we do not yet see.” I also defined hope as, “The belief that the things we desire are capable of becoming reality”. As such I posited that hope is an essential component of faith. If hope is the precious cargo that each of us holds deep within, faith the is the ship which will carry it safely through life’s storms.

Faith is a convictional stance that embodies hope within a framework of trust. It offers the heart assurance that the hope one bears can be realized despite life’s apparent contradictions.  Many would have us believe that faith lies in opposition to or contradicts reason, but in reality faith it transforms.  This transformation is brought forth by bringing the objective (rational mind) and the subjective (inner heart) together in balance and focus. A healthy faith creates balance and focus by helping us to validate the self as an agent in achieving our hopes while simultaneously acknowledging that there is a greater source of truth that is available to aid and guide us. This transformation allows us to focus our thoughts and actions upon that which we hope for despite any lack of physical evidence to support our decisions because we trust that doing so is the only way that anything actually will change. Thus we see that faith requires that we take a vital and dynamic stance toward life. A stance which requires will, commitment, persistence, and trust that a source of wisdom far greater than self is ready and willing to provide us with assistance if we are prepared to accept it.

This is one of the reasons why faith is always exercised in the present. Faith forces us to live and be present in the “now” because that is the only time it can be actively expressed. We choose to trust now, act now, plan now, commit now, persist now…and this choice to focus our thoughts and actions upon the thing which we hope for prepares us to eventually receive it. Just as an idea or inspiration is lost without execution, so too “faith without works is dead.” Being conscious and present is always about expansion. To shrink back or stay put is about contraction and fear. Ultimately, fear is not about the obstacle you face, it’s about the level of faith and trust you are willing to act upon in that particular moment. Being in the now requires expansion, and as we expand for the leap out into what appears to be unknown; god, the universe, source, spirit expands to meet us. Faith prepares us to face the unknown but without action we are unable to receive it.

John Calvin defined faith as, “A steady and certain knowledge of divine benevolence toward us that is revealed in our minds and confirmed in our hearts” by Spirit. I truly believe that there is something beyond us. A center around which all other facets of being revolve. And that center is benevolent, kind, just…and willing to work in and through me to the degree that I am willing and prepared to accept it. For me, “Leap of Faith” serves as a symbolic reminder to move forward, take the leap out into a loving universe that is waiting meet me at the point of expectation. “According to your faith it shall be done for you.”

LEAP OF FAITH

LEAP OF FAITH

SYMBOLISM

I knew that something more than a single figure painted upon the paper was needed to create any kind of relevant composition. But the leaping figure was so visually powerful that I didn’t want to overburden the rest of the composition with too many additional details. The problem was incorporating an image or symbol which resonated with my inspiration but did not compete with the central image for the viewer’s attention. I needed something that was consistent with my vision but subtle enough for me to maintain control of the leaping figure as the image’s primary focal point.

The Japanese symbol Mitsudomoe provided exactly what was needed. The Mitsudomoe is found throughout Japan in many of the country’s Shinto temples. The three comma-like shapes within the circle are called “tomoe” and are reminiscent of the same tomoe found in the Chinese Yin-Yang symbol. In Shintoism the mitsudomoe represents the three realms of existence: humanity, earth, and sky. These three exist in a tripartite relationship of mutuality and interdependence. This conception correlates with my previous discussion of faith if we see humanity as the subjective aspect of the faith equation because our individual hope is always personal and subjective. Sky symbolizes the divine as the objective aspect of the being and its’ eagerness to work with us in the process of bringing our unique vision into materiality. The earth corresponds to the realm of action where humanity and sky come together in the project of materialization. A mature active faith requires all three and recognizes their interdependence.

The three swirling tomoe imply movement and action while simultaneously embodying the three aspects of faith.  In “Leap of Faith”, the leaping figure represents a healthy humanity expanding itself in a forward leap. The figure is both purple and lavender. Purple is a color often associated with spirit or spiritual strength/power while  lavender is reminiscent of the colors found in the higher chakras. The pink and blues in the composition are symbolic of both sky or heavens (blue) and the higher chakras or spiritual realms (pink). The brown represents the earthly realm where the demonstration of faith will ultimately be manifested.

