I light 3 candles positioned around the inner ring of my bar globe altar space. The divinities, along with the salt lamp and incense stick, provide the sole source of light in the quietude of the basement. My Freya tapestry hangs beside the bar globe altar containing an assortment of gems and precious items including a Salvador Dali tarot deck, my round hand drum, and a katana I've had since I was 18. The bar globe itself is adorned with an intricate old world map on the top and bottom, and has been my favorite piece of non-strictly visual art since finding it when I was 20 years old. An empty space on the wall awaits a signed and framed print of Alex Grey's 'The Great Turn'.
The greatest benefit of meditation for me is being able to put space between myself and my thoughts, allowing me to observe as they pass through while making use of them in contemplation. Writing is a tool which allows me to organize and cultivate my thoughts. "It's hard to see the label from inside the jar" as the adage goes.
I share all this not to talk about my personal possessions, nor to gain some spiritual cred for my meditation space, but to call to the merit of beautification in one's living space. By extension of course I'm making a case for the power of immersing oneself with art in the intimacy of your home. When I sit in front of the altar, or spend quality time with art whether my own, a friend's, or one of my art heroes, I'm refreshed in a way that is impossible for the utility of modernity to provide. I would even say enthralling games go into this category (Yours truly has been deeply drawn in by Skyrim in particular. I originally came to hunt giants, dragons and mammoths from horseback and stayed for the mind boggling depth and breadth of experiential pathways. ). My meditation time is one of poetic silence, sometimes followed by music that connects with me such as Heilung, Nightwish or Qntal to name a few.
The effect of this immersion in beautification over time extends beyond the home and carries with you into your world. Even without seeing the art in your home, others may feel it through you in the way you carry yourself, what comes out of you, how you perceive the world around you. I'm continually appreciative of the lives of humans I encounter, and constantly learn new things freely offered in conversation. As you may imagine, experiencing art in an active way as well as passively has directly and indirectly altered the way I experience life.
My mission through art has even led me to meet the love of my life, and we've just recently moved in together (A big part of the reason why I've lagged on putting out this second issue...Sorry about that...). Many of you may be aware by now that we'll be getting married in a handful of months, precipitated by a crafty proposal orchestrated by my 9 year old future son-in-law and I, and one of the all-time most obvious hints on Helena's part.
Photo credit: Keana Willis
These two have been my closest supporters in various ways. I can see in Helena the true belief in the core mission through the art: To spark people's imaginations, bring joyous spiritual nourishment, to shine a light of wonder into a world thirsting for something potent and real to believe in. The irony isn't lost on me that I do this through visualizations of gods and goddesses, so often portrayed as 'not real'. The truth is that people really can resonate with the deep richness of meaning through symbolism.
Helena and I have created Immersive Art Meditation a.k.a. I AM with the mission of providing deep, focused art centered experiences through a guided meditation format. Helena's talent for crafting poignant visualizations has proven to be deeply cathartic for us and our participants. One of the things I'm most proud of is how we've been able to connect something as esoteric as myth with people's actual experience and help to make sense of the way we move through our lives. We'll be continuing these sessions with the next one on June 26th, 2-4pm at Gypsy House Cafe on Broadway where I'm the featured artist this month. You can check out the latest announcements on our Facebook page.
You, dear reader, may or may not subscribe to any sort of mysticism, and I'm neither here to convert you nor to qualify what I believe. What matters much more to me is one's conviction...If what comes through you is based in kindness, a sense of wonder, openness to learning, a righteous and worthy cause, that's far more important to me than what you may or may not believe (Though I wouldn't be so naive to think that belief and conviction are so mutually exclusive.
Xavier inspires me with his brilliant curiosity and intelligence. He also knows the names of just about all of my pieces, and the deities portrayed through them. He may comment on specific details, but the most gratifying compliment is when he just utters a breathy "Wow...". To know that he can have these moments of awe, and that I can provide that to his young mind is a treasure. I relish at the thought of nourishing a continual appreciation for art throughout his life.
Any artist who is truly earnest in their craft wishes this in so many ways: "Let me show you the beauty that I see. I invite you to drink from this same fountain that nourishes my own soul. Let the art be a mirror to remember what is cherished and common between us.". In my own characteristic way: "Let me fulfill that Promethean ideal and bring a precious flame within reach so that we may join in communion with each other in the light of the mysterious."
I'd like to give a shoutout to Denver Voyage and CanvasRebel for honoring me with these recent interviews: https://bit.ly/3NF4I31 (Denver Voyage) and https://bit.ly/3QeU9VR (CanvasRebel). I'm now officially a member of Redline Art Center's Core Artist program, which provides a framework for artists to accelerate their professional path. I've been connected to Redline for years and it's exciting to see the new administration of Tya Anthony, Moe Gram and Shaunie Berry take the capacity of this program to a new level.
Lastly, I'm super stoked to have recently joined The Octopus Movement, an international group of nonlinearly wired people making a diverse and welcoming community. The founder Perry Knoppert has dedicated his life to the admirable goal of creating, as he puts it, "a mycelium network of 1 billion brains to change the world". My deepest thanks to him for his great work, and extending his offer for me to be included in his 'Project 398' book of neurodivergent individuals. You can check out what The Octopus Movement is about here: https://www.theoctopusmovement.org/
Projects and Team
What makes a truly fulfilling project? I'm talking about the ones that really play to your strengths where the benefits extend past the piece itself...A few months ago, after completing the coat of arms project for my friend and supporter Michael Close, he approached me yet again with an idea he's had in his mind for a couple decades. Being a craftsman himself, his ability to convey a mental picture allows me to share a clear vision. When it comes to a commission, this connection makes for a smooth project. I've dealt with the alternative where you have a collection of ideas thrown together and it feels like you're trying to aim at a moving invisible target...Fortunately this is not that.
