Monday, August 13, 2012

What It Feels Like to Be Me

Week 5 of BIG was our first time going really big with our paintings. We were asked to tape at least 2 sheets of paper together, but to go even bigger if that's what we wanted to do. I taped 4 pieces of paper together and tacked them to the wall. Throwing caution to the wind and just going for it. I was even considering doing 6 pages when *bam!* my packing tape ran out. Guess the universe wanted me to take big old baby steps.

The theme for the week was to paint 'what it feels like to be me.' Not really literally, in the sense that we were to sit down and paint portraits, but to hold that thought in our hearts as we worked and to let our intuition guide us 100%. To slap whatever popped into our heads on to the paper without worrying about where it was going to go, or what color it should be. If our inner selves wanted it on there, then just slap it on there! Connie even gave us a guided meditation to listen to before we started painting (but after our space was set up) to get us all loosened up and in the right mindset. Here's how my painting went, again this is copied from my BIG journal, so if it reads a bit oddly, sorry!

When I sat down to do the guided relaxation, an image of a lounging woman with a single wing behind her sprang into my mind and I held it tight until I was able to get her onto the paper.

As I put her on the page, I just let whatever else wandered into my mind end up on there as well. The entire process of painting her was very loose and free form. I grabbed paints without looking or really over thinking the colors and just let my hand lead the brush where it needed to go. I shaded and layered paints because that's how I enjoy painting and.. I did probably about 60% of this painting with my fingers. It felt deliciously deviant in a way and I found myself giggling - while I blend with my fingers fairly often, with a painting of this size, I got to blend with my palms and the sides of my hands too!

While I was working things morphed from their original areas, some things were lost and others simply moved. As I was painting I kept asking myself - are you doing this for the looks or because it makes it feel more like you? And if it was for the looks, I left it be. If it felt more authentic and true to myself to move or get rid of it, then I did so. Like that big old skull in her hair. If you look at the third picture, you'll see that I tried reshaping it with bright green into not a bird skull - I didn't *want* a bird skull with the wing right there, because to me, it looked like a giant bird had landed on my head. So I tried to force it to change and you know what? It refused. No matter what shape I tried to use, it looked funny. Even after studying and copying a deer skull, it still felt and looked funny to me. So in the end, the bird skull that showed up originally is what ended up in the painting. Because my gut refused to take any flack from my brain.

Throughout the process, I tried not to over think or analyze what was going on the paper or why - I just trusted that so long as I held 'how does it feel to be me?' in my heart, my intuition would guide me in the right direction. I was talking to my husband about the painting at one point and laughingly told him that it's a good thing that I was going with my gut, because if I had gotten this prompt before I opened myself up to painting fearlessly (and just for little old me - not a class, client or the world) then one of two things would have happened: You would have gotten a little black raincloud with a coffee cup on it's head surrounded by bees (one of my totem animals) or a literal picture of me making the appropriate face for my mood. Not whoever this cool looking chick on the paper was. Honestly? I like her better; she makes me feel awesome. ;)

It's taken me an entire week for this painting to tell me 'put the brush down and step away from the paper, I'm ready to be taken down.' I've been looking at the colors and shapes, at the birds and the stars and the lack of definition going on with her (my?) left hand and just sitting with it. Not really thinking about it, because I don't want to force meaning onto things - I want it to come to me organically over time. I look at the lotus flowers and scratch my head - I've never painted those before. Ever. I don't even know what they symbolize, truth be told. But mostly, I just look at it as a whole and feel my heart swell.

That said though, she's been sitting in my living room, pinned to the wall the whole time I've been working and it's been a bit odd having people stop by and hang out while a part of me was just lounging around naked and definitely exposed in the room. But I think she knew she was destined to get a frame and hang somewhere permanently, so she was most likely just getting me ready for that revelation. I'm usually self conscious about the stuff I make for just me, so it only hangs in my studio... well, used to only hang in my studio. This woman, demands to be seen and heard and honestly? I'm ludicrously proud of her and by association, proud of myself for taking this journey through this painting course and for creating her.