In this case, the leaping figure takes the action by leaping out into the unknown, but this is not possible without divine aid to guide, protect, and provide all that will be needed. Simultaneously, the results and context in which all of this activity takes place is the earthly realm. Both the leap and the evidence of divine support must both be played out within the context of earthly life. Thus, the three realms work in mutual interdependence. For me, this relationship is symbolized within the mitsudomoe.

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Winds of Hope

Winds of Hope

INSPIRATION

Recent events in my life have led me to the contemplation of hope. It just so happens that life has been moving along at its own steady pace. Sometimes intense and other times slow, but thankfully there have been no major upsets or crashing waves. When things are like this I often find the breathing room needed to catch my breath and connect more deeply to my higher self. It is during the steady rhythm of life that I am more easily able to reflect upon life’s deeper layers and connect with Spirit from a much more grounded place.

These times of recollection and reflection usually start with gratitude. I find myself grateful for the periods of sunshine that burst forth from the heart in the seasons between the storms. When I am quiet, I can observe a kind of in-gathering within my mind and spirit as all the myriad pieces of my identity are gently de-fragmented and reconnected to one another. I review the progress I have made, see things moving forward, and am filled with gratitude. But even more than that – I am filled with hope.

I am able to see the bigger picture and all the small but progressive steps that let me know I am moving forward towards my goals. This acknowledgment fills me with hope. Hope that that I can succeed. Hope that I can achieve my goals. Hope that I have and can make the right choices, and hope for the future. Hope is foundational and inspirational. The bible reminds us that,  “faith is the substance of things we yet hope for, the evidence of things not seen.” Most of us focus upon faith in this passage but the statement clearly places an even weightier emphasis upon hope – as the foundation which makes faith even possible. Without hope, life has no meaning. Without hope, faith is not possible. Without hope, there is no vision for the future. From this perspective, hope could best be defined as an assurance that the things we desire are actually capable of becoming reality. Thus my stepping back to acknowledge my progress. express gratitude for my current place, and celebrate my accomplishments fills me with hope.

Hope is the wind which blows through my spirit filling me with renewed determination and inspiration. My sails are full so, I do a bit more dreaming and make a few more plans. Then I stretch my arms out wide, lift my head towards the heavens and bathe in the hope’s breeze. HOPE

THE CREATIVE PROCESS

I began this blog because people who view my works often inquire about the meaning within my imagery and the symbols I employ. Since a great deal of my work is about spiritual insight and visual metaphor, symbology plays in integral role in my creative process. Lately, visitors to my studio have also begun asking about my medium, techniques, and the ways in which I am able to integrate them into my overall creative process. So I took the time to snap a few photos of this work in various stages of my creative process.

Everything starts with an idea or inspiration. It may be something I see, a spark gleaned from something I’ve been reading, an image or feeling that is impressed upon me within my meditations…but  things keep coming so I just try to remain open. Once I have solid grasp upon the concept, I begin doing sketches and/or looking at various images that may help to translate my inspiration into concrete visual form. This particular image had a rather long germination which began last winter while I spent 2 months viewing a package of subliminal message videos I had purchased. The actual composition came together quickly after I began researching images.

I am an extremely visual person and an artist so I often save random images that speak to me. While watching one of the videos, the image of the young man standing in the field struck me so I saved it. A few months later I was on google images (I just do that sometimes) and the grassy knoll just kind of popped out at me so I saved it as well. A month or so after that, I was at work making myself a cup of tea. I pulled the last tea bag out of the box and I saw the image of a lotus flower on the inside so I ripped the box apart and took the image to my studio so that I could digitize into my image library.  Shortly after that, I was sitting in my studio sketching. I was feeling really good and reflecting upon how well about things had been going and I got this very full, glad, hopeful feeling. I began to try and sketch it – so I pulled up a few images from my image library to see if anything might create a few more sparks and these three spoke to me.

As you can see from my initial thumbnail sketches it didn’t take long for me to come up with a workable composition. There are days and weeks when it doesn’t  come this easily and I may spend weeks researching, or end up producing 20-30 thumbnail sketches until I can find an inspiring and workable composition. Once I have a good composition, I will often produce 2-3 larger ones (4 x 6) to work out some of the light and shade problems.  For this image, I didn’t feel the need to do so. I moved directly to creating some small color roughs. The circled Image with the double stars is the color combination I decided upon using. With an extremely complicated image, I will create 1 or 2 larger-scale color roughs (4 x 6 as well) to alert myself to any potential tonal problems that may arise before I get into the actual process of execution.

