So there I was, sitting with this grand vision, imagining the images of the paintings fully realized. But I needed to get from here to there. I started to imagine how I would do this. In my epiphany, the final works were all done in oil paint. I had recently returned to oil paint after about a decade. My initial explorations still only half processed lay around my imagination like twilight images, half dreams, partial ironic jokes, or the misty potential of ideas. The most realized of these was an image inspired by Georgia O’Keefe’s poppies. So far not a bad image, but more practice with old notions in a new medium than a fully thought out piece.
A decade before I had been standing in front of huge painting (still unfinished) with two paint sticks in my hands. One was cobalt blue, and the other cadmium red deep. Made with real cobalt and real cadmium, complete with the warning signs slapped on the label. I had only a week earlier been confirmed in my first pregnancy. Looking down and my bare feet, my hands, and arms, all coated in paint, I realized I needed to put away the oil paint for a while. What followed was a decade working in water color with pen and ink while creating and breast feeding three babies. Finally out of the baby making years I was excited to get back to my oil paints, all still preserved in their boxes, waiting for me to love them again. But in that decade I had done a lot of work, and developed styles and tastes that lent themselves to the fluid details of illustration. I needed to reinterpret my lines and forms for the oil medium. No easy shift.
With this new series to developed I had an exciting idea. I would integrate and transform not just my imagery, but my process. With each primary image, chakra and sefirot, I would develop a whole body of work, starting from sketch book, moving through the water color and line art, to gestural oil sticks from my previous fundamental gestures series, and finally to a small and then large oil painting. Each phase would inform the planning and expression for the next, Also, for the final pieces I would do something I had truly never done before, paint a final piece from a fully developed plan. The goal would be to allow all of my different expressions to expand the textures and gestures of the work, and to keep the imagery as alive in the final depiction as it was in the beginning.
As is my nature, I though I would start from the beginning and progress in the path as the nodes themselves are set out. So I started with the root chakra. This had implications for my process as an emotional and spiritual meditation as well. I was at the very beginning of a divorce, and felt very unrooted. Focusing all of my attention on the imagery and symbols of the root chakra would be a way to open up my body and mind to the affects of the first chakra.
I went to the art supply store and bought myself a new sketch book that would be designated for this particular series. The first step would be to do my usual symbol research, and begin to draw what ever showed up that might connect to the symbols.
About three months into this process I found myself finally moving past the canned imagery, and the unconscious imagery, toward a gesture that felt both symbolic, expressive, and personal. My next step was to take that image and begin to open it, expand it’s possibilities, find the unexpected patterns and edges I wanted to move into a fully realized composition.
I started with my watercolor, pen and ink style. Allowing myself to play with possible landscapes, line styles, and symbolic aspects of the root chakra. During this process, which took several months, I first found myself moving to our property in the mountains, where I often found myself alone in the woods, contemplating my life and my future. I delved into research on the first chakra, and also tiptoed into imagery around the malkut, the lowest sefirot, which corresponds to the root chakra. I began to wonder at the ways that these two nodes are different, and similar. What would imagery that addressed the two of them include? Would I merge the imagery, or depict them side by side, in conjunction, like a dialectic, the symbols playing off of each other to synthesis of new meaning?
I found myself seeking out mindhi patterns and tribal markings, which seemed resonant as the two cultures represented split along the Mesopotamian river valley, one going east and one going west, and their commonality lay (among other things) in the decorative henna of their women.
After laying down some imagery I got out my oil sticks and began to work on texture and gesture, feeling into the loose structures of oil paint, and the possible way the expression of the spiral might flow when loosened from the stricture that ink or the initial watercolor strokes corralled me into. Around this time, it also became clear that I would not be able to keep our property. We made plans to sell it, and I was uprooted again.
Trying to hold onto the grounding in my yoga classes, focusing on root chakra meditation, and honestly root chakra stimulation in my personal pleasuring practices. I began to read more specifically about the chakras, breathing techniques for the nadis, aspects, colors, and shadow consequences of an imbalanced root. I cried and raged, and processed the uprooting of a dream 25 years in the making that was now ending. I marveled at the irony of trying to depict an image that symbolizes all things rooted, attached, stable, and creatively secure, tribal, belonging, and self knowing. I felt none of these, but hoped that somehow in the complete untethering, my emotional longing for these elements would manifest a dynamic spin to the expressive elements of my gestures. Like a poet, manifesting visions of a truly connected loving within a poem about loss.
My initial thought was that I would immediately leap into oil paint after the oil stick phase. But I realized that for the sake of composition, I wanted to deepen the drawing and expressions in my illustrations, informed by the loosening of the oil stick, before I moved to the more formal oil painting process.
I did a deeper round of drawing on top of my remaining water colors. Months after I found a coffee shop I loved. A safe haven from all of the chaos that continued to swirl around me, even as I found myself a house, and began to shape a new home for myself and my children. Even as I put finishing touches on the drawings, I also sketched out imagery, finally landing on the image that will inform the first official painting. This image comes a year and a half after the initial sketches.