My quick study of the moment the Magician swan enters, stirring the tranquility of the sleeping swans
Elaine Clayton copyright 2015
My favorite part of Swan Lake is the dramatically dangerous moment the Magician enters, his dark and powerful wings triumphantly fan out in his menacing approach, fluttering the delicate feathers of the innocent.
Swan Lake is so archetypal, it reminds us and speaks to us of what we know to be true in life: It ain’t Paradise. We live in this world of shadow and light, positive and negative, where sweet guileless trust meets cunning and cruel manipulation.
Swans get ready. Don’t relinquish peace and grace because of evil deeds and intentions. Be a swan in your placid environment, and know that in the end, the magician gets caught in his own brokenness, his wing crushed and his flight permanently damaged ( Swan Lake Part 2: Broken winged Magician is sent to a nature preserve where 3rd graders get to pet him and this rehab softens his sickness and propensity for harming others before he dies a less bitter agent of ruin).
This is one of my sketchbook entries from 1989, when I was teaching at The Paideia School in Atlanta, GA. (a most fantastic progressive, independent school ). I was concerned about a young student who was having a hard time getting going in his creative writing and drawing assignment. Even way, way back then, I was trying to pass on the power of mark-making–drawing as a way to thrive, and it was simple: drawing freely helps break barriers to the self, opens the creative, imaginative flow and unlocks all the potential for discovery, exploration and learning. I know from experience that if this student, Michael, and so many others, did not have that time to create while being relaxed, mindful (that meditative state of the feeling of happy fullness and wellbeing) they would not have blossomed so well as they did. Drawing in an environment that is accepting, enlightening and embraces potential (the unexpected and the innovative) changes young lives.
A recent Spirit Painting/ copyright Elaine Clayton 2014
I started a new dream journal so I can use the scenes, symbols and signs that come through in dreams to help guide me toward deeper consciousness this New Year. Conscious awareness will help me make choices that will truly be good for me, and will show me what I am doing to hold myself back. I think dreams do give us clues and, like intuitive stream drawing, dreams allow us to be on the river of our flowing unconscious knowledge. Some of the knowledge is mysteriously present (a small thing recently is that I dreamed a good friend from college days loves the candy known as Pop Rocks, and when I sent him a message about the dream, he told me in fact he does love Pop Rock candy–this may seem trivial, but why would I even dream that detail, and why was the information correct?). Some of the content is obvious, and I think we live somewhere in-between the mysterious and spiritual and the physical, psychological obviousness. With both aspects, we create our future and respond to events as they unfold.
This past weekend I was lucky enough to travel to Virginia to do readings and an intuitive stream drawing workshop (based on the intuitive method in my new book, MAKING MARKS: Discover the Art of Intuitive Drawing). At one point in the workshop, we broke into teams of two and did stream drawings for one another. I’d like to share what happened in my one-on-one with a partner. I told him I’d hold a concern in my mind and heart, but would not tell him what it was. He promised me he’d close his eyes and using his non-dominant hand, would draw in my honor, to help me (even though he didn’t know my concern, or know me at all). The drawing was very meaningful to me! My partner showed me his drawing and then shared with me what he saw in it, while gazing at it. He saw a mountain peak right away. It immediately spoke to me. He didn’t know it, but the concern I had was that of worry as a mother having a high school senior about to graduate to move on in life. I dreaded the mountain peak, which my partner said, “Has a snowcap.” Could it be that my son would go to a college very far away in the Northwest (I would prefer he not go so far away!)? This had been a worry of mine! see below, upper right snow cap image I validated that he was on the right track. Excited, I began to show him other things that I saw that was validation– we got into a fun and easy-going conversation about his stream drawing. We saw various things such as “a strong arm” and he helped me realize that I’d have to “let go, don’t hold on so tight” to my young adult son. (Wise words!). And then I saw, to my amazement, that the entire stream drawing had a shape of a bear, in a dress. This is significant because my life lesson with my sons was to learn to advocate for them, like a “mother bear”. The bear has a tight grip (gulp–learn to let go now) and seems to have a little surrender flag up near it’s head. see above image Should I surrender control and instead let my son’s life take the course that he wants it to take, rather than holding on so tight? I think so. THANK YOU for the insight! I have learned something. I faced that this was a new time, with new lessons in life and parenting ahead. And that drawing really helped me change my viewpoint, I was not even fully conscious of the need to acknowledge that I was perhaps unwilling to let go. (And these drawings are to be read “multi-dimensionally”, like a dream, they never stop offering new perspectives, new ways of perceiving. There is no absolute here, it’s about discovery and seeing what you see and embracing it, keeping an open mind to possible other views.)
