The Book of the Hidden Land

September 25, 2012

I’ve updated my website with the official “work in progress” description for the Book of the Hidden Land, my working title for the book that will eventually hold the “Tree Book” drawings, Lichen Oracle, and other things.  This post offers a more detailed description.LICHEN:  Parmotrema rigidum

“Shaman…Scientist.  I’ve been known by many names over the centuries, but they all mean one thing:  echo of a lost knowledge.  Never guardian of the power….Perhaps I’m wrong on that.  Perhaps science will find its own way into the first forest.”

 Robert Holdstock, LAVONDYSS

Some of us walk within the shadow of the First Forest all our lives, living among echoes of an older landscape.  In this age, the shaman’s “secret language” is the descriptive vocabulary of science and natural history, and to most people the naturalist is as mysterious and incomprehensible as any shaman.

“Yes, I belong to that most ancient brotherhood not often named because we were once stoned, or burned, or hanged, or now suffer the ostracism of the seeming learned….I think, far off, our arts may well be practiced once again.”

Loren Eiseley, THE INNOCENT ASSASSINS

The “arts” referred to above are those of the old-time naturalist – the collector of beloved yet mysterious natural objects for study – and the ancient shaman or medicine man, collecting the same objects for use in ritual, magic, and divination.  The lines are from a poem, “In the Red Sunset on Another Hill”, in which Eisely describes these “arts” and three practitioners:  himself, one of his anthropology teachers, and an unknown medicine man whose century-old artifacts Eiseley discovers – and leaves untouched - in a remote archaeological site.

Reindeer Lichen Circle

THE BOOK OF THE HIDDEN LAND is a record of personal observations of some common but obscure aspects of nature, chosen because they are artistically intricate and beautiful, scientifically interesting, and have an enduring appeal to the imagination that makes them ideal for use as primitive oracles (and some have indeed been used that way in ancient times).  Oracles have acquired New Age or metaphysical trappings that I am attempting to reach beyond in this case.  I am using these examples (trees, lichens, pebbles, etc.) to show that the artistic, poetic, scientific, and oracular appeal of these objects all comes from the same place.
The “Hidden Land” is a poetic reference to the Otherworld, the land across the River.  In a practical sense, it also refers to the everyday observable aspects of nature that most people don’t see.  For those who would like to see in this way but aren’t sure how to do it, this book offers several methods, though my intent is not to write a workbook, but to teach through example and inspiration.

CONTENTS:

1.  THE LICHEN CLOAK:  An artistic introduction to lichen shapes and colors.
(Just beginning the two diagrams that will dominate this section.  Several additional drawings are done, including the two shown above.)

2.  THE GRAPHIS LICHEN ORACLE:  A runelike oracle based on glyphs drawn from several species of Script Lichens (Graphidaceae) from the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Includes a general introduction to Script Lichens, 20 glyph cards, and illustrated card interpretations based on the natural history of the island beaches, coastal forest, and freshwater swamps.
(Done except for a few small pencil drawings for the card descriptions.  I recently rewrote and expanded the introduction and re-drew all the cards, inspired by new lichenology information that has appeared online in recent months.)

3.  THE DIVINATION BOX:  Restoring the ancient symbols of Orb and Scepter to their roots in natural objects.  ANTLER AND TURTLE SHELL is an illuminated poetic description of two common wildland bone treasures.  MOONPEBBLE HOARD investigates the geology of two small collections of stones that can be “thrown” as an oracle:  quartz crystals and round white agate pebbles.  (Writing is mostly done.  Next stage is to design the illuminated antler pages, and begin drawings of the stones.)

4.  CREEKWALKER’S FOREST:  The Creek as a path into the land and a tributary to the River between worlds.  Portraits of southern Arizona trees and selected Borderland plants.
(Well underway, with several tree drawings and descriptions completed, and a backlog of reference photos ready to draw.)

5.  PAINTED BONES:  Contemplation of the skeleton:  Bones repaired or replaced with natural objects, a record of creative work as self-initiation.  (Still in the sketching/planning stage, this short section will include only three or four drawings.)