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The Work

For me, getting down to the actual work of creation is also an act of worship, and ritual. This aspect of my vocation involves the use of several rituals that I employ to move me toward concrete acts of creation. Creativity necessitates form. An idea or concept is no better than a daydream until you give it form through acts of concrete physical manifestation. Just as “faith without works is dead” inspiration that are not accompanied by acts of manifestation die shortly after conception.

Keeping the above in mind, I often let the work itself determine the medium from which it will be manifested. At some point during the sketching stage, the imagery begins to inform me about which medium would be the best vehicle for this particular expression. In this case I knew the colors needed to be bright and vibrant so scratchboard was not a consideration. Once the color roughs were completed, it became clear to me that watercolor would be a better medium since the white paper beneath would produce a much brighter, ephemeral, and luminous quality than I could achieve with acrylics.

I begin by engaging in prayer, and then slowly and mindfully laying out my materials so that they are easily accessible and functionally placed within and around my work area. I then choose my material (in this case watercolor paper), and outline the image upon the surface. I often us a projector for larger layouts rather than drawing everything out by freehand. In this case, I used a thinner sheet of paper than I normally prefer to work with (I prefer 300lb Arches watercolor paper), so I had to size the paper before I could begin any actual painting (many artists don’t lay out their imagery until after sizing, but I prefer to do it beforehand).

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Before I begin to do any creative work I spend at least 10-15 minutes in prayer and meditation just before I begin. I created a small altar in my studio that contains candles, incense, crystals, a bell, and other items of significant personal value. After completing my meditation, I spend about 2-3 minutes with my Ipod selecting what (if any) music will be playing for that particular creative session.  With Winds of Hope I began by painting the first layer of washes upon the largest areas of the image. Although it is not depicted here, each area of color has anywhere from 5-8 thin layers of color upon it. This technique allows for the vibrancy of the colors to reflect up through the paper as each successive layer builds upon the next.

As you can see from the images below, the vibrancy of the colors slowly builds intensity with the application of each successive layer. The more subtle details and shading are added in as each layer of color is applied. For me, this process is more like sculpting than painting. I often imagine myself pushing, pulling and molding the various surfaces and contours of the image rather than drawing or rendering them with the paint brush.

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Finishing Touches

As you can observe from these photos, I save the more precisely detailed portions of the image for last. In this instance, it was the waving grass and the figure’s skin tones. These final details were part of my work activities on days 5-6.  Sometimes, I will initiate changes to the image based upon insights or promptings that come to me during my preparation meditations. For this particular piece, there were no promptings over the course of the process, but once the work was completed several people pointed out that the figure resembled me. This was not a conscious decision on my part and I honestly hadn’t noticed (oftentimes, we do more than we can know or say).

The piece was unveiled in my studio for the First Fridays Art Murmur without the facial mustache and goatee, but after the 7th or 8th comment about the figure resembling me, the following day I removed it from the frame and added the mustache and goatee so that the figure would resemble me more closely.

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SYMBOLISM

There are only two actual symbols in this image: the lotus flower depicted behind the central figure, and the West African Adinkra symbol floating above them both. The work’s title, “Winds of Hope” embodies the notion of Hope being the wind which blows through mind, body and spirit, filling us with renewed determination, enthusiasm,  courage, and willingness to sacrifice for the creation of our dreams. Hope is the literal wind beneath our spiritual wings. The figure lifts his head toward the heavens and opens his arms wide to be caressed by the spiritual winds of Hope in a display of gratitude for blessings already received. The lotus behind the figure is also indicative of hope as it springs up from the muck and mire of muddy riverbeds to show forth its splendor. The Adinkra symbol floating above the main portion of the composition literally symbolizes Hope in West African symbology. I thought it very apt and appropriate that hope is connected to the heart’s symbol. For hope too is about the heart –  it’s dreams, passions, and desires. Purple is indicative of spiritual power and love, red passion, and yellow symbolizes wisdom, happiness, and divine benevolence.