This is one of the 40 Illuminara Intuitive Journal cards. I painted it thinking of my birth place and the Texas landscape that was to be my idea of what the world was in my first decade of life. I think of going home when I choose it randomly, it brings up many thoughts and feelings for me. This is what it looks like in the Texas Panhandle where I was born and lived until about 10 years old. It hits me hard to realize that at the most foundational level within me, is this place, this extreme flat land with characteristics unlike any place I’ve lived since. I remember being myself in the most unconscious way, I had not thought about who I was, I just WAS “me”. Once we moved, I began to be very self-conscious and noticing drastic differences in people and places. So when I see this card, I am struck by that true, authentic cowgirl/tomboy “me” that I was, from a long line of Texans on my dad’s side, and how I had 10 years to live in that totally present self. After that time, I have visited many places, lived in many, and have been exposed to all kinds of life lessons, yet I have never felt “at home” in that same way. What does “at home” mean to me now? It means finding my soul, connecting with my heart, being myself and genuine, true to who I am. It means expressing myself and respecting others. I am at home in my own skin.
Right now, I am totally immersed in Judaism with all its ancient wisdom and mystical richness. I “came home” to myself in many ways when I finally started studying Hebrew and chanting the prayers in the Siddur. This would seem to have taken me far from home, but instead it feels like going back home. Maybe it was that menorah Mom had or all the Levy family who we were so close to, and who my dad and all of us grew up with in Texas, or Jesus who I knew to be a Jew, wondering why everyone wasn’t then just Jewish if he was? Maybe it was past lives. All I know is that I love being home within, in that way I cannot verbalize.
Stream drawing after a compelling dream has some interesting benefits. I noticed the first time I tried it (read about it MAKING MARKS in the Streaming and Dreaming chapter) I did the drawing thinking about the dream, and discovered upon gazing afterward, that the drawing highlighted a particular incident that was the catalyst for changes in my life. Both the dream and the stream drawing with the dream in mind showed me elements of this life change, but from very different angles. This fascinated me as I had not connected things that way and the stream drawing helped me to more fully understand.
Last night I dreamed we were in a kind of wilderness land, and met people I’d consider guides (kind, patient, thoughtful, good advisors). The dream won’t leave me, it lingers like a movie continually playing, so I decided to create a stream drawing to see if I can learn more from or about the dream. Here it is, with my interpretations:
Detail from a stream drawing based on a dream/May 2014
I gazed at this drawing and was struck by what the word “wilderness” means to me in terms of this dream. A wilderness can be emotional or physical. In the dream it was both at once, kind of. I thought of lack of love and sense of goodness or ease as a good definition of wilderness as it relates to the dream and the stream drawing about the dream. I realize that the feelings I had in the dream were a kind of sadness I have or a hint of disappointment. This derives from parenting sons who are more young men than children now, and poignant memories of when they were still vulnerable babies and young children linger in my heart–you can’t get those years back. The “Little Red Riding Hood” image, facing the past (left) and a large bird (spiritual messenger) facing future (right) are significant to me. The fact that our earth walk seems to be perfectly captured by the story of Little Red. She is asked to step into the wilderness (forest with all it’s unknowns) and trust that she’ll get to her grandmother’s house safely. In the story, the wolf almost got her, but didn’t. She trusted herself and questioned the wolf. This Little Red here faces the bird/spiritual messenger, who has a body shaped like one big heart. Love is the key–and love is the simple message. Further to the right a child clings to a heart with a tear (love, sadness) and the number 2 there for me symbolizes being a daughter–just as I am a parent who wishes I could do it all over again, and perfectly this time, I am also a child never wanting to lose my own parents. The wilderness dream and the stream drawing helped me see that we are caught on a journey where time takes us through stages of life and grief, but here we are. The only way through it seems to be to focus on love, on being a loving person.
