So, the last time I blogged was at the end of 2019. At that time I was concentrating on photography and this blog was about that. Then came Covid and my life changed along with everyone else’s. As a result I slid back into painting – something I have enjoyed for a long time but also hadn’t pursued for a long time. Why did lockdown bring me to paint? Or was the timing just coincidental?
Perhaps it was also partly because I had devoted a lot of time to a project about some local forestry – including photos, conversations in stones, digital montage and painted bark – a whole gamut of forestry-related art. Then the forest was felled in the winter of 2019/20 and that marked the end of a long relationship.
I think it was also about colour, and being indoors, and having something I felt inspired to paint. I have an Earth-based spirituality: a cobbled together pagan path that incorporates druidry, the science of trees and panpsychism, the connectedness of everything and trance-based shamanic journeying. In the course of these journeys I have had wonderful experiences and made friends with a handful of spirit allies – mostly animals. I don’t know how much of these experiences are ‘real’ and how much they deeply mine my own unconscious/imagination. I suspect there is an element of this experience beyond current categories of ‘real’, ‘fantasy’ and ‘imagined’, perhaps connected to Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious, but I’m willing to leave it as a mystery and enjoy the ride.
These journeys demanded to be explored visually. I tried doing that by creating digital montages, but it just didn’t work for me. So I picked up the brushes and the glorious colours and tried to capture some of these beloved creatures and strange situations that I have visited as I lay in the dark riding the beat of a drum. And that was my 2020 Covid lockdown project which became the series called ‘Shamanic Visions’.
Four of these paintings came from explorations of the traditional four elements and four directions of magical working. From the beginning my raven spirit friend appeared, and reappeared in every painting. Shortly after I painted the origin story of my first meeting with Root, my badger friend who is the spirit of my ancestors, she started to appear in every painting too. Other recurring characters include Esel – a ball python and spirit of my creativity; a female figure who is the spirit of the mountain where I live; Nep – a nanny goat who is something to do with the spirit of the mother and the Stag – spirit of the South. Other spirits appeared along the way but these are my core gang. At the end of 2020 I finished painting Poor Stripey Adam, which is not strictly a Shamanic Vision but more to do with my love for and mixed feelings about California, and my longing to go back there to see my son, his wife and their soon-to-be-born-baby. That picture seemed to be the end of a chapter. Feeling a different call – to explore pattern and landscape, my paintings have gone in a new direction and the Shamanic Vision series feels complete – a kind of visual diary of my spirit's journey through nearly a year of lockdown.