Winds of Hope

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Damon Powell – Artist & Theologian

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Joy: It’s a Spiritual Thing!

INSPIRATION

It took me a long time to realize it, but joy is a spiritual thing! I spent a good portion of my early years in an ongoing search for happiness. There was a great deal of activity, but the brief moments of happiness I enjoyed were often intense and fleeting. Each and every time I felt as if I was on top of the world. I had reached the mountaintop and would do my best to stay there within the spirit of that moment, to remain present to that experience. But I was never able to carry those feelings back down into the valleys and plateaus of daily living (not for long anyway). So, off I would go seeking my next slice of happiness, my next wave of experience. As I look back on some of those moments, I am now able to connect with a tiny, persistent, nagging, element of despair that was ever-present but almost always unacknowledged. This despair was grounded within an innate knowing that these moments were not meant to last. It was this knowing which made them so much more precious and rare.

My growth along the spiritual path has helped me to understand the differences between joy and happiness. In my experience, the fundamental flaw in happiness is its primarily external orientation. This orientation renders it inherently capricious and subject to the ever-shifting tides of time, circumstance, and emotion. In our search for happiness, each of us becomes vulnerable to various kinds external and often random influences that we depend upon to produce whatever conditions we imagine will result in our happiness. The more favorably these influences and circumstances are able to fit within our particular set of criteria, the better we are able to enjoy deep and lasting happiness. Thus, we continually give away our power and reduce our capacity to exercise agency within our lives due to our continual pursuit of happiness. We must also note that for many of us happiness is also deeply connected to the ever-changing tides of our emotions. We can be happy one minute, see or hear something disturbing and then be unhappy or even dejected the next.

But joy is a spiritual thing. It  bubbles up from the spirit and bursts forth through the heart. Joy is an internal experience that moves from the inner to the outer world. Because it is spiritually based it is not subject to external influences or circumstances. Joy is a realization which can often burst forth within our own interiority. This spiritual quality is what makes joy superior to happiness in every possible way. Joy can be found within (and often in spite of) the most unpleasant and horrible circumstances because its internal origins are connected to higher levels of being. Quantum physics has revealed that everything in the universe resonates at its own frequency; on a scale of consciousness higher levels of consciousness begin around the resonation level of love (love is 500), while joy resonates even higher (joy = 540, peace= 600).  Reclaim your power by connecting with spirit and finding the joy within!

SYMBOLISM

This image was inspired by the experience of joy and the realization of its power within my life and spirit.I wanted the image and the figure to have a certain energetic, open fell but still be dense and bright. This is why I opted to portray a leaping figure within a circular composition. These two elements combine with the emanating rays of light to create a sense of energy and movement. The use of the lotus flower symbol is reminiscent of spiritual awakening, beauty, the rising sun, and eternity in various traditions. Just as the lotus blossoms upward from the murky waters of the muddy river bottom, we often find joy in the midst of the muck and mire of life as it seems to burst forth and lift us above it all. These ideas correspond to the rays of light which appear to both expand from and move toward the center of the composition.

One of the most interesting things about this piece is that its square format and circular composition allow it to displayed from any side. Turn it left, right, or  completely upside down and it is still just as intriguing. In the present view it appears as if the female figure is leaping for joy with all her might – It’s almost as if she could fly away. If you turn the image so that the figure’s hands and feet would appear to be pointing downward, you will notice that her positioning is very similar to the yoga asana “Upward Bow” (Urdhva Dhanurasana) which helps to open the heart chakra. Joy is a spiritual experience which is felt within, and bursts forth from the heart.

FEATURED

This image Live in the Light III, JOY was accepted into two (2)  juried art publications, “American Art Collector”  and “Bay Area Art Today.” Both publications are forthcoming in October 2015. American Art Collector is a yearly juried publication produced by Alcove Books and circulated nationwide for the past 12 years. Bay Area Art Today is a juried publication that is distributed throughout the 10 counties which comprise the Bay area. I am excited and honored to be one of the artists featured in these publications.