Table of Contents in Pictures

Table of Contents in Pictures

PUBLISHING:
I plan to query several publishers, though a project like this will be a hard sell and I’m expecting to self publish.  At this point I have no idea when the project will be finished but am hoping to go to press in less than two years.  This isn’t a long book but most of what I have to say is told in the drawings, which take longer than writing.

As the moon wanes, I’m selling the last copies of the Ironwing Tarot Major Arcana (two copies left as of this morning), and putting several egg tempera paintings up for sale on my website HERE.  None of them are new (I haven’t done any painting in nearly two years, due to other drawing projects, more metal and lapidary work, and having more cats to care for).  Several, such as Jaguarundi Shaman that appears on my website homepage, have never been offered for sale before now.  I had retired most of my paintings from the website because most people do not find them interesting, and the painting medium (handground mineral pigments in eggyolk/water medium) can be a turnoff, especially for younger people who typically prefer the ultra-saturated colors that they are used to seeing in digital art.  So if I don’t get any inquiries in the next six months or so, I’ll take them down permanently so they’re not cluttering the site.

Cat Eye Moon

The Tucson gem and mineral shows are in town, and I’ve been enjoying the madness for the past week, although I only visited two shows this year.  Now that I have a lapidary machine and am starting to make beads and carvings, I didn’t look at beads or finished stones.  Instead, I bought rough rock (big pile of Madagascar carnelian river pebbles), slabs (picture jasper, blue tigereye, agate, etc.), and various small tools.  The fossil displays were some of the best I’ve ever seen at the show.  I couldn’t resist buying a lower jaw fragment of Megaloceros, the Pleistocene giant deer, that was collected from a gravel bar in the Rhine River, Germany. 

Looks like I’ll be working with a lot of carnelian!  In addition to the lovely Madagascar stones that I just bought, I also have an old stockpile of Oregon material, and a pile of bead-sized pink, orange, and red carnelian pebbles that we collected a few weeks ago in the Empire Mountains.  So I’m looking forward to making more carvings like this one that I finished in December:

A carved mussel shell of Oregon carnelian.

Ironwing Tarot Update

April 6, 2009

Ironwing Tarot  full 78-card deck with book and bag:

SOLD OUT as of today.

 

22 card MAJOR ARCANA set (square-cornered cards, no book or bag) is STILL AVAILABLE.

How to Draw Fire

April 1, 2009

The title phrase has shown up in my blog stats every day for about a year. 
What does fire look like?  Regardless of the art medium or style that you are using, you need to be familiar with what fire looks like and how it behaves.  Here’s the photo gallery at wildlandfire.com, the ultimate online resource for PICTURES OF FIRE.  Under the first heading, “Fire Photo Pages”, you’ll find 40 pages, each with several photos.  There are more photos at the bottom of the page under “Incidents by Name and Year”.
Symbols for Fire:  The Ironwing Tarot uses several symbolic techniques to represent fire in small ink drawings.  It shows fire, sparks, or smoke on 27 cards (Major Arcana and Spikes).  Many of these are rather subtle, since fire isn’t usually the main subject of the card.
Painting Fire:  Fire is surprisingly easy to render effectively in mineral pigments, especially against a dark background.   This egg tempera sketch shows a whitetail deer scapula painted in charred bone, with a smoky background painted with forest fire charcoal.  The fiery figure is painted in yellow ochre with red ochre accents.  Commercial transparent watercolor would offer more color options, but the idea is the same – keep it simple, with thin glazes of intense color against a darker, more neutral background.
Scapulimancy Fire

Scapulimancy Fire

Here is a rather stylized egg tempera painting of fire glowing in the earth, surrounded by charred thorns:

Fire and Thorns

Fire and Thorns

Previous posts on this blog that include fire paintings include a painting of an iron pomegranate with fire inside (rendered in realgar, not yellow ochre), and a painting of a pomegranate made of fire.
GREEN fire?  Yes, when copper ore is heated (or copper metal that has developed a green patina), it gives off green flames.  This watercolor miniature was painted in iron oxides and copper ores (red cuprite, green malachite, and blue azurite).
Copper Fire Bowl

Copper Fire Bowl

Moon Turtle Mandalas

February 18, 2009

The circular turtle shell is a motif that I have used in several drawings, the most detailed of which is the scratchboard Tsunami Turtle.  The first time I used it, I painted the Dark Moon Tortoise Mandala in forest fire charcoal, charred bone, and silver metallic powders.  It’s been holding a collection of white chalcedony “moon pebbles”, though now I’m drilling some of the pebbles for other projects.  Here it is with an old pencil drawing, Coyote Imitates Uroboros.

