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!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Leaves on the World Tree: Brahui Juniper

Did you know that Balochistan is home to some of the oldest Juniper trees in the world?  I've previously mentioned the Zairat Juniper Forest, but they also grow in the Bolan Hills.

This week, I decided to go back to rows of color, and tried out larger salt:

And decided to pair it with cling wrap to draw pools of color as well:

After it had dried, it was ready for the next two layers of color:

Even though I'm left handed, I splatter right handed (:

The finished background:

The juniper is actually Juniperus macropoda, which is native to northern and central Balochistan in western Pakistan, and southeastern Afghanistan.

Like my previous pieces, the plants are painted in all white.  There are seven juniper berries, representing spiritual awakening & the collective consciousness, surrounded by juniper needles, on a background of rainbow colors as a bridge to the world tree.

The twenty fourth leaf in my world tree series, aimed at showing that we are ALL leaves on the same world tree:

"Leaves on the World Tree: Brahui Juniper"
by Janin Wise
3" x 3" acrylic on mini canvas

Prints and other merchandise available at my society6 store

Color Your Year Calendar 2017

In December, I went looking for this year's calendar, and decided I was going to get myself a weekly planner to help me stay on top of things.  While I was looking at Barnes and Nobles, I found their Color Your Year Mindful Coloring Through the Seasons Engagement Calendar.

I had a box of gelpens someone had gotten for me, that I hadn't opened in the last year and decided this would give me 52 chances to practice, and learn how to use them.

And I thought I'd share my progress so far (:

The first page in, finishing out December.

Where I discovered I may well use drawing instead of coloring.

My least favorite one so far to complete-- in part because I was running out of my gelpens already, so my color choices were limited, and in part because of how many small detailed areas there were.  But I completed it anyway, and kinda like how it turned out.

I got new gelpens, including white, and decided that this meant I had the ability to alter the existing image as I wanted, by erasing and coloring as I decided-- this is actually supposed to be a repeating pattern that has 9 toucans in it, that should all look like the one on the lower right (the heads of two at the bottom were turned into leaves and flowers, and the tail of the one on the upper right was also turned into leaves and flowers).
This is next weeks:

Monday, January 30, 2017

Lunar New Year 2017

I missed doing 2015's lunar new year zodiac (which I will be shortly making up), but I typically wait a little further into the year before I'm ready to make that year's zodiac.

So yesterday, I completed this year's piece early, only a day after the actual Lunar New Year, as I found myself, and my country, on the precarious balance of hopeful and hopeless.

This year's fire chicken is aptly based on the breed called 'phoenix'.

So today's progress photos and finished piece will also come with a side of American political advise, regardless of which "side" you support (if you'd rather, you can scroll right down to the pictures, but I think the following is worth reading):

Don't just be outraged. Be motivated. I'm about to post a series of links that can help you actually get involved. Because angry fb rants and sharing inflammatory headlines in either direction won't have any real world influences on the politics.

Right now, all of it, ALL OF IT, are bills -waiting- to happen.

So use these tools to find the ones that matter to you, track them, find out who is chairing them, and contact them. Find your representatives and contact them. By phone, by email, by letter, in person, in protest-

YOU decide.

But do the leg work and GET. INVOLVED.

Because IF these bills pass (or don't pass depending on your leaning) and you did not get involved, then YOU are equally responsible for that outcome.

We cannot, and SHOULD NOT treat these headlines like foregone conclusion, because they are not. There are between a couple of weeks and several months (depending on the bill) for us ALL to actively participate in our political processes.

These are some of the tools that will help you do it:…/presidential-actions…/nominations-and-appointments…/find-elected-officials/

And a great place to start, every time you read an article:

Use it to find the actual bill or legislature being discussed if it's not already linked in the article. Read the proposal for yourself. And proceed from there.

Politics have weighed heavily on my mind for the better part of the last six months, and heavier still in the last 10 days.  And so I decided to place my phoenix fire chicken on a page featuring both the words "Hope" and "Hopeless", as it feels like there is a lot of people teetering between the two.

Mixing colors (which I realized while painting that I don't tend to show when I do it).  I'm using atelier interactive acrylic.

After I pencil in my rough shapes, I start painting my basic outlines.  From here, all of the patterns, as always, will be freehand painted.

Initially my colors were very much towards the golden and blue black of the actual birds-- but I increased the red to accent the fire chicken aspect.

Using my 5/0 grumbacher to do the painting.

Once I completed the piece, I realized I was colored (quite literally, in fact) by my politics-- as my rooster is very much Red, White and Blue.

As we are given the choice between hope and hopeless-- I have decided to choose hope.  I know people who choose an intention or a word for their year-- and I believe that hope is going to be mine.

"Choose Hope"
by Janin Wise
6" x 10" acrylic on dictionary page

Prints and other merchandise available at my society6 store