Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Aimu Dream: May Bird Whisperer Project

The May Bird Whisperer Project bird is the Silvery-Cheeked Horbill.  Each month, participating artists use the same source photo to inspire them to create a piece of art.  One of the most amazing things about the project is that you get a glimpse into how differently artists can see the same image!

For my bird whisperer pieces, I've been working to pair each bird with a cultural/ spiritual/ religious theme.  So for this one, I began by researching the bird and where it calls home.  Having recently had several pieces from Africa, it seemed synchronicitous that this one would originate there as well.  So I started researching African art.  I absolutely fell in love with adire and its symbolism.  But it's a West African tradition...and the bird is East African.  It would be like pairing a California Quail with Appalachian crafts.  So I started researching the countries listed as part of the bird's habitat and the cultures that share the space.

I found myself reading Kamba/ Akamba legends and fables. (Here's a brief selection of some of what I read.)  I read creation stories and about Engai/Ngai/Mulungu/Muungu/Mlungu, but it didn't quite fit.  For three days, I researched without feeling the 'spark'.

On the fourth, I came across Aimu/Aiimu.  A brief introductory summary for context is this:  Engai/Ngai/Mulungu/Muungu/Mlungu is a monotheistic God who created the world and lives in the sky (or sometimes a mountain), but is impersonal and not typically addressed directly, nor prone to direct interference in the world of man.  Aimu/Aiimu are the spirits of ancestors who have passed, and they are a living person's intermediary in the world after, and sometimes bring the living dreams.  Being a vivid dreamer myself, this resonated with me, and I started researching Akamba/Kamba art.  I realized that a lot of the art we find in America labeled "African art" is actually of Akamba origin.  I really liked the Kamba stools and calabash.  The lines, dots and fine detail are in line with a lot of the art I already like to create, and so I knew I'd found my inspiration and went to bed.

That night, I dreamed of how I wanted to draw it out-- I saw the bird reversed and surrounded by patterns and woke with my fingers itching to create it.  But first, I needed a black surface to capture the dark of the dream and the brightness of the colors standing out against it.  I could have painted it-- but I wanted something already dark to begin, and stopped at my local craft store, where I found coal black drawing paper of the exact size I wanted, on sale.  I snatched it up, brought it home and started drawing, excited to get started on the piece and to see how close the finished piece would be to what I dreamed.

So here are the progress pictures:

Close up of some of the drawn line work

I like the way the light was shining off the graphite.  It suited my idea of using metallics for this piece.

Adding the hornbill.  I used silver and copper ready made acrylics and mixed my own metallic blue.  

At this moment, I was a little worried that what I had in my head was too ambitious for what I had in my hands.

Eye detail-- all painted with an 18/0 brush.

This is how I envisioned the hornbill!

Normally, I realign my pictures for 'up', but that's not actually how I paint.  I'm constantly turning my paper.

Starting to add the finer dots.

Close up on detail.

Finishing up the dots. 

One of my favorite details!
Add caption

Working on the outside details.
My little paintbrush has a LOT of work ahead of it!  This is also where my husband suggested that my hornbill looked like a raven seperate from the horn portion of it's bill-- so I decided to unify it's beak better.

I used Atelier acrylics, my favorite paint.  This piece is actually that paintbrush's audition-- Grumbacher doesn't make my favorite brush anymore, so I'm looking for something to replace it with it. 

Close up detail of the copper pattern paired with the yellow and blue.

Can you tell as you look through these that I hop around on the piece?  It's as the colors for a particular area unfold to me.  I started with the drawn idea from the dream, but the color choices were all organically chosen in the act of painting.  When I was in college, I discovered I'm much less disappointed with a piece if I leave room for organic discovery and change as I go.  It helps calm my inner perfectionist.

Still enjoying the shimmer of the graphite as it disappears under paint (:  Also enjoying the shimmer of the metallics.  I decided that only the silver and the pink would not leave the confines of the hornbill's space, and that none of the primary colors would enter it, save in the ring around it.


Would you believe I saved the hardest part for last?  I know it doesn't look like it should be-- but it's the space with the least already drawn in it-- the least I remember from my dream-- the largest open for making a mistake.  And that's what made it the hardest.

After I got the solid blue bars in, with the red stripe and four red dots, I had to step away from the piece for the night and come back to it the next day after dreaming it over (I've mentioned before that I tend to use sleeping to think, yes?)

And woke up with what I wanted to do in mind!

The entire piece was painted on drawing paper, in acrylic, with both an 18/0 and 5/0 paint brush.  The pen is where I signed my name so that I could paint over it (because I can't freehand sign my name in paint-- that's just not a skill that I've developed).

