Tag Archives: Art

A picture is worth 1000 words, maybe more

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The ancient Minoans were a literate society but we can’t read what they wrote. Their script, Linear A, has yet to be deciphered. So how on earth can we tell how they practiced their religion? We may not have words, but we sure have a lot of pictures.

The Minoans were consummate artists. Their art style was more naturalistic and softer than the art of their contemporaries in Egypt and Mesopotamia. One of their favorite painting methods was the fresco: The artist paints the picture directly onto wet plaster on a wall or other surface, so when the plaster dries, the paint is locked into it. Frescoes are incredibly durable, which is a good thing, because most of the Minoan ones are nearly 4000 years old!

The image at the top of this post is the Sacred Grove fresco. It’s a small piece (usually labeled as a miniature) that was found in the temple complex at Knossos. And it depicts, of all things, a ritual being performed before a large audience on the west plaza at Knossos. Those stone sidewalks you can see angling behind the priestesses? They’re still there – you can walk on them today. It’s from artwork like this that we know the Minoans put on large public rituals, possibly mystery plays, for the public in addition to the private ceremonies they conducted within the walls of the temple complex. Unfortunately, we don’t know for certain what the ritual in the Sacred Grove fresco involved beyond what we can see in the picture. But we have other sources for even more detail, like this one:

This is the Hagia Triada sarcophagus, a rectangular box that was used for burial in late Minoan times. What’s so amazing about it is that Minoan funeral activities were painted on the sides. So we know all kinds of things about this aspect of Minoan spirituality: what kinds of offerings and sacrifices were made, what the priesthood wore, how the musicians accompanied the activities. That’s a lot of information from a painted box.

From Akrotiri, a Minoan city on the island of Thera (modern name = Santorini) we have a bunch of frescoes that show the puberty coming-of-age rites for both girls and boys. Here are some of the more famous ones:

We can see the kinds of symbols and objects that were important in these rites: saffron (picking it and offering it to the goddess), the goddess with her attendant monkey and griffin. Other frescoes from this same building show that blood was an important aspect of the girls’ rites (obviously) and some kind of ritual bathing was apparently important for the boys’ rites.

So even though we can’t read what the Minoans wrote (yet – I refuse to give up hope), we still know an awful lot about how they practiced their religion. When I look at these beautiful frescoes, I feel like I could reach through and touch the living, breathing people. Maybe that’s what the Minoan artists intended, to keep their culture alive forever.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

Jacqui Lovesey – Artist and Illustrator

Our featured artist this month is Jacqui Lovesey, whose work features witches (of all sizes), magical hares and an enchanting, animistic sort of reality

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Happy sun-turns! A beautiful new addition to the family….. 🙂 # family

A post shared by Jacqui Lovesey (@jacquilovesey) on

I have been working as a self-employed artist for the last thirty years in many different media.  I am not ‘formally’ trained, but have drawn and painted for as far back as I can remember, starting as a child, keenly sketching birds, animals, flowers and insects… My father was passionate on nature and instilled in me that same  lifelong love of the natural world from an early age.  However, having been brought up on a 1970s estate, I also longed to grow up, leave home and find somewhere in the contemplative quiet of the countryside in which to live and work.

And so my travels began…leading quite a gypsy life, moving many times but always finding each place had something new and inspiring to offer, an excitement I was keen to pass down to the younger members of the family.

But that’s not to say that it’s all been idyllic! Working as an artist has its ups and downs, mostly the making-ends-meet part, the main, familiar problem for most self-employed creative folk!  However, for me, the ‘ups’ easily outweigh the ‘downs’. Most importantly, you’re more or less continual master of your own destiny – who knows what amazing project or idea is just around the corner?

Then there’s the ‘motivation’ question I’m often asked – where do I get if from? I always reply bills are a pretty-good motivator – and that there are never enough hours in the day!

At present I am illustrating the Matlock the Hare trilogy of books with my husband Phil, a writer.  It’s been a four-year project of blind faith and dedication, only made possible with the support and loyalty of our many ‘Saztaculous Matlock folk’ who keep us going by buying the artwork, supporting our kickstarter projects and providing endless valuable enthusiasm and encouragement.  The books feature a green-robed majickal-hare who lives high in the Derbyshire Peaks, and have been a joy to illustrate, as I can create the images totally from my imagination – always fun!  Phil and I work well together, neither of us getting in the way of the other, as we have own roles within it. Besides, I’m dyslexic, and he can barely hold a paintbrush without breaking it, so it’s probably better we stick to our own skills!

