Friday, April 18, 2014

The Temperance Card

I am very honored to be included in the 78 tarot project.  This is a global project that includes 78 artists, each making one tarot card for a collaborative deck.  My card is the major card "Temperance".  I thought I would briefly write a little about my process and why I chose the symbolism I did for the card.
First I sketched this out on paper with my first ideas for the work.

I wanted to include some of the traditional symbols of the Temperance card, but change them up a little.  Usually the card pictures an angel, often thought to be the Archangel Gabriel or an androgynous being, holding two cups and pouring water both out of and into each cup at once as if he is maintaining a delicate balance of the water (which is usually symbolic of both emotions and spiritual essence).  Gabriel stands with one foot on the earth and one foot in the water to also symbolize that delicate balance between our emotions and being grounded, or between the spiritual and the material worlds.
For my card I still chose to draw an angel, possibly Gabriel.  I have chosen to represent the two forces that need to be balanced as swans as swans are an animal that live both on the land and water.  For this reason swans are a strong symbol used in a lot of ancient myth the world over.  They were believed to travel across the veil into the Otherworld and can often lead people from this material world into the Otherworld, or spirit world.  One of my swans is painted black and stands in the water, the other is white and stands upon the earth.  The black swan represents the material world and yet stands upon the water of spirit.  The white swan represents the spirit world, and yet stands upon the material.  So in a sense I wanted to continually mix up these two symbols showing their need for balance or temperance, just as the water has to be continually balanced in the traditional card.
The swans are also standing in a defensive pose as if they might attack one another.  This is showing how these two forces are always at odds with one another and again our need for balance.  The triangle on her chest is a traditional symbol and represents the feminine energies being protected by natural law.
I changed up a few things from my sketch into the final painting, which was done in soft pastel and colored pencil.  Here is the final card:

The egg shape above the triangle is representative of the ancient Orphic Egg or Cosmic egg.  In ancient Greek myth the first hermaphroditic being hatched from the cosmic egg. The Temperance card is about bringing balance, patience, and moderation into your life.  The cosmic egg represents our dreams protected delicately at our heart, and shows the need to protect it, and to balance it in the middle of those warring energies of spirit and material needs, so that we can manifest those dreams when it is time.

Those are the main symbols in the card.  I had a lot of fun manifesting it.  Please be sure to check out the 78 Tarot project to see all the cards and learn about their creation.

The Temperance card original painting is also currently available.  Please contact me at if interested in purchasing.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Who is Melusine?

What I am currently working on is a painting of Melusine.  I have been wanting to paint her for a long time and am really excited to finally do so.  So who was or is Melusine?  Quite simply she was an extremely popular legend in Medieval times.  Her myth was popular throughout Europe from Scotland, to Avalon (though it is suppose to be a mythical place), to France.  Here is my shortened and quick synopsis of what Wikipedia says:

Melusine is a figure of  European legend, a feminine spirit of fresh waters in sacred springs and rivers.
She is usually depicted as a woman who is a serpent or fish from the waist down.  She is also sometimes illustrated with wings and a tail, sometimes two tails.  

During the Crusades Elynas, the King of Albany (Scotland) went hunting one day and came across a beautiful lady in the forest. She was Pressyne, mother of Melusine. He persuaded her to marry him but she agreed, only on the promise — for there is often a hard and fatal condition attached to any pairing of faerie and mortal — that he must not enter her chamber when she birthed or bathed her children. She gave birth to triplets. When he violated this taboo, Pressyne left the kingdom, together with her three daughters, and traveled to the lost Isle of  Avalon.

The three girls — Melusine, Melior, and Palatyne — grew up in Avalon. On their fifteenth birthday, Melusine, the eldest, asked why they had been taken to Avalon. Upon hearing of their father's broken promise, Melusine sought revenge. She and her sisters captured Elynas and locked him, with his riches, in a mountain. Pressyne became enraged when she learned what the girls had done, and punished them for their disrespect to their father. Melusine was condemned to take the form of a serpent from the waist down every Saturday. In other stories, she takes on the form of a mermaid.

Raymond of Poitou came across Melusine in a forest of Coulombiers in France, and proposed marriage. Just as her mother had done, she laid a condition, that he must never enter her chamber on a Saturday. He broke the promise and saw her in the form of a part-woman part-serpent. She forgave him. When during a disagreement, he called her a "serpent" in front of his court, she assumed the form of a dragon, (sometimes a it is said a swan) provided him with two magic rings, and flew off, never to return.