An alchemist gazes into a crystal hovering above his outstretched hand. The glowing golden light illuminates his stoic countenance as fantastic scenes of faraway worlds come into view. Are these visions of the past, present or future? Are they perhaps connected parts of a grand narrative? Your mind wanders as the only thing you can be certain of is the alchemist's focused gaze. One of my favorite parts of this piece is that it connects multiple parts to form a narrative in one image, something I relish doing in much of my work. I'm fascinated by the way people have reacted while it's being painted. Many see a Norse flair in the alchemist's braided beard and have guessed if he's perhaps Thor or Odin. I'll give a bit of a spoiler and tell you that since I'm designing a tarot deck featuring mythical and historical figures for the Major Arcana and house cards for the Minor Arcana, he'll be featured as The Magician and is in fact Merlin.
I've recently had the great fortune to connect with a new friend and wizard in the ways of the camera: Cody Sanborn. He took this shot shown above here as well as several more, and has displayed an obsession with his craft that deeply resonates with me. It would be one thing for me to seek out and hire a photographer based on skill alone, it's quite another to work with someone who shares an affinity for spirituality and deep engagement with the art in the way he does. To be clear I don't mind people taking pictures and sending them, but my agreement with Cody is of a more official and continuous, dare I see even legacy capacity. So this is all to say "Welcome to the team, brother!"
Photo credit: Cody Sanborn
On that note, I would be remiss not to share that I'll be working with a virtual assistant starting in the next couple weeks. She'll be providing some much welcome help with social media communications and researching festivals/shows for me to participate in. This will free me up to focus on the art and more direct communication (Yours truly still appreciates the personal connection).
Lastly, the project which has garnered the lion's share of my focus in the past few months is my new book (For real, I'm straight up fucking giddy to be published) 'Azreya: Aztec Priestess' in collaboration with the fantasy and romance author Tricia Copeland who you can check out here: https://triciacopeland.com/. Our collaboration began with a handful of concepts: A girl with high trait curiosity, connection with a bestial aspect, and her name 'Azreya'. Tricia's character driven approach lent itself to take these defining qualities and unfold an entire narrative that speaks to her intrinsic character while shaping her psyche along the way.
The story is set in Aztec culture and we really made an intention to do justice to the customs, names, places, etc. including a glossary of terms at the beginning of the book. One of the most rewarding parts for me is not only getting to create the artwork but deepening my knowledge of the culture, and being able to share it all with our readers. The book is currently being formatted and we expect to have it out very soon! I'll share more once the final touches are put in and I can reveal more.
Getting oneself out there as an artist can take myriad forms, and can be quite confusing when you're just starting out. You have to find what works for you and move in those directons. It's helpful to ask ourselves "What is my vibe?", "What are my goals?" and "What do I have to offer?". I've also been surprised to find that 'click' in the places I didn't initially expect, so I try to keep an open mind and grasp opportunities where I see them. Some of the most recent highlights are the Five Points Jazz Festival, River North Brewery every other Thursday evening, and my return as featured artist of the month at Gypsy House Cafe on Broadway.
The Five Points Jazz Festival came to me through Redline - The all day festival drew hundreds of people, including some familiar faces from Redline (Kudos for the shots by my good friend Raverro Stinnett) and the Kite + Dart Group. The 10x10' tent provided enough space for 6 tapestries hung on its 3 sides, while the table held prints, greeting cards, coloring books and shirts. I sat at the back, facing the Lakshmi piece I'm currently working on "Veils in Motion". People really do respond seeing live painting as I have come to discover. It's like licking the batter while the cake is being made, and all the better when the subject is a dark skinned queen in a racially diverse setting such as this one. Really, one of the most fulfilling affirmations is to see the delight when women of color say with their words or their eyes "She's gorgeous, and she looks like me". It turns out that working with world myths lends itself to reverence of various cultures and races through the craft.
Photo Credit: Raverro Stinnett
The River North Brewery has hosted shows featuring visual arts and the dj stylings of Zach a.k.a. M
Dibby for the past few months. Zach's vision is for the shows to reflect a bohemian gathering of real estate professionals and creators. I've participated since the first show and have only missed once during the week I was in California. It was during one such show where I met Cody Sanborn. A handful of choice shots of me working on my 'Scrying Alchemist', a lunch meeting sharing spiritual journeys and imagining a creative vision, and the rest is history. Zach and I often gravitate towards waxing poetic over philosophy, and sometimes pizza from the Walnut Room. The Sandman stout makes a tasty companion between laying down the paint.
Lastly, I'm grateful to have returned to Gypsy House as their featured artist of the month since the first time in October. This time I wanted to come with a new but familiar display. The show was strictly goddess themed, and this time Freya, Eve, Mary Magdalene, Quanyin, Isis and the Bodhisattva are joined by Ganesh and Siegfried. All 6 60x60" tapestries together cover the space with enough room for each to stand out. Now that my end of the book is complete (Really, that was a big fish for me to reel in) I plan to regularly be found live painting at the cafe during the week. I'll be bringing merch with me such as prints, greeting cards, and of course tapestries. It's been a hot minute since I've done my first Twitch stream and plan to begin streaming regularly, so even if you're not able to make it to a physical show then we can meet in the digital realm!
That's the scoop for now - Signing off!