In the service of Justice (Part One)

As an artist I'm pretty sure that we all have those times where everything is just going along swimmingly. You feel good. Secure in your ability and talent. Sometimes in fact things can go so well (or so I hear) that a general euphoria takes over and the art almost feels like it's creating itself. Then...well, then there are the pieces that are a genuine struggle. From beginning to end: a battle. A battle you are losing. The kind of struggle that makes you question why you ever considered yourself an artist in the first place. The piece that makes you start looking in the want ads for alternative employment.

Justice...I started it over a year over, and it started out rather well. I love making backgrounds, they almost always feel easy for me, a great way to start the flow going...and as far as backgrounds go, I was pretty content with how things were going. I typically find myself bouncing back and forth a lot when I'm working on a new piece...back and forth between working with intention and creating intuitively. Particularly when I'm working on a tarot card, or another themed piece of art when I feel resolute about the symbols or objects that must be included to tell the story. It's exactly that - the "I must use this..." that will ultimately cause me the most trouble. I know this. I know this intuitively, I know this from experience, and yet....here I am with my list of "musts". It's a long list of musts for Justice. 

As I progress to the next couple of layers, things start to look crummy, but that's ok. I know all about the crummy phase....every single piece has one...it will pass, or so I tell myself. Several layers later...crummy has evolved alright...evolved to #$@% piece of #$$%@. Not good. Danger mode. Time to stop. If I keep going at this point, I really will trash the piece, taking it to that place of no return. So I stop. I stop for nine months. I do many other pieces, ones that I like. Unfinished Justice still hangs on a wall in my studio, taunting me every time I walk by....time to tackle her again I tell myself. 

I consider what I've done so far and try to figure out, what (if anything) is working...and what isn't...I need more paint, don't I?....more layers? No improvement. More collage. Still no....and frustration is rapidly replacing good judgment but I continue determined to make this work. I try some wings (heaven help me)...what was I thinking? a halo....good grief! I dig deep, spend hours looking for and finding 18 perfect quotes about truth and... and 18 quotes about justice, carefully I tear each one out...I collage them into the halo....in my mind, this will be cool, this will become an aura of truth and justice and wisdom. It's horrible....right about this time is where I am pretty damn sure I am no longer an artist.

You're going to laugh when you hear what I did next...you know what I did? I did a tarot reading for myself..first card that I turn over...wanna guess? Justice. No Joke. I mean really....I don't bother with the rest of the reading. I go back into the studio with my head on straight at last, amused that the "fates" have a sense of humour. 

I collect my thoughts, and remember the two mantras that keep me company in the studio:

1) Everything that I have done to this point still informs the piece, whether I end up covering it up or not....that truth and justice halo is going to get buried, but it's still there....and that is a good thing.

2) Nothing is sacred. I must be willing to abandon anything and everything on the panel. If I'm too attached to one thing, one idea, one area this piece will never turn the corner.

I start at the beginning again, the background needs to be reclaimed...while I'm working on this, my husband is in New Orleans, and I remember the beautiful wall at the Napolean House. Layers of peeling paint, old wallpapers and patina. I want my own version of that...the background is transformed, textured, collaged, painted, and scraped and little by little it's feeling better....and little by little I am feeling better too.

Wanna see what happened....watch this:

By the end of the journey, I have created my favourite piece - EVER. My faith in myself, and in my artistic process is renewed. Equilibrium restored, and Justice is indeed done. 

Man Trouble!

Some of you may have noticed that a substantial portion of my work has a somewhat shall we say feminine bias to it.

Now that's all well and good, but when you are designing a tarot deck, sooner or later you have to address some of the powerful male figures. So there I was in the studio, and I was on a bit of a roll, you know those rare times when the planets seem to be in proper alignment with your muses and the work just flows....well, anyway it was during one of these times that I decided it would be wise to start in a large canvas with a male central figure....and then....well, that's when my man troubles began. My muses had changed their allegiance, they abandoned me for greener pastures, fickle creatures that they are...As an aside you may have also noticed the simply stunning work that has been coming out my darling husband's studio these days...I think we all know where the muses went....just look here if you don't believe me!!

I started in on a piece that I was determined to transform into the Knight of Wands tarot card....and here's what happened:


But in the immortal words of Shakespeare, "All's well that end's well". More about the symbolism and meaning of the Knight of Wands next time....