To me Melusine is the ultimate "Animal Bride".  I am super intrigued by the Animal Bride myth in mythology and often my work is of these faerie women.  These are the stories of the swan maidens, the selkies, mermaids, etc.  They are in almost all myth the world over.  They are tales of human men that marry a faerie woman who is some sort of animal, but turns into a beautiful looking human woman when the man captures her and brings her into our world to marry her.

There is so much good symbolism in the Animal Bride myth.  Mainly I think it represents our longing for an intimacy with nature, but how we usually try to possess and control her.  The Animal Bride myth always ends with the faerie woman returning to the wild from which she came, as she can never be possessed by man.

I am guessing these tales began popping up as soon as humans began creating civilizations.  As we moved out of the forests and became increasingly dispossessed from nature, so began our longing to return to her.  I think Melusine is the ultimate Animal Bride because she combines just about all the myths into one.  She is a serpent, swan, dragon, mermaid of sorts.  Her tale stretches across Europe and is not concentrated in one place.  She is connected to springs and bodies of fresh water as these are so representative of our subconscious selves that are always there whispering secrets we can not hear like bubbling brooks.

So here are a couple of wip pics of my Melusine.

The above shot is of the acrylic underpainting of Melusine.  I added a serpent and a swan in a sort of oroboros design (one of my favorite symbols).  They represent her two tails, or her two natures, earthly and spiritual.  

This is a shot of her after a layer of oil.  I still have more detailing to do, but you get an idea of what she will look like.

One thing I am noticing in my own art, and in a lot of contemporary art, is that my women are growing more child-like or innocent looking.  For me the underlying message in all my works has always had something to do with our longing for that connection with nature that is slowly slipping away from us.  I think the prevalence of these fragile, innocent women we are seeing so much in art these days has to do with that too. The more entrenched we get in this technological world, the more we long for a simpler time. We are longing for a more innocent time. We stare at our computer screens all day long and the stress of this technological filled lifestyle often makes us feel like robots, not alive.  We long to be wild.   We all have memories of being children, running in the woods.  Somehow that seems like lifetimes away now, why can't we have that again?

Okay, enough writing for to finish my Melusine.  

Friday, July 26, 2013

Bach Flower Series: Clematis

I haven't wrote in this blog in so long I am not sure I remember how it works.  I recently started a little series loosely based on the Bach Flower remedies.  I decided that these needed a little writing to go with them to explain each remedy I do, so I am back on the ol' blog.  I plan to do as many of these as I feel drawn to do and then write about the essence here after I am done.
First I should explain what the Bach Flower remedies are. Bach flower remedies were introduced in the 1930s by Edward Bach, M.D., a British physician, who developed what he called a "theory of types" by which he divided people into seven groups based on their reactions to illness. He listed these types as fear, uncertainty, loneliness, oversensitivity, lack of interest in present circumstances, despondency, and over-concern for others. Dr. Bach believed that negative moods and emotions were responsible for the breakdown in health that leads to illness and determined that treatment had to address patients' emotional and mental states. He devised 38 wild flower essences, or remedies, for treatment for these negative moods and emotions.   The first one I completed was "Clematis".

2013  Tammy Mae Moon

Clematis relates to the soul potential of creative idealism.  In the negative Clematis state a person tends to withdraw a lot into their own imagination.  Many creative types can use a little Clematis from time to time. Creative people tend to be people that are easily in touch with their imagination.  Sometimes though that inner world can be more attractive to us than the "real world".  We have our heads too much in the clouds and can't get grounded.  Clematis helps alleviate the spaciness and helps us bring our creativity to physical realization.  It is a good remedy to take when you are feeling creatively blocked.

I added the dragonflies in this one as a strong symbol for integrating the "Otherworld/Inner World" with our outer world.  The dragonfly inhabits two realms: air and water and teaches us how to walk in both worlds.

If you fall into the Clematis state some, you are probably a "walker between the worlds".  Try taking a little of this essence to help you stay grounded and transform all of that unused creative potential into physical form (Painting, weaving, writing, etc.).

*Most of my info on Bach Flowers has been taken from the book "Bach Flower Therapy; Theory and Practice" by Mechthild Scheffer.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Medea" Work in Progress

I seem to have forgotten that I have a blog.  Thought I would update you all with a little work in progress I am currently working on.  It is only 12x12 inches so a fairly quick work for me.  It is Medea, the villain witch of Euripides' play.  I do love those enchantresses with a bad rep.

Here is the beginning sketch done in graphite on a Ampersand artist panel.

I plan for there to be roses and a moth surrounding her.  I think the moth will be there to symbolize death and transformation.

