Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sigils in the Greenwood

I took a walk in the forest yesterday. It's been far too long since I've made pilgrimages into the woods, but now that autumn is here and the weather has cooled somewhat, I feel more able to do so. My mission was to explore some paths I had not encountered before and seek out some crossroads in the wild. Before I left the house, my mother suggested I take our dog Tigger on the walk with me, but he is a bit too high strung for a sigil-crafting expedition so I decided to go alone.

Looking at the map of the area, you can trace where Old Haycock Road once connected with (Old) Ridge Road. The construction of the lake and establishment of the area as a state park bisected the original road and rendered one section of it nearly obsolete, like some sort of vestigial limb. Although most of it is still paved, the forest encroaches upon it slowly and steadily. It's obviously narrower than it once was and there are pronounced cracks sprouting with green life running across its entire width. The park maintains it as a trail for hunters and other visitors, otherwise the asphalt would already be obscured under a carpet of ground cover. There were once farms and houses along these roads and if you look carefully, you can still discern the shadows of their existence: here and there a wolf tree, a series of the same species of shrub or tree which are too conspicuously aligned and evenly-spaced, the stamped metal ribbon affixed to what might otherwise be a normal rotting log.

I found a set of crossroads as I had hoped. Tucked inside the bag slung over my shoulder is a small pouch of organic white cornmeal I bring with me to offer to the genii loci while on my walks, should the need or desire arise. I had already given some to a nine-tined Maple on the roadside. Upon encountering the first crossroad where the paved road meets perpendicularly with a wide, unpaved path into the woods, I knelt down to place some there also. Instead of simply offering pinches of cornmeal arranged in a tiny mound, I wanted to make a sigil of some kind inspired by and dedicated to the place itself.

It started with an imperfect circle. Three sets of curved horns marked the directions of the physical paths, a crescent marked an implied, unseen path. Inside the circle, a design emerged which I now think might represent the denizens of the green world: leaves furl upward and roots curl downward, in the direction of the obscure path. While I was making it, the forest seemed to come alive with sounds and peripheral movements that I had not noticed (or perhaps weren't there) before. For some reason my mind drifted to Odin, perhaps because the sigil reminded me of Icelandic galdor-staves and helms of awe. Odin sacrificed Himself to Himself to obtain knowledge of the runes, and He is involved in the magic of signs drawn, inked, and carved. It was Wodenstag after all.

At the second set of crossroads I thought I might just leave a simple offering and be on my way, but as I was placing the meal on the ground I felt compelled to make another sigil. This one began with the central dot and eventually incorporated some nearby leaves and twigs. It turned out that the impromptu art itself was an offering, along with the cornmeal with which it was drawn and the words spoken over it.

On the walk back to my car, I rounded a curve and saw a man and a dog on the road. At that distance they were not much more than silhouettes, although I could see the man was wearing a brightly-colored baseball hat. The man had the same build and stride as my father and the dog was the right size and proportion to be our Boston Terrier. My father had taken Tigger on a walk just the other day and wore a nearly neon orange cap (it's archery season so it's a good idea to distinguish yourself from the surrounding palette). It seemed that my mom had sent them to check up on me, although I didn't think I had been gone that long and figured they should be used to me taking long walks alone in the woods by now. However, as I previously mentioned, it has been some time since I've gone wandering and they'd be expecting me to start dinner soon.

As they approached the resemblance was further confirmed. I resisted the urge to wave erratically or make some sort of sarcastic comment at the figures based on an assumption of familiarity. It was only at the distance of a few yards that I was finally able to determine that they were strangers to me. The man and I exchanged hellos and then I looked down to greet to the darkly-colored dog I thought had been my own. The dog approached me, quiet and composed (in this regard quite unlike my own dog). "If you talk to him, he'll be your friend forever," the man said about his companion. I smiled at this statement and as I glanced back, I noticed the dog only had one eye. Further along down the path I saw faces appear among the trees from the corners of my eyes, only to disappear when I tried to stare at them straight on (I really should know better by now), and I half-expected to turn around only to find that the man with the graying hair and his one-eyed dog had similarly vanished.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Arterial Garden

This is my submission for the Drawgasmic Art Exhibition - The Art, Illustration, and Design Compendiumexhibition which will be held in St Louis, Missouri next month. An art book featuring images from the show will also be published. I'm very excited to have my work appear in a physical show, I only wish I could be there to see it. The original piece will be for sale.

I only received notice about this show about a month ahead of the deadline so its creation was more rushed than I would have liked, but it certainly does feel good to finish something. I've been focusing so much on my jewelry for the art/craft show I'm attending in September that I haven't really had much of an opportunity to focus on drawing. This image was originally intended to be something entirely different, but as usual if I try to force something in my work it usually backfires and ends up being so unappealing to me that I abandon it. In this case, it just transformed itself into something I had not planned, which I'm sure was for the better.

