Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Power of Silence

I kept the stitching and beading for this months cougar pretty straightforward.  Thread embroidery was used to add texture to the branches and add detail to the cougar's face.   I used beads for the little bit of Ivy that climbs onto the piece on the left hand side.  I kept the beading on the cougar to outlining to keep with the refined look of the cougar.  I used a mix of beads to increase the shading effects possible.  My last steps were adding leaf beads to the trees and crystal sequin stars to the sky.

All of the stitching and beading for this piece was done on one of our trips to Philadelphia.  I have managed to accomplish a fair amount of beading on our trips there, between the drive up and down and the time here and there that I fit in I always seem to get a lot accomplished.

Cougars are expert climbers and swimmers and have 410 voluntary muscles. They are powerful, graceful, and stealthy in the dark. I am none of those things but sure is cool. Cunning, highly intelligent, with a strength of will, steadfastness, and intuitive abilities are often found in those with the cougar. Part of us is domestic and the other wild and primitive; we may dream of racing through the forest in the dark and dancing around a campfire. Cougars are primarily nocturnal.

Cougars help us to make quick decisive action and to measure or pace our movements according to the goal we are trying to achieve. Showing us how to grow and take charge they lead us to our own power. Guiding one to balance when to be gentle and when to assert oneself more forcefully the cougar can teach us how to defend ourselves and yet reminds us that there is strength and power in gentleness.. They remind us to use leadership wisely and without ego; balancing power, intention and strength. It may be a time to learn about power and to test your own. Assert your power, stretch your muscles and show your capabilities: bring out your power, fill your heart with it in a manner that will enable you to take charge of your life.

Cougars can move into different realities. As we peer into the darkness of the unknown the cougar can help guide us to the other side so that we can enjoy exploring the mystical side of life. Becoming more perceptive of our surroundings is something they can help us with so that we can achieve a heightened sense of spiritual awareness. They are a link between ourselves, Mother Earth, Father Sky and the Originator of All. Learning the benefits of concentration, deep contemplation, prayer and the power of silence will help those with the cougar as one of their animals spirits. They ask if we are empowering our lives the best way we can

I will write a post later this week with the start of my April piece and a photo of the first 7 months on the tree background.  I chose my Tree Spirit for April since I expect it will take a bit longer and I will be traveling to Iowa the last half of the month to visit my folks.  I should have plenty of time to bead.

I have recently changed my website up so if you would like to see all of the changes please visit Artistic Kreations and Passions.  If you want to see even more photos of my BJP pieces please check out my Web Gallery.  I have added photos of the box I started when I took a class with Robin Atkins when she visited Baltimore to my Web gallery so you can see them there or read about it on my Artistic Kreations and Passions Blog

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Painting the Cougar

Now it is time to go a bit more in depth with what I do to make my block to bead on.  All of the pictures are clickable if you want to see them larger.  Also if you want to see more photos and larger photos please visit my web gallery which has all of the photos I take and usually gets them before I even get them on my blog.

If you read my last post you know where I get my images for drawing my animals.  I start with a piece of graph paper that is the size of my block and copy the details like branches from the background so the block will have those on them.  I then figure out where I want my animal and which way they will face.  Using the research I did I then draw the animal onto the graph paper. If you read my Like Leaves on a Tree Plenty of Ideas post you saw that for many of my blocks I did the original sketching early on. Also if you look at the pictures on the post you will see an earlier version the the cougars head.

When the month rolls around for the animal to come to life I refine my drawing looking again to my inspiration and changing what I don't like.  The cougar got lots of attempts at getting his face right,  it had looked almost like a cartoon and he did not like that.  
After the drawing is finalized I take a piece of medium weight interfacing to which I have applied a coat of acrylic matte medium. I place that over the drawing and copy the information onto the interfacing with permanent pens. 

At this point I may also add some extra details to the interfacing with more permanent markers.  (Let's hear it for so many colors of fine tip Sharpies!)  Then it is time to start painting.  I have been using mostly fluid acrylic paints for this piece but I also use some fabric paints as well. I usually work relatively quickly on the animals starting with lighter colors and going darker doing the shading and gradations while the paint is still wet.  When I want to add crisp lines or finer details I will wait for the piece to dry then add them.

