I’ll be diving more into the tour soon, but first let’s talk about one of the things that happened while I was on the road. My art – on the cover of Witches & Pagans Magazine! And the story of how it got there.
I Make Art & Stuff
I think it was some time in the late Spring or Midsummer when Anne Newkirk Niven, editor and owner of BBI Media, gave me a call to talk about some art. I’ve been illustrating for SageWoman and Witches & Pagans Magazines for several years now, so a couple times a year we touch base via actual voices, instead of digital letters.
I believe Anne and I first met many years ago at the Pagan Leaders Summit in Bloomington, IN (back in 2001 I believe it was) – when I was the Associate Editor for Crescent Magazine: A Pagan Publication of Art, Philosophy, and Belief. So when I got into making art full time, she was very familiar with my art and very supportive. I’ve done a variety of full page and accents for both of Anne’s magazines over the years – often getting to choose what I wanted to work on or being presented with something fun and challenging. (The designer in me loves a good art problem to solve.) I had my eyes on eventually getting to do a cover, but the themes and time-frames pushed passed me with all of my book projects, so I stopped thinking about it.
A funny thing: Anne runs such a tight ship and is usually well ahead of schedule – so by the time the art goes to press, I’ve long forgotten about what I did. So that was the case when she called me about the Inanna art I made for a SageWoman article. (Issue #93 here) I forgot what we talked about for the Inanna piece, but then she dropped that the color art I had done for a Witches & Pagans article was going to be on the cover of the next issue – and I was stunned. And also confused because I couldn’t figure out what piece she was talking about either, because I didn’t remember doing any color pieces.
You see, the first full page illustration I ever did for BBI, I made in full color, but all of the print magazines are black and white inside. So while the PDF versions allow for color, the majority of folks will only see the greyscale. So after that, I just switched over to doing the original art in black and white. It just makes more sense, and less digital tweaking for me to do.
Except there was that one piece, which I started in black and white, but then the subject insisted on having color, despite the fact it would have to be turned back into greyscale digitally. Of course, she did.
Enter the Orisha
The article I was to illustrate: “To Walk with Orishas: The Path of Connectedness” by Manny Tejeda-Moreno. Manny highlights several Orishas in his article, so I contemplated who to focus on making the art of. I carefully set up my desk with my materials, some offerings and other altar items. I did my research and some meditating. There were 5 big names highlighted, but in the end, it was Oyá who pushed through.
Perhaps she was attracted to the red wine and dark chocolate I had also assembled for the evening. Or perhaps she came through because we have a history dating back over a dozen years. One of the first troupe group performances I ever did as a dancer was for an African-Arabic fusion piece that was performed in honor of Oyá. That same show (it was an annual event called the Living Goddess Dance Theater, put on by Dhyanis in Marin County, California), a solo dancer also performed a piece in honor of Oyá – as the Orisha herself. I can still see and feel her dance clearly in my mind nearly 15 years or more later. The feel of the wind in a still theater, the swish of her skirts and the horsehair whip.In a state that is akin to trance (the artist trance is more coordinated than say dance trance or other forms of mediumship), I found myself going beyond the India ink I had placed on my desk, and digging out paints and pastels in deep red, burnt ochre, and fuchsia hues. Strong highlights in white, calling to her eyes, to the lightning, the wind itself. It was heavy, bold, fierce, and not quite what I had initially planned for the art to look like. After I was done, I thought to myself, why had I gone for color – for art that would only really be seen in greyscale? Oh well. (The original art soon found itself in the collection/sacred space of one of her devoted shortly after I finished it.)
Perhaps Oyá knew she’d get the cover, maybe she planned it all along. She’s good at moving things along and getting her way.
In this time where people can be very hyper-focused about who can do what path as well as gate-keeping gods, spirits, and practices (with some with good reason when it comes to serious issues of appropriation), I think of Oyá and her blowing into my life again and again. I think of the dozens of deities and spirits who come across my path: the persistence of a one-eyed god for his portrait, the Lwa who have literally knocked on my front door, the plant spirits that grow themselves unbidden and bold in my yard. They don’t care about my roots or my spiritual practices outside of the studio – they’re here for the art. They come to be danced, to be illuminated in color, light, and shadows, to be given form and identity for others to see and connect with. They know I’m not here to worship or be devoted to them, but regardless I work to create the art they seek with honor, beauty, and power.
I also don’t think you have to be an artist, dancer, or other creative to tap into that connection either. It’s very human to see and create divides – where spirit doesn’t see them at all. When we walk a liminal path, the doorways become much clearer – and more often than not, it’s US putting up the metaphysical screen doors and mental curtains to distance ourselves from venturing into something we’re already a part of. Not the gods, spirits, and other beings. Us. Because of our own fears and hang-ups. What do we miss out when we censor ourselves without good cause? Something to think about.
AND NOW, if you made it all the way down here. I have signed copies of the magazine to give away!
Comment below with
-an experience that you’ve had with the divine/deity/spirit that’s stuck with you in some way
-name a deity or spirit that you’d like to see me make art of – and WHY. (Bonus points if you take the time to go to my website and make sure I haven’t already done 3 paintings of them.)
and I will choose at random, 3 folks to send a signed copy of the magazine too! And who knows, you may also see art of that deity or spirit in the future!
Now here’s the fine print:
– Sorry no international shipping, you must be located within the United States to win.
– Must comment by MIDNIGHT on Sunday, December 2nd (Pacific Standard Time)
– No anonymous comments will be entered in the drawing.
That’s all! Happy commenting!