The human figure came first in the composition, and shortly after beginning to do some of the shading the idea of an arterial garden came to mind and the rest of the imagery flowed from there. The woman's strong features and thick, storm cloud hair were inspired by depictions and photos of Jane Morris, one of Rossetti's main muses. The stern, pensive gaze of the figure seemed to call for some assertive display of power and frustration, hence the captured bird. I decided on a Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) simply because I like them and have not seen one in quite some time despite the fact that they are said to be so common. I've also always enjoyed their somewhat paradoxical name. In retrospect, the color scheme of this bird may not have been the best choice in the context of the rest of the piece, but perhaps it was meant to be anyways. The day after I shipped this piece to the show, a male Red-winged Blackbird flew right across our windshield on the way to the store.

I love working with toned paper but this particular paper choice proved to be a bit of a challenge as it was so fibrous. I ended up sealing the main portion with a clear acrylic topcoat to keep it in check as well as to visually increase the contrast and deepen the darker tones in the image. The fuzzy texture of the paper as I worked on it tended to diffuse the light. It also had natural dark and light inclusions which most media I used would not cover, but for the most part I liked the character they added.

Size: 11" x 8.5"
Media: watercolor, colored pencils, ink on toned paper

Disclaimer: No birdies were harmed in the creation of this image.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gothic Art Questionnaire

A few months ago I received a request from a student seeking to interview me for a project on which she was working. She had seen my work in Gothic Art Now and wanted to ask me some questions about the genre. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not an expert on the subject nor do I feel that all of my work would fit comfortably within the genre, but I do like to be helpful. Since sending her my responses I have not heard anything so I hope they were able to be of some use to her.

1. What is gothic art?

Historically speaking (if my memory of Art History classes serves me correctly), Gothic art was produced during a certain time period in medieval Europe, although it has had its more recent revivals. It is nestled loosely between the Romanesque period and the Renaissance. Although contemporary Gothic culture is associated primarily with darkness, one of the main innovations in Gothic architecture was the use of large stained glass windows to allow radiant, colored light to stream into the buildings.

When the term "Gothic art" is used in reference to modern work, it typically involves a link with the current Gothic subculture, although one can definitely see allusions to historical Gothic art in the contemporary variety. The modern Gothic subculture arose in the early 1980s and likely derived its title from associations with the nineteenth century literary genre which includes such pivotal novels as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Bram Stoker's Dracula rather than the earlier Germanic people. Contemporary Gothic art draws upon the same themes that fascinate and inspire other aspects of the subculture: namely an appreciation for darkness in its literal and metaphoric senses. Gothic art, in my opinion, seeks to explore the beauty, meaning, and occasionally humor in aspects of our existence that mainstream society often derides or ignores, for example death, solitude, decay, mourning, etc.

2. What mediums can be used?

I do not believe Gothic art can or should be limited to any particular media or even style. To me, the designation of Gothic comes about in reference to the subject matter and imagery depicted or the emotional response elicited by a piece — whether it is a photorealistic representation, highly stylized image, or a nearly abstract work is really irrelevant to me.

3. What prompted you to get started in this type of art?

I've been creating art since I had the motor skills to hold a crayon, and although it was not until later in my childhood that I became aware of the Gothic subculture, there have always been darker motifs throughout my artwork. Once I became more familiar with the current Gothic scene, I did begin to consciously draw more upon it artistically. While I'm content with my work being labeled as Gothic since I certainly have strong sympathies with both the modern subculture and the historical style, I do not consider my work to be limited to the umbrella of Gothic art.

4. On average, how much do you make with your art?

Honestly, I do not make very much at all with my art at the moment. I have a full-time job in an unrelated field which pays the majority of my bills and which allows me to have health insurance. My artwork is primarily for my mental, emotional, and spiritual but not financial well-being. However, I would like to start moving towards making art more into a career in addition to being my personal calling.

7. How long has gothic architecture been around?

Gothic architecture was believed to have been initiated in France in the middle of the twelfth century. The term "Gothic" later became applied to the style because it was a distinct break from the classically influenced architecture that dominated the scene just as the Goths, a Germanic people who invaded southern Europe, brought about the end of Roman civilization.

8. Where are the best avenues to display your art?

One of the best and most accessible means to display one's art is via the internet. The exposure that you can gain with a personal website or through collective online galleries can be wonderful and very extensive. I also really enjoy seeing my work in print (books, magazines, etc.) although it's harder to gauge a direct response from an audience with print media than digital media. Traditional brick-and-mortar galleries and art/craft shows are also great venues although the scope is smaller.

9. Do you create gothic art for your own sake or for other people?

I create my art for my own sake, although on occasion I do accept commissions.

10. What is the best way to make your name be known?

The answer to this question is directly tied to my response to question number 8. Displaying your work is the best way to make your name known in the context of the art world. I also recommend participating in art-related forums, groups, and associations to learn from more experienced artists and make to make valuable connections.

11. What types of emotions are involved in creating this type of art?

In my own experience, pensiveness and curiosity tend to be my primary emotional states when creating art, but I'm sure it varies greatly for other artists.

12. What types of gothic arts appeal to which groups?

I suppose that it would go without saying that I imagine Gothic art appeals to those who identify as Goths or who have a preference for a darker aesthetic. There seems to be a wide audience for certain cutesy/creepy Gothic art among young adults. Beyond general statements though, I'm not sure of the demographics.