The background is painted onto a poplin weight fabric that has been prepared with a coat of matte medium.  I often have areas of different colors on it that needs to dry between them so that I don't get bleeding.  I will usually start with the background move to the interfacing and back so while I work on one the other can dry some.  Once I have both the back ground and foreground images painted I let them dry and then I cut out the foreground image.  I use matte medium as a glue to attach the two layers together.

I made one mistake on this piece in that before I added my cougar I should have added the fusible web leaves.  It was more challenging to add them after he was already on the piece but I managed.  Once the layers are all married together I cut out the block and fuse it to felt.  That's it, I can usually do it all in a day depending on when I get it started. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

Cougar/ Information on Research

My first note is that all of these photos can be clicked if you want to see them larger.  Also if you would like to see more photos visit my web gallery which has my latest photos and often gets them before I get around to blogging them. 

I have received several comments on how I do my research and  where I get my information as well as how I get the images I need to draw and paint my animals for my blocks so I thought I would break this month's (March's) block up into sections talking about the research, showing the steps in the making of the painting and then the last entry will cover the beading and symbology for the cougar.

As I was playing with the idea of my Sacred  Tree and I knew I was going to use my animal totems and animals that have personal meaning to me I decided to re-read the information that I had on them. I have Ted Andrews "Animal Speak" and have found it a really useful source.  There are other good books out there on animal totems and "Animal Speak isn't the only one I have.  For those of you who don't like to collect books as much as I do another very good resource is to go online and use your web browser and type in the animal you are interested followed by symbology (example: cougar symbology) and do a search.  You will be amazed at how much information you can find that way.  The same is true for all of the other symbology that I have used in my piece you can either look online or buy books.  I have at least 5 symbology books and still spend time online adding to the research information that I have.

The first 3 photos are of my notebook that I am keeping for my Sacred Tree piece.  It was an inexpensive notebook that I bought and started collecting the information I was finding for this piece.  For each item I have blogged, the symbology for each animal or other item in the overall piece has a separate entry in my book.  Luckily for me this notebook can be taken apart and the pages rearranged so that I could keep like things together or finding anything would have become a problem.

The first photo shows one of three pages of written notes that I have made of the cougar for all of the symbology information that I was finding,  some of it is repeated from more than one source and they are not in any order.  Once I get ready to blog I try to make some sense of order out of the notes.

The other question I got was about my visual research or how did I draw and paint the animals especially since I haven't seen many of them or didn't have my own photos of them.  I would have liked to use my own photos but alas except for the Honu (turtle) I did not have any photos that would work.  Once again I went online and did a search this time with what I was looking for and then images (cougar images)  the number of images you can find is overwhelming but I would sort through and find some that gave me an idea of the look of the animal and the coloring.  In the case of the cougar I also found a pice of fabric that had images of cougar heads so I bought some which came in really handy when I was having trouble getting the face of the cougar to look right.    

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

February: Bear on the Beach

I started working on my February block after I finished my January block so around the 16th I started painting it and then got all of my supplies together since we were going to Philly the next weekend and I knew I would have time on the way up at least to work on it. I had other time as well and then finished it on the very last day of February. This block was a lot of fun to work on and required no real thought. Although my bear guardian is a male, Wayne and I both agree that my bear looks like female. She looks like she is happy to be sitting on the beach playing in the sand and gathering treasures.

Bears symbolize healing, solitude, change, communication with spirit, death and rebirth, transformation, patience, playfulness, astral travel and wisdom. Bear offers strength, introspection and knowledge. Bears do not make snap decisions; they take in all available information, take it to their quiet place, study it carefully until they reach their own informed decision. They teach us to go within our inner sanctum to find our answers. They are strong, nurturing and protective; reminding us to not forget caution. Bears are self sufficient and would rather stand on their own two feet than rely on others. Bears are often associated with trees (all can climb), trees are the natural antenna linking heaven and earth, fertility and things that grow. The tree serves as a reminder that we must bring what we awaken into the world and apply it. We should also keep the cub in us alive and climb trees.