After I have the sketch drawn I have to seal it.  For this work I used clear gesso.  After it dried it gave the work a really nice surface that the paint and I both really loved.

The next step is deciding on an underpainting color.  Doing soft pastels for many years I discovered I really hate to start with a white surface.  Pastel paper is often toned to a color that helps to build up skin tones in the work.  I try to paint the work a color that will help me build the skin tone I am shooting for.  Lately I have been using a lot of crimson red tones to start with.  For this one I want her skin pale, almost frosty.  I decided to start with a sea green color.

You can barely see it in the pic, but it is a nice greyish sea green.  I remember reading an artist once saying that there is a lot of grey in human skin color, but our eyes just don't really register it.  Putting little hints of grey in there can help you achieve a more realistic skin tone.

Next I play with some drips and background fun.  I decide to go with two of my favorite colors here, sea green/or turquoise and yellow ochre.  Which will both look great with the red roses I add later.

Now to go at that skin tone.  I never have a set formula for skin tone.  I usually use some combo of white, yellow ochre, unbleached titanium white, some kind of pinky orange.  I basically just start slapping colors down and slowly add more or less of one or the other depending on what I want to achieve.  This happens in many layers.  Here is the first one:

She is a little too pink at this stage, but I like the transculent feel, which is what I am going for.  I am really liking the sea green shadow areas too.  Still need to work on her nose and mouth....not quite right.

This one was a bad pic...but I am laying on more skin tone, getting it closer to where I want.  I also have her nose looking better.  I started adding the roses also.

This last pic is where she is right now.  I am going to go to town on that moth and the roses now, but I am pretty happy with her face at this point, just needs a little cleaning up....and the hair needs detailed.  Should be done with her soon though.  Hope you like her.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Nimue", a white hart, and a goat?

16x20 acrylic on masonite
Tammy Mae Moon

I finally got to finish this up this week.  I have been working on it in spurts for weeks now.  My original plan was to paint Nimue, one of the names for the Lady of the Lake, and a white hart.  While I was working on her a goat appeared, and I really had no idea why at the time.  It wasn't until I really started to think about the symbolism of the goat that it hit me why he was there.  I figured I had better do some "splaining".

First, Nimue is a goddess that has always intrigued me.  We know that she was one of the ladies of the lake, and that she was an enchantress.  Supposedly she used her feminine ways to seduce the great wizard Merlin into teaching her all of his magic, then she used this magic to entrap him in a tower, or in some stories a hawthorn tree.  Some of you may remember one of my older works from 2009 "Merlin and Nimue":

 You can imagine how the Patriarchy loved this tale of an evil temptress destroying the powers of the greatest wizard.  One who really studies the writings of the courtly love era, the Camelot myths, certainly will understand the story differently though.   The writers of these Courtly love tales believed that all women were to be honored as the goddess, and it was through the love of the goddess that man transcended this world and became immortal.
Merlin would have been able to predict his own death, and yet he willingly hung out with Nimue. In one tale Nimue changes him into a hawthorn tree. The hawthorn tree to the ancient Celts was the symbol for the chalice itself (the Holy Grail). It held the divine secrets of everlasting life. Therefore Merlin became one with those divine secrets by way of Nimue (the goddess).

Now the white hart appears a lot in Camelot myths too.  Usually it is the hunt for the white hart that leads the knights into the forest, or the Otherworld.  It represents the legendary beast of the chase and represents both heavenly and earthly love and is similar to the symbol of the unicorn in medieval lore.  It represents innocence, and the goddess of the land.  It leads you into the Otherworld where you will be forever changed.

The goat has been a strong symbol through out history.  It was sacrificed routinely by ancient cultures so it represents sacrifice.  But it is also represented by strong virile, wild male gods like Pan.  Of course we have all used the phrase "horny old goat".  Goats represent that wild, sexual, masculine energy that drives the world to procreate.

So these two animals represent two facets of Nimue.  That innocent, pure feminine goddess of the land, and that wild, evil, sexual temptress that she has become and the goat represents the sacrifice of the land.  In between these two animals is a healthy large heart.  The heart of the goddess being fed by opposites.