Detail from a recent intuitive stream drawing reading/ copyright Elaine Clayton 2013
In a recent visual-intuitive meditation, using drawing to access intuitive knowledge (I share this method in my book, MAKING MARKS: Discover the Art of Intuitive Drawing/Simon and Schuster/Beyond Words due out in May), I saw in a past position, a figure with the #2 (see in brown color) which to me signifies “daughter” or sisterhood, as well as some other associations. A beach scene appeared. All the associations of beachiness (not a real word, but it works here!) came to mind: the feeling of recreation, childhood dreams and sunny days. There is a large wave approaching, which didn’t feel scary, but more like the way life moves us on, away from our carefree days and into the rest of life. I enjoyed coloring in this beach scene, but it is only one way to perceive the shapes and lines. When sharing this with the client, it resonated for her in that she had many beach memories and it gave her a chance to see ways in which the good times in life were stored within her, no matter what else life brought (amongst other meanings that came to her).
Poetry is a way of expressing thoughts, feelings and experiences in a transformational way because it takes us out of the ordinary. Celebrating special life events through poetry is a natural for poet Amy Miller. Amy serves others joyfully through PoemsToGo. “I create original poems,” she says, “and original speeches and toasts.” I asked Amy about her inspiration and she said her beloved father inspired her most.
I used to love it when my Dad told me stories and my grandparents. Their stories stuck with me and when I lost my Dad in a tragic accident, I turned that loss into something poetic and happy, that’s how I created PTG – The testimonials speak for themselves and I know my Dad would be very proud of me as I am of him, he was my role model, taken away too young when I was only 12 years old. “I used to love it when my dad and grandparents told me stories. Their stories stuck with me.” When she lost her dad in a tragic accident, the deep anguish motivated her to create. Amy says, “I turned that loss into something poetic and happy, that’s how I came to create PTG. The testimonials speak for themselves and I know my dad would be very proud of me as I am of him. He was my role model, taken away too young when I was only 12 years old.”
Amy’s ability to turn her despair and grief into an artful mission to help celebrate the events of the lives of others is very inspiring to me as an artist. If you’d like to explore her poetry or have an up-coming event that needs an excellent, original and custom-made poem, you’ll enjoy Amy’s site, www.poemstogo.tv where you can read sample poems for many occasions.
Below is a picture of Amy with her father at the beach when she was young:
You can relieve symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress through creating art. I don’t say that as an authority on PTSD, but as an artist and person. I’ve experienced first hand the healing power of creative play, drawing and art making in general, as a way to “just be” and to feel calm.
It is a year after Hurricane Sandy and one of my sons and I still get a physically ill feeling when we drive anywhere near the house we had to rent briefly during the hurricane (we were safe there, and luckily didn’t get the rental BY THE BEACH which would have made it all much worse since all those homes flooded, but we still loathed the place we were in–think moth balls and too much porcelain and glass—and were freezing for the entire week after the hurricane). My only answer is to create. My son instinctively longed for and started building models this weekend, saying he loved, “peace and quiet” while putting the models together. I am in the studio making art to let the ptsd of that time drift away. Bless all those who still do not have their home life or housing resolved, and bless those who valiantly advocate for them!
It is such a gift to meet an artist who creates work that really captures my spirit. I want to introduce the wonderful art of Karen Siegel. These collages strike me as so positive and liberating, while feeling harmonious and playful. I love them, each one evokes very different feelings. See below a little collection of some of her latest work:
Which one is your favorite? I cannot decide, but love something about each one. The way Karen uses color, she lets the viewer shift moods easily and with enthusiasm. I feel I’m in a good dream, or remembering something I thought I’d never forget when I gaze at her work. It is as though I knew something all along and didn’t remember that I knew it—there is a real transformative feeling in each collage. And Karen shares her vision and techniques with others, so if you’re in the tri-state area or visiting the East Coast soon, you might like to have an art session with Karen. I’m so happy to share her work here!
Karen Siegel (seen at work here) is an artist living in Westport, CT and teaches art at the prestigious Silvermine School of Art. She shares here talent, offering workshops and private lessons and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org