And so I present my May BirdWhisperer piece:

"Aimu Dream" by Janin Wise
12" x 9"
Acrylic on coal black drawing paper

Prints and other merchandise available at my society6 store
And hope you'll check out the rest of the artist's pieces!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Return to the World Tree: Chewa Mkusu

I don't normally write about -me- particularly, but I'm going to today.  Today, I broke through a low mood cycle.  (Actually, if I'm honest about it, I started on Monday when I put my clothes away, then picked up my earrings, and got rid of shoes that I've outgrown.)  But today, I got back to making art.

Part of it has been a minor battle with imposter syndrome.  And that the vast majority of the latest pieces in my series come from African countries.  I have spent hour, days, weeks (heck, when you add them all up, months), researching for these pieces because I know that I don't know much about African cultures.  And this latest piece, by itself, has taken over three weeks to research.  To get just enough of a glimpse into the Chewa to -try- to make a piece that a Chewa person could see and maybe think-- Yes, I can see that, I can feel that, and a little bit is me.  To be honest, that's the purpose of the entire series:  To make a piece for a place that maybe people from that place, of that culture, will be able to see a small portion in them-- to resonate.

This one was hard.  Even though the majority population of Chewa live in Malawi, and Malawi's national tree is the Mulanje cedar, it didn't feel like a proper fit.  Because not all of the people of Malawi are Chewa.  And because not all Chewa live in Malawi.

My research led me to trying to find Kapirintiwa mountain, but Google maps (in fact ANY map I can find online) has no clue where it is.  And trying to narrow it down led me to the Chongoni Rock Art.

From there, I decided to find indigenous trees to the region.  And decided on the Uapaca kirkiana, sometimes called sugar plum or wild loquat, a native fruit bearing tree locally called Mkusu.  And felt the 'click' I hadn't felt for the Mulanje cedar.

I started by playing with yellow for this batch of backgrounds.  This piece began in the upper right hand corner.

Then I added the first layer of base colors.

After four layers of paint to create the base, I smattered it in each of the colors again.

Adding the first layer of white.

After the second layer of white paint.

All in all, there are nine layers of paint on this one.

3" x 3" acrylic on mini canvas

Six white loquat leaves, with seven fruit representing spiritual awakening and the collective consciousness, done on a background of rainbow colors as a bridge to the world tree. Made as piece #25 in my Leaves on the World Tree series, working on mini canvases, creating a tree associated with each of the major ethnic groups, to show that we are ALL leaves on the same world tree. The twenty-fifth piece is the Chewa Mkusu.

Prints and other merchandise available at my society6 store

Sunday, April 23, 2017

National Poetry Writing Month April 2017

Six days in to April, I found out that it's National Poetry Writing Month and decided I'd participate.  I'm not going to lie, I've made some pretty horrific poetry in the last 23 days.  Some epically, hysterically bad poetry.  That I'm not going to post here, but you can torture yourself and endure here if you so wish.

But there have also been a couple of rough gems in the mix.  And I thought I'd share them today:

From Day 7:

- Janin Wise

She could.
She would.
He did.
She didn't.

And so
she watched,
As his star rose,
And her own diminished.

But she'd
The most
important thing.

He did: his.

And only she,
Could ever do: hers.

Their stars
were not tied,
and bound
on a scale.

And the heavens
have enough open sky
for us all to shine,
if we dare.

From Day 8:

The Wisdom of a Juniper
-Janin Wise

I saw
a small,
twisted juniper.

That in passing
seemed an ancient,
wizen man.

beneath the weights
of a life time.

And as I mused,
pondering the hidden messages
of such things
glimpsed sideways,

The tree
paid me no mind
and did
as it has always done:

Enjoyed the breeze
through its branches,
the rain on its bark,
the taste of the earth,
and the thrivings of life.

And as I continued
on my way,

I wondered
that I might have
the courage of a tree:

To simple live
as I am meant,

or would I find myself
bent beneath
my own weights
and life times?

From Day 10:

The Flavor of Words
-Janin Wise

When I was a child,
I collected dictionaries,
reading them as voraciously
as any other literary work.

I delighted in pouring over
pronunciation guides,
sounding out the shapes and feels
of diphthongs and umlauts.

I approached
unknown words
like hidden treasures
waiting to be delved.

I savored
on first meeting them-

I devoured in quick bites
and peels of laughter.

I purred it to myself,
rolling it around my mouth.

Giggling at the feel of it
in the curl and pop of my lips,
the flick of my tongue,
and the expanding of my vocabulary.

...I even nightmared that each person
was apportioned only so many words,
and when you reached your allotment,
you ran out:

No more spoken,
Or even thought.


I used to wonder
that I might be the only
savourer of words.

Until I had children of my own,
who 'Ooo!' in delight
when meeting a new one.