13. How has gothic art evolved/progressed over the years?

I'm certainly not an expert on the genre of Gothic art, but my observation is that it seems to have extended its scope beyond just sexy black-clad vampires with too much eyeshadow and the Grim Reaper. There seems to be a deeper and more thoughtful examination of the themes occurring, and a realization that in order to have a real visual and emotional impact, artwork cannot just be dark or creepy or horrifying for frivolous reasons but because those attributes or imagery serves the overall goal of the piece. I believe there is now a larger pool of accepted "Gothic" symbols and imagery to draw upon than existed in the past and there is a greater sophistication in their use.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Three of my fairly recent pieces are featured on Antique Children: A Mischevious Literary Arts Journal. I was completely unaware of this journal until I was approached to have my work featured within it. However, I was very happy for the introduction since just in the art section alone I've discovered so many great artists that were previously unknown to me. Antique Children features diverse artwork from various genres and styles, yet there is something subtle underlying almost every piece selected that unifies them. It's difficult to put my finger on, but there is almost universally a lovely eerie, unsettling quality about all the included imagery (I'm pleased to consider that most of my own work also falls into that category). Of course, as a literary journal they also feature a great host of articles, poetry, short stories, etc. I'm very honored to have some of my pieces chosen to appear within its digital pages and I hope you'll take the time to visit.

Several months ago I was asked to contribute the online periodical dedicated to all things faerie, Faezine. (It's very strange to me to be asked to contribute a piece of written rather than visual artwork for publication. I've always enjoyed writing and did well in classes where essays and reports were required, but I've never actually considered myself a writer. I do tend to have rather distinct [read: opinionated] views on Faery and art so if my writing is not the best it will hopefully at the very least provide a unique perspective.)

My first article, Hidden Faery Tales, appears in the Winter 2009 issue. The version included in that issue has been slightly edited from my original (perhaps for the better?) and you need a subscription, which is free, to view it in its entirety. I would definitely recommend taking a few moments to subscribe though since there are many valuable articles to ponder on Faezine. I'd really appreciate some feedback on my article if you happen to be so inclined.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Wow. I've really been slacking on updating this blog. My apologies! I have a few things I've been wanting to post about so a couple of entries should be forthcoming.

I've been working on this piece on & off for about 2 years. I'm not sure what to title it yet so I'm tentatively calling it "Ancestors" for now. My ACEO Huldre was the precursor to this image. It's rare that I will deliberately choose to depict the same figure twice, but this particular one was really calling out for a more thorough treatment. You can also see an in-progress shot here.

The main figure is my own personal interpretation of Frau Holda ghostly emerging from the mound. The image gives the impression of being a scene from a bygone time, but upon closer inspection there are modern elements to elude to the fact that She's not just a figure from the past.

Media include: ballpoint pen, colored pencils, watercolor, and colored inks on toned paper. In the detail image below all of the delightful creatures were rendered in black ballpoint pen.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Makings of a Wolf Girl

The beginnings of a lovely wolf- or coyote-girl (she hasn't decided yet) in Victorian-inspired riding garb. I think she may be out hunting, we'll see.

This image really shows how I gradually build up layers of subtle texture with the ballpoint pen to develop shading. Everything begins with loose shapes and scribbles (often unintelligible to others) which then become a little more defined as I decide what lines to strengthen and emphasize and what ones will eventually blend into background. I then add in some very sparse crosshatching to suggest depth and determine the general light source for the image. The darker values are developed gradually; it is only very rarely that I will use full pressure of the pen to get a deep gray or black. Ballpoint pen, being the finicky creature that it is, will sometimes decide to randomly spurt out a little blob of ink, and usually I try to camouflage those by darkening a certain area more than I originally intended.

On another note, I wanted to draw attention to a great article which I discovered via Terri Windling's blog: The Value of Fantasy and Mythical Thinking.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ego Rid, She Inspires

I've always though there was something essential in names and have always mused on their deeper meanings, searching for clues via numerology and etymology. Some ancient cultures also thought names carried a certain importance and that the knowledge of someone's (or something's) true name conferred power over him, hence the tales of Rumpelstiltskin and Tom Tit Tot.

While looking through a notebook of mine, I rediscovered perhaps another interesting route to investigate the inner workings of a name: the Internet Anagram Server of which a telling anagram is "I, Rearrangement Servant." By setting a few basic parameters and entering your name, you might unearth some interesting, if somewhat cryptic and surreal, phrases. Depending upon the length and letters in your name, you could literally spend all day pondering all of the possible rearrangements, but often there are themes which can be derived from the frequency of certain words in the various anagrams. The following are some of my favorite anagrams of my own name (some punctuation was added at my discretion):

ego rid, she inspires
eroded inspire sigh
a deed perishing rejoins
designed Irish rope
I sing spheroid deer
a ridged spine joins here
oh dig, inspired seer!
his red poising deer
heeding a drip, seers join
inspire his deer God
deer herd is poising
re inspire, God hides
a designer's rejoined hip
drips enjoin deer geisha
oh, inspired ridges!
she inspired God ire
a ridged, serene hip joins