Since I finished her, she's been lounging about on the large wall behind the tv in the living room. As soon as Joe gets his table saw back from the shop, he's going to build her a frame so she can be held up in a nicer manner than thumb tacks. I've also spent a lot of time looking at her, counting things in the painting. Unsurprisingly, the number 13 is in there. But there's also 10, 4 and 9. There's a key and a brush and a vine in her hair and a teeny moon on her forehead, just above the heart. I'm not sure why, but she makes me think of the midwest, of the dessert. She makes me think of a shaman and I wonder if in some way, her undefined hand isn't pointing the way for me on this crooked pagan path of mine. Urging me into deeper spirituality.

As we spend more time together, I know she'll tell me more. But for now, I just want to bask in the glow of finishing something that I love so very, very much. Which - if you can all keep a secret- is pretty rare for me to feel about any art of my own.

Just pasting the comments I received on her from the BIG forums here, so that when it ends and we are removed from ning to make way for the next tribe of painters, I can keep them and cherish them. I've grown to admire and love my fellow painters; I will definitely miss them when this is over.

Comment by Amie on August 5, 2012 at 7:37pm
Love it Danielle! I really love the story of the picture lounging in front of company! I enjoyed reading about your process. It is interesting how some things just want to be there, because we listen to our gut! I too found it freeing to just paint, listen and paint some more!

Comment by Julie on Tuesday
" I love that you have such courage! It shows in the statement: "Because my gut refused to take any flack from my brain." IMPRESSIVE!!!!

Comment by Connie Hozvicka on Wednesday
I love that you were able to channel your deep intention to paint FEARLESS and to really understand the innate wisdom inside you through this painting. That's what I see so strongly coming through--a woman that has clarity of purpose when it comes to her spiritual journey--and sure--you meet some obstacles and unknown territory along the way--but you are kind, but stern with yourself, in staying the path.

That's what I see when I read your words and look at your gorgeous painting.

Wow! Wow sums it up!! And I wish I could just jump through the screen and give you a big ol' hug!



  1. Danni, this is AMAZING! Wow. Not only is it visually appealing, but you can feel the energy radiating from it. It...sorry, she is a living painting now. She is amazing and you are unbelievably brave. Wow.

  2. Oh Danni, how magickal...She DOES look like a shaman and an otherworldly angel. Your work just keeps blossoming and I'm loving seeing all your art. You have such a beautiful soul and heart, Danni :)

  3. When you step out my dear, you do so in style....she is awesome. Symbolism is extraordinary and the feeling of power that this skyclad woman has is evident and evokes respect. Congrats on a great piece of art that speaks volumes for you. Oma Linda

  4. Oh darlin, she's/you're so magical! Love the lotus's and all their peaceful power!

  5. Oh Danni she is GORGEOUS! She seems shamanistic or Native American Indian in some ways.

    In Buddhism, the Lotus symbolizes: fortune, purification, and faithfulness. Also in its different stages of growth represents the different stages of enlightenment. In Buddhism and other belief systems it can symbolize Rebirth.

    So happy to have you as Tribe Sister!!!

    1. I love this painting, it does ooze divine feminine energy. I love the colours and the story of it, very inspiring x x x

  6. I love this! I also love how you've interwoven pieces and symbols that make it seem as though each time I look at it I see something new. Those are by far my favorite paintings. Beautiful my darling, just amazing.

  7. Wow. I'm reading this on my tiny notebook, so I could only see one version of the painting at a time. As I scrolled down, reading, I kept being surprised by each new image. By the time I got to the last one, I was a bit stunned! Your livingroom must be sort of vibrating with the energy of this!

  8. This sounds like an amazing adventure!

  9. Holy Shit! that is amazing Danni!! I wish I could do something like that you have such a natural ability! Loved seeing your process in painting her/you. Love the symbols and the energy from her is amazing!


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