And roll it around
in their own mouths,
trying out the feel
and shape
and sounds.

And so I serve them
a steady meal of appellations,
where we all feast
on the flavor of words.

From Day 12:

-Janin Wise

Paper thin moon,
ancient and frail,
like yellowed lace
more dust than cloth.

I see you sitting heavy 
in the inky black sky,
dour and world weary.

I wonder 
that you persevere 
through all 
you've witnessed.

That it's burden 
doesn't tear you 
from the sky.

And speculate 
that perhaps...
It does.

As you spend
three days
fully watching, 
in hope that things have changed.

...And the other
five and twenty,
desperately turning away.

From Day 15:

The Rippling Wave
-Janin Wise

I find myself enamored 
of the way the breeze 
blows through the tall grass, 
seed heads bobbing 
in a land bound wave.

Where wildflowers 
dip and dive 
like jumping fish, 
and bubble bees hover 
like fishing gulls.

I love the way 
it shimmers in sunlight, 
almost like a white foam
rolled under emerald green waves 
as it ripples across the field.

I stop,
eyes closed, 
face upturned 
to be kissed by that sunlight, 
smile tugging at the corner of my lips.

Arms wide as the breeze 
just begins to brush my skin, 
deep breaths, 
almost expecting sea salt air,
being blessed instead with spring aromas:

Delicate hints 
of blooms untouched by bees, 
and the heady, 
earthy warm scent 
of grasses slowly turning into hay.

From Day 22:
A Haiku to celebrate Earth Day

Earth day once a year...
How quaint when you consider
ALL our days are Earth's.

And today's:

Today's Divinity
-Janin Wise

Today's divinity comes on wing,
through those that flutter and peck 
amongst last year's fallen leaves, 
twitters and hops a cultivated dance in camouflage.

Today's divinity comes on wing,
Outstretched feathered fingertips, 
reflected against shiny man's glass,
reaching for and briefly touching 
forever in the blueness of the open sky.

Today's divinity comes on wing,
Thin wind ridden pine branch 
and a small fat fluff of beige brown feathers,
Completely content to be still and savour,
while the world moves around it.

Today's divinity comes on wing,
And an empty nest 
nestled in the hanging ruins of a once proud ivy,
Left to be that a young family could grow-
And so they have.

Looking forward to seeing what the remaining seven days have in store (:

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Making up stories

The other day while our weather was horrible, I decided I'd join some writer's groups on facebook.  In part because eventually, I'll actually need to find an editor (and maybe even a publisher) for my dream journals and other bits and snippets.  But mostly, to lurk and learn.

Yesterday, I was browsing through the latest posts to one of them and came across this one by Victoria Ngozika Onyeabor:

"Just now, as I've been editing at a coffee shop, a strange child placed a brand new chocolate muffin into the trash, slowly, while holding eye contact with me, like it was a death threat.
Any author who writes a story around what just happened to me will automatically get 5% off editing lol"

Now, I'm not sure about the 5% off editing (though I certainly wouldn't be adverse!) but as soon as I read the invitation to write around it, I had a story in my head.  And I thought I'd share it here:

Elaine was a silent child, always watching, always waiting. Her mother called her an 'old soul'. Her father called her odd. She cared not a wit either way, as she loved them both fiercely.

Today, her mother's amblings brought them to the coffee shop. It was a place hitherto of mysteries and odors only glimpsed (and smelt) briefly in passing, dragged behind, her small hand clasped tightly, her mother always late, and always rushing.

As her mother talked with the other adults in the line, Elaine's attentions were drawn elsewhere.

With rapt concentration, she focused on the sole chocolate chip muffin.

She watched.

She waited.

She barely breathed.

She could not blink, or lose focus, even for a moment...

Or the muffin would notice.

They inched closer and closer to the muffin, the only things protecting all of humanity from it being a thin pane of glass, and Elaine's notice.

She took shallow breaths, partly from fear, but mostly not to jar her vision.

Pimpled goose flesh and a quick flash of cold passed through her slight frame as her mother dragged her to mere inches from the 'muffin'.

The woman at the counter tried to catch her eye, but Elaine's gaze was unwavering. Her lips a thin, pale, pinched line as she held back a scream.

But with no emotion.

No expression.

She could not let her face show anything.

Or the muffin would know.

Her mother misread her intent concentration, and Elaine watched in silent horror as the cashier headed right for the chocolate chip muffin. She was wise to approach it with protective gloves. And to pick the dangerous thing up with long tongs to keep it away from her.

She arranged it on a cute little plate with a decorative doily and a fork-- why would she be arming the thing?!

With a quick swipe of her card, her mother brought the dread muffin into alignment with Elaine and fate.

