Big Fat Watercolor Project
As promised. Watercolor #1 is of kelp wrack. I think I'm going to have to iron it. I know I'm going to have to learn how to frame it.
I've been having a hard time painting this last winter, since Baba Yaga ate my time (cannibal witch!). After some struggle, I've decided to start back to oil painting slowly. No pressure for profundity. Just painting a picture. I photographed this at night with artificial light and it did not enjoy that. If you want to see its true colors, it's up on the wall at Pablito's in Friday Harbor, still quite wet.
Me, the Orchardist
This morning I went around the property, getting my shoes and trousers soaked with dew as I slogged through the knee-high grass. I took pictures of every apple tree, plus a close-up of its blossoms. If I remember, I'll do this in fall, too, when the apples are ripe. Who knows, maybe someday I'll have a useable record of what's on my land!
I took one of the pictures and made a quick watercolor for Mom. In the future, I might (might!) make more careful botanical drawings, with a blossom and an apple on a branch. Don't hold your breath.
Baba Yaga's Divination Cards
There are four suits with four cards in each.
Tent Caterpillar Suit: Tent caterpillars are voracious creatures which chew through alder and fruit tree leaves in outbursts about 10 years apart. The Tachinid fly lays its eggs in the caterpillar's head. When the caterpillar pupates, either a moth or a fly may emerge.
Tent Caterpillar - a voracious beginning
Tachinid Pupa - potential for two different outcomes
Moth - hidden
Tachinid Fly - control of impulses
Amanita muscaria is a poisonous and hallucinogenic mushroom that has captured human imagination. My German grandmother taught me a nursery song about a man with a red hat who lives in the forest. Caribou are known to eat the mushroom with impunity.
Amanita spores - a small start to a large result
Young mushroom - growing from debris
Old mushroom - poisonous unless you know how to handle it
Caribou eating mushroom - beneficial if you handle it right
Crows are curious, pesky, and intelligent. They represent wisdom and trickiness.
Crow eggs - a beautiful start
Standing crow - keen observation
Flying crow - flight
Crow skull - an end to suffering
Garry oaks are local to my region. They represent ancient strength.
Acorn - a lovely start to a huge endeavor
Oak leaf - the first flush of energy from the roots
Oak flowers - getting ready to produce fruit
Bare oak - completion
Telling a Fortune:
1. Keeping the issue or project in mind, choose three cards at random.
2. Lay them out in a circle, with the fourth spot, representing Death, empty. The places are child, mother, and crone, representing the beginning, middle, and outcome.
3. Use the key above to read the cards, starting with "child."
Baba Yaga, of course, cheats.
Baba Yaga's Moths
I trimmed and glued the feed-sack forest painting into the lid of Baba Yaga's suitcase. What to do for the box itself? I thought of forest debris, but the Grandmother carries that with her as a matter of course and does not need to deliberately glue it into her luggage. I rummaged around amongst the canvases that I don't think will sell, and found this nude, of a mother and dancer. I don't remember why I painted moths on her but seeing them now, it became clear that Baba Yaga, with her skulls and iron teeth and now the wool robe I knit her would obviously have moths. Obviously.
Yesterday I poked around online looking for origami moths to fold. I ended up with a design by Michael Fosse, and kept folding and folding all evening. The paper was from a rather distasteful book that I got from the free shelf at the Post Office. It will do better remade into moths than read.
This morning I used Damar varnish, which is a tree-based resin that yellows with age, to metamorphose the moths into a more permanent part of Baba Yaga's entourage. After painting the wings I sprinkled fish-scale pigment onto them. I am not sure what the next step is, but I do know that I have to keep moving the moths as they dry so they don't stick to the paper underneath.
Taxes loom. My friend and accountant Jill visited in the middle of this and I persuaded her to model Baba Yaga's robe.
In the next few weeks before the show, I think I need to stop having new ideas about this project and simply consolidate and polish what exists.
If I happen to have an idea from now on it, it will have to go into one of the other moldy rescue suitcases. Mother Holle, the German weather witch, might get her own luggage, or Daskiya, the Northwest Indian basket ogre.
Obviously, Baba Yaga is not going to use paper cards when there are dead animals lying around for making hide cards with. I cut some of the rotting hides into four-inch squares. They dried in various shapes, since I didn't use stretchers and since each section of the hide is a different thickness.
As preparation for making her card deck, I visited online divination sites and asked, "How can I become a better artist?" My relation to the occult is as a skeptic. Despite not "believing" that the divination methods are speaking personally to me, and further, despite not believing that the universe aligns in a way that speaks to me, I DO believe, quite strongly, that my brain is a pattern-making device. It will find patterns in just about anything. As soon as divination results are given to me, I will begin storytelling. Since the raw materials of storytelling in my mind are unique to me, I will tell a story that is meaningful to me. Here is a demonstration of that:
Using the i Ching, the answer was 60, or "One who is all over the map is no less lost than one without a map."
Using the Tarot, the answer was Past: Six of Swords (I was a protector and made a tactical retreat) / Present: The Emperor (to gain control, I must take responsibility and use logic to review and plan a strategy) / Future: Four of Swords (Another retreat is in order, but since the Six of Swords was also drawn, there might be an actual journey that will bring peace of mind).
Using rune sticks, the answer was Present: Laguz-fertility / Azsuz-spiritual connection to the universe, reason / Strengths: Sowilo-power and strength / Past: Uruz-discord and dissociation from power / Future: Isa-stagnation / Final Outcome: Jera-positive cycles, harvest.
Using geomancy, the answer was: judge: Coniunctio-fertility / Witness #1-Cauda draconis-bad luck / Witness #2-Laetitia-joy Since I have a good judge and one bad and one good witness, the outcome depends on how I work the situation, instead of being certainly good or certainly bad.
All right. The story I now tell myself about these four diviniations is that I was obstructed from being a good artist in the past, but at present I am artistically fertile (though perhaps TOO fertile, being all over the map). This is best taken advantage of by crafting a logical plan that includes my strengths. I should listen to my connection with the universe. I should expect a period of bad luck and stagnation, but in the end, there will be joy and harvest.
Now, my question is, how would I form a set of divination devices that might work for Baba Yaga? They should be based on plants and animals, and they should include both birth and death. Since she is an old lady (a very old one!), wisdom, maturity, and decay should be emphasized over friskiness, charm, or physical power.
I decided on groupings of four, since there are four seasons in a year. The first one includes 1. Crow Eggs, 2. Standing Crow, 3. Flying Crow, 4. Crow Skull. Perhaps in the future I'll work out a set of meanings for these, but for now, the cards themselves will be the meaning.
The second grouping of four is 1. Tent Caterpillar larvae, 2 Tent caterpillar moth, 3. Tachinid Pupa, and 4. Tachinid Fly. The tent caterpillars come in swarms, and are predated on by tachinids, which lay eggs on the caterpillars' heads. I'm pretty sure they hatch inside the pupas, where they eat their hosts, and then the pupa is formed inside the host pupa.
I had a slinky black dress and rhinestones. That made all the difference. And made a sale!!! It was one of the little expressionistic pieces that I made in the last month (the first one below).
I've been working on putting more detail into my paintings.
Mom always admired the Chinese and Japanese masters, who could, with a single stroke of the brush, express so much.
My grandfather loved masculine blocks of color, sometimes heavily outlined in black.
It's time, though, to listen to my own voice, which gives value to each little bit of detail. I love pennies and twigs and thread, wrens and sand and beads.