So there is some of my thoughts on this one, at least the ones I can form somewhat coherently.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cush show in CA and some other stuff :)

I have been feeling so non creative for about 2 weeks now.  I haven't painted much at all, and can't seem to finish the stuff I start.  Worst of all I think I have already hit my breaking point with the political season.  Facebook has sucked me in and I have been shooting my mouth off left and right.  This is never really a good idea.  I think the last couple of weeks with the bills being proposed in every other state to limit women's health has been the tipping point for me.  I will try not to go off on politics here, but I am so tired of religious extremists targeting women all over the world.  I am just now getting to the point where I realize babbling on Facebook is not going to change this.  As an artist though, I have a public platform...even if it is small.  I need to paint my feelings into my art.  I just, as of yet, have never been able to produce something that powerful that makes people even a little uncomfortable.  I am a lover of beauty and tend to have that as my theme in my work.  I am wondering though if this little lack of creativity and pissed off political phase I am in will help me take my work to a new level of social awareness that I would love for it to go into.  We shall see I suppose.
What is a little different now with this dry spell I am in is that I do the Totem Spirit drawings.  These are commissioned work, and commissions can not always wait until your creative urge comes back.
I have been working on a larger Spirit totem painting for a client.  In this work I am painting her actual face to go with the totem animals and symbols.  This kind of work is always a little harder on me because I get a lot more nit picky.  Plus I am trying real hard to paint on it when I have a clear mind that is not full of political garbage.  It has been slow going, but it is turning out really nicely.
I am super excited about the opening of the inner portrait show at the end of this month in Beverly Hills.  Here is the flyer for the event.  I can't believe how many of my favorite women artists I will be sharing gallery space with!

If you are lucky enough to live near Beverly Hills, please attend the show and send me some pics...I can't make it out there unfortunately.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A mother or an artist first?

Have you seen the movie "Who Does She Think She Is?"?  It is really inspiring, especially if you are an artist and a mother.  Actually every woman should see it because it touches on something for all of us as women.
I became an artist after I had kids.  I thought it would be the perfect way to stay at home with my children and bring in some income for my family.  I thought it would be easy....haha.  What soon happened was I uncovered my deepest desire was this need to create.  Images flood my head constantly and I needed to get them out.  I did not know how much this was a part of me until after I had my children.  In my twenties I was pretty aimless.  I was happy waiting tables to make money to go out and see live music and drink a pint or two of Guinness.  I didn't have the depth and wisdom I own now, and I doubt my artwork would have held much meaning then.
I can't say I am not more than a little jealous of female artists in their twenties who are often single, but even when they are not they do not have kids.  I imagine them locked in their studios all day painting away with no one tugging on their shirt sleeve asking when dinner is going to be ready.  I guess it is just my fate that I didn't discover this desire to be an artist until late, but also I had another desire that hit me in my mid twenties....I wanted to have a baby.
I had my first child at 27, and my second at 30.  I didn't start painting until my youngest was about 2, so only about 5 years ago.  I remember when she was 2 I was working in soft pastels.  She always wanted to (and still does) draw with me while I was working.  I set up a little easel for her in my studio next to mine.  I remember once I wasn't looking and she decided to add a bunch of scribbles with a sharpie to a beautiful angel with a dove I just completed.  I think that was the first moment I realized I had a conflict within me.  What was more important to me, my children or my art.
Now that may sound crazy and selfish.  Of course my children mean the world to me, they mean everything to me.....and yet, they are not all of me.  They actually do not define me as much as my art does.  I have known a lot of my mom friends that do define themselves by their children.  I have watched them deal with depression as their children grow and they begin to realize they need another definition or they are going to disappear.
So I have this art, and yet I struggle constantly with guilt.  Am I ignoring my kids to paint?  Yes, and no.  They get to see a woman following her deepest desire.  They get to see a woman who will give up so many things to follow her dream.  And also, they get to see me struggle inside when they ask me to play while I am in the middle of a painting.....and just as many times as I say "not right now", they hear "okay".  I do give up painting a lot for them, but I say no to them too.  It is a fine balance that I struggle with constantly.
So obviously this movie has me thinking a lot about us mom artists.  I am toying with the idea of creating some kind of artist collective of mom artists.  I would like it to be a group of really good mom artists that are really making it as professional show the world it can be done.  It's just a thought.  But for now I am thinking I might start a little group on Facebook and maybe start another blog.  I am not very good at writing in this one, so that might be too much for me.  But I would like to start a blog that highlights an amazing mom artist each week with an interview that touches on subjects like I just talked about above.  You rarely hear that kind of personal struggle in an artist interview.  Most artists interviews are full of a bunch of intangible philosophical dribble that really doesn't inspire you.  I think it would help a lot of women to hear how an artist struggles everyday to balance her life, and yet still follow her soul's calling.
So please let me know what you think.  Would you like to read a blog like that, or maybe be involved in whatever comes out of it.
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