As her mother handed her the plate, she tried to bring the muffin to a swift death, there on the floor. But her mother's reflexes had improved and she righted it, commanding Elaine use both hands to carry the plate.

With burning eyes from an eon locked in battle with the dire muffin, and trembling hands to be in such close proximity, Elaine hunched her shoulders and followed docily in her mother's wake.

She set the plate at the table her mother indicated, then waited for her back to be turned.

As soon as her mother rose to get napkins, Elaine took three quick, shallow breaths, and one long one.

She steeled herself, recognizing that her parents depended on her to be brave in this moment, and deliberately reached out for the muffin. She kept her eyes on it until she approached the trash can.

And as she lowered the dread muffin into its final resting place, her eyes locked with a woman across the way, a kindred spirit and fellow world builder. She took strength in the unflinching gaze of the other, and finished the job.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Bird Whisper Project 2017: Bennu, Flamingo of Ra

This month's Bird Whisper Project bird is a Flamingo.  Each month, there is a single image chosen, and all the participating artists create a piece using the same source.  It's an amazing look at the artistic eye and how differently artists can see the same thing.

To begin, I painted the background of my otherwise creamy 4 x 6 cold pressed watercolor paper a muted beige to simulate papyrus.  Then I penciled in my rough outlines.

After that, I painted the outline and the hieroglyphics.  They were painted with a #005 grumbacher brush.  With hieroglyphics, the way the image faces determines where you read them from, so this piece is written from right to left.  They say, "Flamingo, ancient phoenix and eyes of Ra" and then I signed my name, Janin Wise.

The bennu is the Egyptian fire bird/ phoenix, and represents the god of the sun, Ra.  There are some sources that indicate it's a heron, others an eagle, and some a flamingo.  For my purposes, I chose the latter.  Especially as the flamingo was considered a living embodiment of Ra, and a sign for the color red, symbolic of the sun.  With that last in mind, I painted in the red circle in the background, which is symbolic of both the sun and the sun god, Ra.

The finished piece:

"Bennu, Flamingo of Ra" by Janin Wise
4" x 6"
Acrylic on watercolor paper

Prints and other merchandise available at my society6 store

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Preparing for MidSouthCon 2017: Wee Folk

Midsouth Con is one of my all time favorite conventions, and it's getting ready to happen in Memphis next weekend!

I'll have several pieces available in the artist's alley (for the second time!), and this year, I decided I wanted to make a small series specifically for the con.

And when I mean small, I'm being literal-- each mixed media painting/ drawing is only 2.5" x 3.5"!

I started with preparing the backgrounds with acrylic washes:

 Then, I went over with white acrylic for subtle patterns:

And here are the twelve fairies that will be making their debut at MidsouthCon 2017 as my "Wee Folk Series":

"Making Friends" by Janin Wise
2.5" x 3.5" acrylic and pen and ink on watercolor paper
Prints and other merchandise available at my society6 store

"Making Wishes" by Janin Wise
2.5" x 3.5" acrylic and pen and ink on watercolor paper
Prints and other merchandise available at my society6 store

"Is It Sunrise Already?" by Janin Wise
2.5" x 3.5" acrylic and pen and ink on watercolor paper
Prints and other merchandise available at my society6 store

"Pleasant Surprise" by Janin Wise
2.5" x 3.5" acrylic and pen and ink on watercolor paper
Prints and other merchandise available at my society6 store

"Taking a Wee Nap" by Janin Wise
2.5" x 3.5" acrylic and pen and ink on watercolor paper
Prints and other merchandise available at my society6 store

"Having a No Good, Very Bad Day" by Janin Wise
2.5" x 3.5" acrylic and pen and ink on watercolor paper
Prints and other merchandise available at my society6 store

"Contemplation or Worry?" by Janin Wise
2.5" x 3.5" acrylic and pen and ink on watercolor paper
Prints and other merchandise available at my society6 store

"Sheer Delight" by Janin Wise
2.5" x 3.5" acrylic and pen and ink on watercolor paper
Prints and other merchandise available at my society6 store

"Day Dreaming" by Janin Wise
2.5" x 3.5" acrylic and pen and ink on watercolor paper
Prints and other merchandise available at my society6 store

"A Case of the Giggles" by Janin Wise
2.5" x 3.5" acrylic and pen and ink on watercolor paper
Prints and other merchandise available at my society6 store

"Everyone Loves Fall" by Janin Wise
2.5" x 3.5" acrylic and pen and ink on watercolor paper
Prints and other merchandise available at my society6 store

"Dropping In To Say Hi" by Janin Wise
2.5" x 3.5" acrylic and pen and ink on watercolor paper
Prints and other merchandise available at my society6 store
But if you're interested in a chance to get one of the originals-- Hope to see you in Memphis 3/24 - 3/26!