Coyote Imitates Uroboros

Coyote Imitates Uroboros

The design was modified from a realistic drawing of a box turtle shell:
Box Turtle Outline

Box Turtle Outline

I’ve used box turtle shells for several drawings that are inspired by the infinite variety of yellow and brown designs on the shell.  The one below is a fanciful handprint design painted in realistic colors using handground iron oxide mineral pigments (goethite, limonite, hematite, and Fe-Mn oxide).  I have a collection of more than a dozen shells, all with very different patterns.  One is nearly black with only a small brown patch on each scute.  Another is mostly yellow.  Most are about half brown and half yellow, with concentric, radiating, or irregular glyph-like patterns.
Box Turtle Hands

Box Turtle Hands

Download a large printable version of the Box Turtle Outline template  HERE to decorate with your own “cheloglyphs”!
The Turtle Shell as a Moon Calendar:  In most turtles, the carapace (the top half of the shell) has 13 scutes (thin brownish and/or yellowish plates that are made of keratin, the same material as hair) and the plastron usually has 12 (some species have 10).  The scutes cover and protect the bone underneath, and develop concentric ridges as the turtle grows.  The number of marginal scutes (the small rectangular plates around the edge of the shell) varies depending on the species but their are typically 12 to 14 on each side, sometimes with a tiny scute called the nuchal at the center front.
All these divisions make the turtle shell an interesting way to lay out stones or other natural objects, divination spreads, drawings, and similar projects that are based on the lunar calendar.

This Moon Turtle design is a very stylized and fully reversible circular version that I adapted for use with many different media – paper, fabric, metal, etc. :

Small Circular Turtle Template

Small Circular Turtle Template

Download a large printable version for your own project  HERE.
(Downloadable images are for personal use only, not for resale .)

Adytum

June 13, 2008

In the secret innermost Sanctuary:  A precious one hidden from danger, a salvaged one undergoing a healing transformation, or a prisoner awaiting release?

 

Adytum

 

Here is Beluga, He Who Circles, discovering the maze on our living room floor:

 

Beluga on the Maze

Beluga Comes Home

June 11, 2008

This week I adopted Beluga, the Hermitage Cat Shelter resident that I have sponsored for two years.  He is a slinky black shorthair with deep gold eyes.  A head injury when he was a kitten left him with neurological problems – he walks in circles and does not climb, jump, purr, or use a litterbox.  He is on medication for seizures and (temporarily, we hope) for asthma.   He is a beautiful, loving boy who enjoys being held and petted.  He has thoroughly explored the house and even looked at himself in the mirror.  We took a long nap together today, with him curled tightly around my hand.  The other five cats are avoiding him so far, because they recognize that he is “different” – or perhaps holy, since he has now been twice carried across the Abyss, and remains protected by many loving hands.

Beluga

Mica Collage

January 27, 2008

I’m working on several paintings for a poster presentation that I’ll be taking to a botany conference in two weeks.  The poster is mostly about using handground mineral pigments in egg tempera for botanical illustration, but will also include scratchboard art and a couple of craft projects like this:

mica collage

Jaguar Tracks in Blue Oak Canyon  10″x14″

Amate (Mexican bark paper, which represents rocks), muscovite and biotite mica flakes and powdered pearlescent mica pigment (flowing water), copper foil (blue oak leaves), gold metallic powders (acorns), silver scratchboard (forefoot track), red ochre (hind foot track), malachite and azurite pigments (the moon, and the copper ores which are found in the canyon).