They are a creature of dreams, and teach us to be dreamers and may help us to develop the skill to visualize new things. They store the teaching of our dreams until we wake up to them. They help us awaken the power of the unconscious. They are a spirit keeper of the west, a place of maturity and good harvest. Bears are active both day and night and are connected with both solar (strength and power) and lunar (intuition) energies.

The bears going into their caves is symbolic of a return to the Mother Earth. Bear people tend to like home and shelter and like to be warm and cozy. They help us to go within to find the inner stores of energy and essence necessary for our personal survival, even those that have never been tapped, and teach us how to remain balanced amid change. Bears represent the great cycle of life and rebirth, renewal and fresh beginnings. People with bears often feel a need to go deep within themselves, to have periods in their life when they can be more reclusive. Often during this time they will birth 2-3 new ideas or projects that they will nurse through the winter and as spring approaches they emerge with their new “babies” to help them grow. A cycle of semi-hibernation and reclusiveness in the winter may feel very natural to these people and the thing to remember is to be careful not to hide away and hibernate all year long.

I have always felt very drawn to bears starting in early childhood. I always liked bear stories, seeing bears on TV or in zoos. When I was 10 I got Teddy who is my favorite bear, he goes with me everywhere and is a very well traveled bear. I also have a decent collection of stuffed bears and other bear goodies. When I first read about bears I was amazed in how much it related to who I am, especially in that I did indeed have a certain need to hibernate in the winter. I often will not leave the house for weeks at a time if I don’t have to and often am very creatively productive. It is also a time of great introspection for me which is definitely one of my personality traits.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

January: Bison

January's block actually was done in February since I spent most of my creative time in January reorganizing my bead supplies. That was one of my goals for the new year and gave me a sense of completion that I was needing at the time. February started out fairly quickly with a terrible cold that really knocked me out for the first 1/2+ of the month but somehow I still managed to work on my block for January and finish it by Valentine's Day. I had painted it before I got sick which helped. Like the previous months the background is painted with fluid and other acrylics onto a poplin weight fabric. The Bison is painted onto interfacing and cut out and collaged onto the background. The painting is then fused to felt that acts as a mat and a support for the beading.

The hardest part about starting this months block was that I liked how the painting of the bison had turned out and had a hard time stitching the first bead onto it. Luckily, once the first bead was on the rest of the beading was much easier.

Bisons represent our sacred life and the abundance of the Creator’s blessing on Mother Earth and the respect that we should have for all of creation knowing that all things are sacred. As a manifestation of the divine aspects of our being bison teach us to incorporate our own efforts to embrace and hold life. Bison remind us to honor our path through life and ask for assistance from the spirit world as we recognize the sacredness of every walk of life and honor the pathway of others. The massive head of the bison reminds us to combine our own efforts with that of the Divine and that both mundane and spiritual are necessary to manifest what we are seeking. You don’t have to struggle to survive if right action is combined with right prayer.

Bison stands proud against the winds of adversity. The bison teaches us to temper our power when dealing with others and to allow the tranquility and peace of the Buffalo Brother to enter our lives. They remind us to look for the good in all things and to have the courage to face all of our problems head on. They help us to eliminate our burdens by directing our energies in a balanced way and to follow the easiest path and to not use force in our life, to flow with it. Do what you have to do and then let the events take their natural course.

The huge head of the Buffalo Brother signifies higher mental abilities that is grounded in Mother Earth by their tough bodies. Bison symbolize feminine courage and they teach us creativity, courage, sacred knowledge, sense of community, generosity, strength of character, hospitality, and survival strategies. Bison prize freedom and can teach us healing medicines. With their hump the Bison reminds us that we always have reservoirs that we can tap into.

Bison are known for their strength. I find it very interesting that most people who don’t know me really well see me as weak. Being an introvert and other things about me tend to make people see me as vulnerable. I have found I tend to bring out a protective instincts in a lot of people and a mothering instinct in many women. The thing is if you have any idea what it takes to be a military spouse you know that you can’t be weak and survive long. Many of the things that the bison teaches I use to get through the challenges that life offers, I always have even before I knew that the bison was one of my animals. Wayne is one of the few people I think that truly sees and knows how strong I am inside, it isn’t showy but it is there. He has told me that I am his rock and yet he is a very strong person on his own.