Live in the Light IV: Joy

Live in the Light III: Joy

To Purchase a Print click on the image above, or use the link below:

Damon Powell – Artist & Theologian

To purchase an original work please contact me directly at:

info@damonpowell.com

Live In the Light: I & II

Light

Since the dawn of time all of creation has been living in the light. The first intimations of life on this planet were birthed as a direct result of their interaction with beams of light that penetrated the atmosphere and  pierced the ocean’s surface to cause reactions within tiny micro-organisms. As the process of evolution continued its never-ending project of differentiation and expansion, the foreparents of humanity came into being. And just like the other animals who roamed the earth our foreparents lived, hunted, and died according to the rhythms of the sun and moon. It is no wonder that some of the earliest known spiritual and religious rituals were often centered around the sun and the characteristics of light.

As we developed signs, symbols, and language the notion of light was an integral part of our semiotic vocabulary and eventually became a potent universal metaphor. As an artist, I spend a great deal of time observing, studying and rendering light and its effects upon the world. The way it affects colors or shapes, what it reveals or obscures, how it creates a mood, and the thousands of other ways it influences my imagery. As a theologian, I am well acquainted with the use of light as a metaphor throughout all spiritual and religious traditions. Light is the physical manifestation of both cosmic and supranatural power. The creation of light and the heavens plays a central role in every culture’s cosmologies. From an aesthetic perspective this is an essential point because aesthetics is not just about beauty – but relationships and harmony. How each culture understands and relates to the cosmos and its creation will be reflected in all  its other relationships to some degree. For instance, if your cosmology interprets creation as existing for the benefit of humankind then this perspective will be reflected in your relationship to the planet and all the other beings within it.

INSPIRATION

The initial inspiration for all of my “Live in the Light” themed works comes from the song, “Live in the Light” by Fertile Ground. It just so happened that I was going through an extremely dark and rough period in my life. There was a great deal of fear and confusion about the future during this time. Most days I was struggling just to make it through the day without completely losing it. I was being consistent in my prayer and meditation practice but it seemed as if I was unable to be still enough to find the peace, answers, or relief I so desperately needed. Everything seemed dry. One weekend I couldn’t find the energy or focus to create so I decided to do some thorough house cleaning in hopes that it would declutter my mind a bit as well. I decided to put on some music while I worked and within 10 minutes Live in the Light began to play and I was literally struck by the lyrics as they resounded within my head. I just sat down and listened (over and over again) until I was overwhelmed by a palpable sense of well-being and peace. It was then that I gained my breakthrough. I knew that somehow everything would be alright if I just did my best to live in the light, love in the light. The healing, compassion and all else I needed would come forth if I did my best to stay in the light. I have taken the liberty of reposting the lyrics below:

Live in the Light

If this life is heaven, can we live like the stars? Then all of life is a just a lesson to live in the light, live in the light.

We keep on living life like better days are far away. Each day we pray to god to find our way back to the stars- when we need to heal our hearts.

If this life is heaven, then all that we do is all we have. See, we’ve got to find a way to shine love’s light today – somehow. See, we’ve got to find a way to shine love’s light today – somehow.

So let’s live in the light. live in the light, live in the light Let’s live in the light. live in the light, live in the light. See, this life can be heaven when we find peace of mind. The only way to receive our blessing is to live in the light. Love in the light.

So, let’s stop the wars, stop for peace, stop for love, stop the violence, stop the push, stop for peace, stop the lies, stop the fight, stop the death, stop the hate – live the light. So, let’s stop wars, stop for peace, stop for love, stop the violence, stop the push, stop for peace, stop the lies, stop the fight, stop the death, stop the hate – live the light. Oh live in the light.

Let’s live in the light Let’s live in the light. live in the light, live in the light Let’s live in the light. live in the light, live in the light.

I can see us dancing in the sun looking at the sky. I can see the god in everyone walking side-by-side. I can see us through your walls. I can see us in the stars. I can see the light in every night and peace in every heart. Let’s live in the light, Live in the light, live in the light…

Live in the Light  Live in the Light

SYMBOLISM

The image above was the first created on the Live in the Light theme. It was created using oils paints on a piece of canvas board which someone had given me a few years prior. I still had the canvas because I very rarely paint using oils. This image is the 2nd or 3rd creation I have ever made using oil-based paints.