TURQUOISE has been turning up more frequently in my art recently, and it looks like that will continue for awhile.  I have an ambivalent relationship with this stone.  I’m not fond of most turquoise jewelry or its various cultural trappings – my attraction to it is much more primitive.  My favorite cuts are the round “donut” discs with a hole in the center, large smooth but irregularly-shaped beads, and some very simple cabochons.  When I use it in jewelry, I’m trying for a look that is primitive but universal – something to display on a blanket on the ground, that could have come out of a trader’s pack yesterday or three thousand years ago.  I just finished this necklace of hammered and hot-forged copper, African cast-glass beads, a Chinese turquoise donut, and an antique Chinese cast-bronze bell (this is OLD, and the subtle design on the surface was worn and obscured long before the beautiful patina developed).  The bell has a lighter, more tinkly sound than my iron bells.

bronze bell necklace

bronze bell necklace

A few days ago, turquoise entered my creative life in a different way when I accepted a commission for a lion doll made with the same pattern as the one on my website.  But this one is to be a Tibetan snow lion, white with a turquoise mane.  I am already having fun planning his blanket and ornaments, even though I won’t be able to start on the project until after the botany conference.

Ice Lamp Moon

January 8, 2008

Today’s New Moon is the Ice Lamp Moon in my personal moon calendar.  I named it when I was 13, in reference to the Winter Orchid or Puttyroot (Aplectrum hyemale) that grew in the woods near my house.  The plant has a single leaf that sprouts in September and persists through the winter, dying back in May as the flowerstalk appears.  I made this painting several years ago to celebrate the plant, and it also appears on the Apprentice of Blades in my tarot deck.

Ice Lamp Moon

This morning’s Dark Moon meditation produced two images that work together, which seems appropriate for the month of Janus, the double-faced Roman guardian of beginnings and doorways.  These are 3″ drawings in Yarka Sauce, which are naturally pigmented, kaolin-based drawing chalks from Russia.  Though messy, they are very inexpensive and nice if you want to work with earth pigments (or just earthy colors) and don’t want to grind your own.  The “Sauce” is an assortment of ten colors (white, black, several shades of gray, and an earthy green, yellow, and blue).  The “Sanguine and Sepia” is 20 sticks in four shades of natural red ochre (not true sepia, which is brown and derived from squid ink).  It’s a beautiful and easy way to use red ochre.  The sticks can be used like pastels or powdered and applied with a brush.  They can be smoothed and blended with water to create many layers, though they don’t work well in egg tempera because of the high clay content and the presence of a binder.

New Moon 1
new moon 2

On recent hikes in the Madrean evergreen oak/pine forest in nearby mountains, we have encountered one of the few absolutes among the natural nourishing and limiting factors that determine our local flora.  When most people think of “desert”, they think of intense summer heat and low rainfall.  But in U.S. deserts, another natural element plays an equally important role:  ice.  Many of our drought-tolerant southern Arizona desert plants – cacti, agaves and yuccas, evergreen oaks and pines, thorny shrubs, and others – have relatives in warmer climates in Mexico, or in California where there is more winter rain, or in Texas where there is more summer rain.  Our species are adapted to frost (several nights a year that are below freezing), high temperatures (several days a year that are over 105), and bi-seasonal rainfall (summer monsoons and winter rain and snow).  I’m reminded of this each year when we experience the various extremes.  Below is ice on weathered granite, with tiny leaves of the evergreen oak Quercus toumeyana.

ice with oak leaves

Skystone Mineral Pigment

December 6, 2007

copper ore pigment

This is a new mineral pigment for my collection – a tiny piece of greenish-blue copper ore from a local abandoned mine.  It contains malachite, chrysocolla, and probably a bit of turquoise.  I already have several examples of all these pigments in my collection, but this piece was particularly bright and clean, so the paint is clear and (for copper ore) relatively intensely colored.  Sky and water, cool and warm, strong and delicate at the same time, like turquoise. Typical ore like the pieces in the photo is usually a mixture of several greenish or bluish copper minerals, often with dark impurities (cuprite, iron sulfides, and iron and manganese oxides) which make it unsuitable for pigment.  The small pieces are the best – they are the most pure, and usually contain the rarest and most intensely colored minerals.  Now I have the perfect pigment for my Copper Oracle, which is still in the pencil-sketch stage.

I printed the Lichen Oracle as a set of cards so I could learn how to work with it.  I’m finding it much more powerful this way, and the moon and three minor glyphs on each card allow for interesting patterns in a spread – it is an intriguing puzzle, yet the glyphs are good for meditation, and become even better as I grow more familiar with them.  The whole series flows, pauses, and moves very naturally.  Of course the published deck will look quite different – this practice set will help me decide what it should look like.

lichen oracle cards