With two feature-length novels in the trilogy already published, and the third and final instalment due out in October this year, it will soon will be time to put down the brush and go out blinking into the light with our  ‘baby’  and say to the world, “Hey! Look what we’ve done. Now you can all share this too!”  As an artist this is always the hardest part, as we’re almost always happiest creating, not promoting, and this awkward transitional time leaves you wanting to pid-pad in the other direction entirely. However, it’s  a vitally important part of the process and putting on a coat of creative armour to face any critics and naysayers is a given. However, at the end of the even’up you can always go to bed knowing that, if nothing else, your brush and pen are already waiting for you to take them up again all too soon!

Who knows what’s next? That’s always the most exciting part!

Happy hoppy Easter all!!!🐇🐣🐇 #easter #eastersunday #hare #art

A post shared by Jacqui Lovesey (@jacquilovesey) on

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You can see more of Jacqui’s work and discover more about the ‘saztaculous’ world of Matlock the Hare at www.matlockthehare.com

Or, please follow her Instagram account for latest progress on her current artworks, exhibitions and forthcoming publication days at

https://www.instagram.com/jacquilovesey/

 

Poverty as an art form

Here in the UK tax on goods is about to go up, and duty on fuel has risen as well. Duty on fuel puts up the price of pretty much everything, and the VAT hike will make that even more pronounced. At the same time wages are being frozen. People are going to have a lot less money to play with, and for many that’s going to be a frightening prospect. I’m going to intersperse cheap living blogs with my other content. Living cheaply often also means living greener.

Those thrown into poverty for the first time in their lives are often disorientated and upset, by the loss of insulation money brings, the loss of choice and the huge insecurity. Posts written by a friend who has recently been forced onto benefits reminded me of this. The fear of poverty makes the experience of it worse.

I didn’t grow up with a great deal of money. For various reasons I’ve lived in austerity for all of my adult life. (Long story, for another day.) I can say with absolute confidence that not having much money to play with does not automatically equate to misery, degradation and abysmal quality of life. It limits you, certainly. But it’s also a great educator. You have to prioritise carefully, work out what is essential and what isn’t. We’re taught to want far more than we need in a culture that is very much about making us buy stuff. Stepping away from that can be liberating, and if you go into it with a view to being freed from the tyranny of objects, then it becomes an entirely different process.

Attitude is in fact key. How you relate to tightening the belt will inform how you experience it. Go in anticipating misery and you’ll find it. If you can relate to it as a creative challenge, then it’s far less painful. Look back at the make do and mend attitude of the second world war. Take it as an opportunity to reduce waste – which is fantastically green. Reducing waste saves money, but you don’t have to relate to it as some kind of desperation, it’s you doing your bit to help save the planet.

Going green to save money – walking rather than taking the car, doesn’t have to look like poverty to anyone else. Cycle to work rather than take the train? It’s part of your new, healthier lifestyle choice. And at the same time while you’re walking and cycling to get about, you don’t need that gym membership, and on it goes. You can be green and healthy, keep your dignity and lighten the load on your wallet all in one go.

By the looks of it, the way things are going most of us are going to have to figure out how to get by with a lot less. Coming to that as bards, druids and pagans, we should accept the possibilities it brings us rather than letting what we can’t change make us unhappy. Some things cannot be fought to good effect, and the pain dished out by governments is all too often on that list. But, going in with the intention of living well, greenly, healthily and on a tighter budget is a good place to start. There is an art to being poor without being miserable. It comes from releasing the need to own, letting go of desires to be fashionable and up to date, and embracing a quieter, more down to earth lifestyle, one that is in many ways far more compatible with paganism than affluent consumerism is.

Financial poverty is not any other kind of poverty. There are a great many other ways in which we can be rich indeed, and these are, I find, far more rewarding.

Art and Craft Politics

If it has a use, it is a craft item. If it doesn’t, it’s art.

This is a definition that holds up in high school art classes, galleries, auction houses and all kinds of other places too. I once held an ashtray made by Picasso. Had it been a tiny painting, it would have been under lock and key, and hugely valuable, but an ashtray isn’t art. It was, however, beautiful.

Now, take a moment and consider these questions. Who produces art? Who makes craft items? Who chooses what to spend the money on?

Art is made to be sold to an art market. That’s its sole purpose. At the top end, it’s made to be sold to galleries, companies, wealthy individuals, or it is commissioned for public spaces. Its function is to be decorative, impressive, inspiring, and/or to be a show of wealth and power. The vast majority of famous artists are and were men. There’s an aura of exclusivity about Art, and most of us ‘ordinary’ people couldn’t afford to own any. We buy the poster versions.

Craft items are made to be used. We’re talking Shaker boxes, painted pots, baskets, blankets, rugs, clothing, pottery, decorated furniture… the fine art of using ordinary materials to make your home beautiful. Crafts belong very much to poorer people, to indigenous people, folk traditions. Crafts are often the domain of women.