The standing figure has her arms outstretched with her hands angled slightly upwards toward the heavens.  The figure is in a position of reverence, joy, and receptivity. She stands before the light with open arms and an open heart, ready and eager to receive all that is offered. The red line which outlines the figure is symbolic of love and the Holy Spirit in the Christian tradition. In Hinduism red is associated with the root chakra which is fundamentally raw creative power – the very energy of life itself. The symbol within the figure is the Reiki symbol of enlightenment. Reiki can best be described as a healing modality that utilizes touch and the transmission of divine energies for healing, balancing of the body’s systems, and rejuvenation. She stands upon the earth larger than life itself as she reaches out to touch and be touched by the cosmos. All the while still solidly grounded within material reality represented in the figure’s appearance of growing forth from the earth itself.

I purposely made the sun like shape ambiguous in its origins. This ambiguity symbolizes the very nature of the spiritual life, and the metaphor of light within it. It is unclear whether the light is emanating from the heart of the standing figure or shining down upon it. We are never quite sure if the light we feel, or the divine presence we sense is emanating from within us or touching us from without? In my experience, it is paradoxically both at the same time. Just as it is often said that when we hug someone the love we feel is not only their love for us, but our own love being reflected back within us. So it is with divine light. We must radiate the light even as we receive it – thus that which we extend out is also reflected back to us (you give what you get/like attracts like). The color red is present within the orb, but orange is also there to represent divine benevolence toward the creation. The yellow rays bursting forth from the orb/sun are both physical light and spiritual light which imparts divine wisdom to all (yellow). It was divine wisdom that created the cosmos and sustains it. The thin powder blue line circling the earth is indicative of divine love and inspiration.

Live in the Light II

Live in the Light II – The Grand Design

Live in the Light II  – The Grand Design was created using acrylic paint on a board. Once again we find the larger-than-life figure standing upon the earth. The darker blue is indicative of heavenly love which permeates both the earth and the heavens. The thin powder blue line circling the earth is indicative of divine love and inspiration. Golden rays of divine light pierce the heavens providing power, wisdom, and protection (gold).

This time red is used in both the figure and the symbol within the sun/light. The symbol is called the Grand Design and imparts 2 important meanings: 1) From a spiritual perspective it symbolizes three great world religions Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It emphasizes their unity and connection to the same divine source. All three of which have been revealed to humanity here on the physical plane – hence the color red which indicates divine love for humanity. 2) As an artist the Grand Design points out all of the basic shapes that can be found in nature. All shapes can be comprised using either a square, triangle, circle or some combination. Thus we have the blueprint for every possible design contained within our own powers of creativity as they have been granted to us from above. It is through our various acts of creation that we most purely embody the image and wisdom of our creator. In this image the figure is more clearly defined as she is bathed in the encompassing light of divine wisdom as it flows past her to encircle all humankind (earth). Here the figure is representative of all humanity as it receives divine love and wisdom.

In Conclusion

This series reminds me that we must live in the light. That we are part of the light and its rays can only be reflected in us if we strive to live in it each and every moment. We do this by being present to life, present to our feelings, and present to the divine light within us. This life can be heaven if we allow ourselves to pour forth the aspects of heaven which are innately present within us. Live in the Light!

P.S. I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Mr. Heath Armstrong, Producer and host of the Artrepreneur Now podcast. If you get some time check it out or download it from iTunes (free) so you can listen at your leisure.

To Purchase a Print click on any of the images above, or use the link below:

Damon Powell – Artist & Theologian

To purchase an original work please contact me directly at:

info@damonpowell.com

The Resurrection of Love: Birth, Death & Resurrection

INSPIRATION

As I sit here contemplating what I would like to share about this triptych, I am filled with a sense of wonder and irony. It was around this time last Spring that I was inspired to create these panels. I was compelled by my own personal desire to receive and express love more deeply in every aspect of my life. What better time to do so than the outset of Spring – when the earth itself is being reborn from winter’s death-like grip. A time of rejuvenation, rebirth, and resurrection. There is something about Spring which never fails to revitalize the spirit and fill the air with excitement and anticipation.

As I began to think and read about love, I was drawn to the words of Rumi, “I have no companion but love, no beginning, no end, no dawn. The soul calls from within me: ‘You, ignorant of the way of love, set me free’.” Love has no beginning or end because love is all there is. Love is free for the taking if we would just open ourselves to receive it. But we often travel through life as if we are completely void of the very thing we crave so desperately. If we would simply take the time to look within, listen to our souls, and set free the love already within us, we would surprisingly find more of it everywhere we look.

