watercolor

The ‘Asana” Series: Zen Yoga Triple

Fear is a funny thing. It can manifest itself in so many ways that we often mistake it for something completely different. Oftentimes, it uses other emotions or activities as a veneer in order to mask its true identity. Anger, procrastination, OCD, controlling behaviors, rigidity, constant pleasure-seeking…have all been veneers for various fears I was holding onto but afraid to face. 

In this case, it was my seeming inability to sit down and begin the preparation work for these images. Initially, I had written it off as being too busy with other things. When that excuse was no longer working I then went into various machinations involving my using the time to gather more ideas and usher in a creative flow. One day I was sorting through some acrylic paints inventorying what I needed to replace and I accidentally picked up one of my watercolor vials and a rush of anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks. Beneath it was the palpable sensation of fear.  

The fear was a wake=up call and a reminder. It let me know exactly “why” I hadn’t been working the sketches for this series because I was afraid to get started because I was afraid to fail. I was afraid to dive in because I haven’t used watercolors in over a year and I wasn’t sure if I could get back into the medium and produce anything value. As any artist will tell you, watercolor is an extremely difficult medium and most painters try their best to stay away from it. Although watercolor has been my preferred medium since college, it does take time and failures to really master and I had been focusing on developing my acrylic skills while trying to complete my “Chakra” series.  

This sudden realization and the subsequent acknowledgment of my fear broke its power over me and allowed me to not only admit it, but more importantly to face-it and thereby release its energy from being. This was release was the catalyst for my steps to begin delving into the bread and butter of this new series. These 3 initial images are not as polished as some of my previous endeavors but they are powerful representatives of a return to watercolor. Stay tuned for my three in this series as you be privy to the transformations that will occur as the series progresses.

These three images feature the lovely and extremely athletic yogini Zen Forbes of “In with Zen” Yoga. 

Pincha Mayurasna – Forearm Stand

Salamba Shirshasana – Head Stand

Virabhadrasana II – Warrior II

**To purchase prints click here

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.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 3.52.39 PM

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).

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 3.53.42 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 3.54.08 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 3.54.42 PM

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

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

To join my mailing list click here: 

Damon’s list

The Addiction Triptych: Addiction, Withdrawal & Hope

INSPIRATION

I began this series with the creation of “Addiction” in January of 2014. Shortly thereafter, someone was interested in purchasing it, but for some reason I was just not able to part with it. Given the personal nature of the work and the sense of release it had provided me, I just wasn’t ready to let it out of my presence so quickly – so I sold a print of the work instead. About 3 months later, I began feeling as if there was still something left unsaid, as if something about the work was incomplete. I was sitting in my studio just staring at the image when a realization suddenly hit me! The work was incomplete because I had not yet communicated the totality of my experience. The addiction, my addiction – was not the last word. It was only the beginning of the tale, and every story must have a middle and an ending. It was in that moment that the impetus for “Withdrawal” and “Hope” were confirmed deep within me. The final piece, “Hope” was completed sometime in June of 2014.

ADDICTION

The impetus for this image is based upon my own experiences and struggles with addiction. I wanted to capture and communicate many of the feelings which accompanied the addiction cycle within a single striking image that would communicate the sense of isolation, despair, and agony that one encounters deep within the cycle. The curled-up figure projects a feeling of dejection and hopelessness which seems to pervade every aspect of the image’s pictorial landscape. One could also associate the bowing of the figure with the notion of shame and guilt that is often present to synergistically drive the addictive process. The head and fingers are purposely skewed and misshapen to symbolize the skewing of reality and thought which the addict is often completely oblivious to during the course of addiction. In my experience there was often a sensation of burning, both literally and figuratively that would ebb and flow but could never be satiated or quenched. Here the flames can be seen as primarily surrounding the figure as they permeate deep within.

withdrawal copy

WITHDRAWAL  

I wanted to create a very stark contrast between each of the images but most especially when depicting the withdrawal experience. In this case, the central feature which most distinguishes “Withdrawal” from “Addiction” is the reorientation of the flames from without to within. The burning is no longer something mostly exterior that permeates the being – but is now emanating from deep within the figure itself. Notice that within this image (and the one preceding it) the reds, oranges, and yellows are indicative of an impure flame. This shrunken, emaciated figure peers out toward the viewer. There is an obvious sense of pain and suffering within that burns not only the body itself but also the soul and spirit which are symbolized by the figure’s tense posture and empty vacuous gaze.

I often work in a manner that tries to integrate certain aspects of the actual material into the image itself, and in this case, I make use of the yellow-orange-black bleed around the figure’s perimeter to give the impression that the very paper on which the image sits is burning as well. In the original you can see that the washes are somewhat gritty and that there are scratches and other imperfections upon the surface thus adding to the sensation of being consumed within the flames.

Hope copy

HOPE

As the final image within this triptych “Hope” is indicative of new beginnings, sanity, and the resilience that accompanies spiritual renewal. I purposefully wanted the mood of this piece to be drastically different from its predecessors because the journey of recovery is truly a rebirth in every possible way. The road of recovery is one that brings peace, a reconnection to reality, and begins the journey toward deeper self-knowledge and spiritual insight, if one is willing to work at cultivating a new way of living that accompanies sobriety.

The pastel gray and lavender are symbolic of the higher chakras, while the cool blues indicate higher chakras, healing, and the presence of a pure flame. The figure is now seated in a meditative posture and is facing the viewer. The flames once again surround and permeate the figure but in a drastically different manner than before. In this image, the figure and flames are somewhat luminescent due to layers of washes integrated with glaze in order to give the surface a textured, almost pearlescent effect.

If you would like to purchase a print click one of the titles below:

Addiction     Withdrawal        Hope

If you would like to purchase the original image, please contact me via email:

info@damonpowell.com