Every now and then some group of indigenous people, or a folk movement (Shakers for example) become unexpectedly sexy and then collectors want a piece of it, but on the whole, things made for use are treated as secondary to things made purely for decoration. I do not believe this has anything to do with skill, or quality of work (I’ve been in modern art galleries….) and everything to do with class and gender politics.

There is an important green issue to raise here too. Things that are made purely to be things, art for art’s sake is, from a certain perspective, just stuff and clutter. And on the flip side, just because a thing has a function, that’s no excuse for making it ugly and depressing. (Can I mention car parks?) There’s so much fair traded house clutter out there, and that seems to defeat the object of green living in so many ways. Beautiful things made to serve a purpose, are inherently useful and lovely to live with. We have finite resources. Many of us have finite spending power as well, and finite amounts of space to put things on and in. Given the choice, I’d rather have a thing that is both beautiful and useful.

Lost Bards and Dreamers Art

I have a poetry collection just come out at Alpheratz Press. It’s very druidic, inspired by nature, the seasons, ritual, and philosophy. Much of it was written with the intention of being able to use it in rituals. So, I shall be talking about it over the coming days. I thought I’d start with the cover art.

When I first considered putting together a collection, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find a publisher, and thought about self publishing. Tom offered to do me a cover (because he is very lovely) and we went from there. Other opportunities arose, and Alpheratz were very happy indeed to get a Tom Brown cover, so that worked well.

The image on the cover has a longer history than just this book, however. More than a year ago, I’d talked with Tom about the possibility of him designing a tattoo for me. At some point I’ll get that sorted. I want a purple poppy on my hip. Poppy seed was traditionally used to make sleeping potions, and of course opium induces strange dreams and hallucinations. It’s a flower with considerable personal significance. Thinking about Tom’s poppy sketches, I thought one of those would make a lovely cover for my poems, and asked if I could do that.

Tom, being both incredibly generous and something of a perfectionist, was not at all keen on the idea of me using the poppy sketch for my cover, and insisted on doing a fresh image. He was familiar with the poems, because I’d read most of them to him while I was putting them together. The background is full of lovely details – trees, standing stone and water. I love the colours, they’re so rich and vibrant.

 I’ve been blessed with some fine cover art over the years. Tom’s work on Hunting the Egret is gorgeous, and the artist I had for The Shifting Heart was awesome. Dawne at loveyoudivine does excellent work with photographs, I’ve had some very stylish covers from her over the years. But even so, there isn’t another cover on a book of mine that comes close to this one. Tom has excelled himself. I’m looking forward to having the original in the house, its destined for a frame and some wallspace.

I am blessed, having such a talented partner. He understands what I do, and being a fellow druid had an intuitive grasp of what was needed, artwise. I am going to try and arrange print versions of the cover art, and will make it known once that’s sorted out.

May: Pagan Artist of the Month : Russelle Westbrook

Interview by Brandi Auset

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Artist Russelle Westbrook of California is creating beautiful pieces of feminine art. Her website “The Forgotten Goddesses”  is a splendor of color, imagination, and magick. ___________________________________________________________________

Are you Pagan? Do those beliefs inspire your fabulous art?

R: First, thank you for your kind words, they are greatly appreciated. I try never to label myself in any way.  I have always been interested in the whole of humanity: our diversities, our moral concepts and compasses, and how we define our senses of personal integrity.

When did you first discover your talent?

R: Pretty much everyone in my family has been artistically inclined as it runs in our genes. I discovered my own personal voice in 2004 when I started painting for myself instead of painting for others. I discovered that in being true to my own inner voice – others responded.

What is the process behind most of your art? What mediums do you use?

R: Aside from the fantasy portraits that I do, I am not sure that I have a “process” anymore.  Since I paint for myself, I may be inspired by a suggestion from a friend, a concept (such as “The Scared Heart”), or a simple blank white canvas.  A sunny day will inspire me to take my paints outside and start painting.  If there is anything that defines me, it is my attention to the eyes, the “windows of the soul”.  I start there first, and if I don’t get what I want I scrap the canvas.  I work outwards from the eyes, and most of the time finishing the rest of the painting is the process.  As for my medium, it’s oils.

Your work focuses on women, goddess, and the Divine Feminine. How do you feel your subject matter reflects/affects society?

R: I know my work has a profound affect on women for which I am incredibly grateful. As mentioned, women really respond on an emotional level to my work and are not at all put off by the wounds and the scars. Women seem to instinctively understand that I am painting from the inside out. As a woman living in a Patriarchal society, I am fascinated by the way most women, myself included, subjugate themselves without even knowing it, in almost all avenues of their lives, but especially in regards to their relationships. I am also fascinated by the differences in how women and men deal with matters of the heart. Grief. Anger. Wounding, past and present. Of interest, is that my male friends appreciate the visual imagery in my work almost exclusively, but are most often puzzled and/or frightened by the wounds. These differences fascinate me also.

