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.  

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