From a metaphysical perspective love never ends. But it is often born, dies, and is resurrected within the context of our material human experience. This realization was the impetus for my decision to depict the cycle of love in 3 stages: Birth, Death, and Resurrection. The symbolism here lies within the number 3 and the connection between the Christian Trinity, and Jesus’ own birth, death, and resurrection here upon the material plane. It also mimics the cycle of nature (Summer, Winter, Spring) and many of our relationships with others.

SYMBOLISM

Colors

The color palette was chosen based upon the following color symbolism: white = pure spiritual light which like the sun contains the entire spectrum of colors, purple = a karmic and auric color which is indicative of spiritual depth and power, pink = associated with spiritual enlightenment and the crown chakra, lavender/deep rose pink = is often associated with divine love, red = the root chakra which is associated erotic love and life-force, and deep purple = which is often associated with death or the absence of light within the cosmos.

Imagery

Given the metaphysical nature of the subject my initial inclination was to use abstract imagery, or to work with a more Jesus-like figure to represent love. However, as I continued to read and meditate upon the topic, I came to the realization that the characteristics most associated with love are more easily recognized within the feminine. Openness, expansion, mutuality, inclusion,  sacrifice, nurturing, care, acceptance…are all characteristics which led me to personify love within a female figure.  I often speak with God using female metaphors, so it was/is easy for me to translate this use into feminine imagery.

The aureole which surrounds each figure is symbolic of spiritual power surrounding and sustaining the physical form. Despite the figure being human it is filled with  supra-natural power that manifests itself in the aureole-like form.

Birth

Birth

“Love is the path and direction of our Prophet. We are born from Love; Love is our mother. O Mother, hidden behind the body’s veil, concealed by our own cynical nature.” Rumi

Although “Birth” is the 1st piece in the tryptic it was actually the second image I created. My process is often very intuitive and I work upon whatever image or concept I feel most drawn to in the moment. This image is primarily about incarnation as Love is birthed into physical form. The nebulous darkness represents the spiritual realms, the unseen from which Love fashions itself ex nihilo (out of nothing). The viewer is here to witness love’s creation and evolution into physical form. That which is eternal in power and principle, without flesh becomes incarnate to dwell with and among its creation as Love, in love. The remaining pictorial landscape is purposely nondescript and abstract in order to maintain the figure as the primary focal point within the visual narrative. The aureole manifests itself from the portion of the figure which has become flesh (right side) since it is not needed within the spiritual realm.

Death

Death

“Come and be Love’s willing slave, for Love’s slavery will save you. Forsake the slavery of this world and take up Love’s sweet service. The freedom of the world enslaves, but to slaves Love grants freedom. I crave release from this world like a bird from its egg; free me from this shell that clings. As from the grave, grant me the new life. O Love, O quail in the free fields of spring, wildly sing songs of joy.” Rumi

In this image Love is surrendering its’ self to the forces of nonbeing. She is not being killed or forced to surrender herself, but does so of her own volition. Thus Love’s death represents a sacrificial act of self-emptying and surrender of her own physical presence. She does not do so alone as she is surrounded by, and presided over by the four spiritual beings whom are depicted in silhouette in the darkness above the figure.  These faces watch and preside over this act of holy sacrifice as guides and witnesses. The aureole is now red in association with the exiting life force/spirit and the passion of sacrificial death. Notice Love’s Spirit (in red) rises up to join the other spirits as both physical being and eternal observer.

Resurrection

Resurrection

“The moment I first heard of love I gave up my soul, my heart, and my eyes. I wondered, could it be that the lover and the beloved are two? No, they have always been one. It is I who have been seeing double.” Rumi

Although last in the tryptic, “Resurrection” was the first panel I painted.  In this panel Love has been reborn within the physical realm. The solitary figure stands alone striding between the sensual and supra-sensual realms. Once again the aureole is now present in pink and white. Loves physical presence casts a shadow upon the shores as her feet leave traces in the sands. In this panel omniscient divine eyes both see and know self as eternal lover and mortal beloved.

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Damon Powell – Artist & Theologian

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Info@DamonPowell.com