What artists and or musicians–and songs– if any, inspire you and why?

R: The visual artists that inspire and guide me most are the Pre-Raphaelites, my favorite being William Holman Hunt.  I also enjoy, and look for guidance, in the works of Mark Ryden and Kinuko Craft.  I have all my old fairy tale books and re-read them regularly. I also look to them for reference.  Writers give me sustenance and inspiration as well.  I have about two thousand books and re-read them all the time.

If the world was created in the image of your imagination, what would it be like when we woke up tomorrow and seen it with new eyes?

R: A world where everyone treated every living thing as they would themselves be treated.

If someone would like to commission your talent, where can they find you? What are you open for—Book covers, Graphic Novels… what?

R: I would love to do book covers, tarot cards, graphic novels, a line of furniture, woman oriented home / sanctuary accessories, a women’s clothing line, children’s books…..

Any new projects in the future or plans?

R: I am currently working on several fantasy portraits, a “Hel”, a “Lilith”, and “The Snow Queen”.  I am also currently working on a series of paintings dealing with Mary and “The Sacred Heart”.  I collect old lithographs of Mary with the Sacred Heart, mostly European, and am fascinated they the image of the heart with the flames and the sword passing through.  Purity and Sacrilege all in one image.  I am always fascinated by dichotomy – and how we manage to live with it.

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You can find Russelle Westbrook’s work on her website http://www.theforgottengoddess.com. All her prints are available to order, and Ms. Westbrook also works on commission in addition to helping children find their artistic talents.

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See more articles by Brandi Auset

Muses

The notion of muses comes to us from the ancient Greeks. For them, the muses were nine beautiful women who inspired (male) artists, writers, poets, playwrights and so forth, enabling their creativity. For a long time, Inspiration was female and otherworldly, while Artists were human males. In this context, human females do not get to be Artists, at best they are artisans. Fortunately the world has moved on!

 Many writers talk about ‘their muse’ – it’s a word I see used a great deal in blog posts and on egroups. For some, the muse has a definite personality, gender, style etc. For others is a vague, amorphous thing, the word expressing a mysterious, unpredictable source of creativity. I have no idea how many creative folk style their muse as a distinct, separate and supernatural entity, how many use the word metaphorically, and how many have other takes. (Please do leave a comment about how it is for you!)

Is the source of your inspiration separate from you, or do you see it as inherent within yourself? This is a vitally important question to explore for understanding the underpinnings of your own creativity. How do your source inspiration? Is it random neurones firing in your brain? Is it a process you consciously go through? Is it mysterious and beyond your control? Does inspiration come to you from divine sources, from nature, a muse, or something else? Is it your own voice you hear when you are creating, or are you channelling something? I suspect there are different answers for everyone, and that’s fine. The important thing is to find out what the answer is for you.

Why? Because whatever your muse is, you are in relationship with it, and that’s a  two sided thing. Even if you feel your inspiration comes from inside you, that’s not a resource you can draw on infinitely without giving anything back. There must be balance, reciprocation and honour. I’m going to talk in more detail in the next blog about nourishing your inspiration but for now, let’s focus on the muse.

Taking the broadest definition, a muse is something that opens you to inspiration. The world around us is full of ideas, stories, experiences, beauty and wonders. There is so much to draw on, and yet many people are, creatively, in famine not feast. Without the means to be open to what is there, it’s very hard to draw on the richness that might nourish us. So, the first step is to find the key, or keys to your own creativity.

Sometimes an idea will just pop into your head. That won’t be as random an event as it first looked. Something will have triggered it. When you have a good idea (about anything) try and spot what sparked it. Had you just been for a walk? Were you taking some quiet time? Had you just read a good book or were you in the middle of a philosophical debate with a friend? Watch for the patterns. If an activity seems to help, repeat it. Try variations on it. This is an ongoing process, you have to do it all the time, and work with it if you want to bring as much inspiration as possible into your life. I find walking is really good. It removes stress, clears my head, and being in the countryside gives me good views, open sky and a lightness of heart that opens the way to good creativity. I also find sharing ideas with my partner Tom and playing them out between us makes me more creative, and we feed on each other’s vision. A good book, a long soak in the bath – these things all work for me. Most people will find there are plenty of things that help them too.

Find your muse, in whatever form it takes, and spend time with it. Then, when the ideas pop into your head, give them time. Explore them, play with them, let them sprout, mutate, expand and contract. If you ignore your creativity, and discard wild ideas that come to you, then you cut off your own source of inspiration. Listen to the muse when it speaks to you, and it will keep talking.