The Shaman – study

The Shaman – diptych – is a painting that evolves whilst I paint. There were many ideas on what The Shaman would entail. The recent blood moon is a thread, the idea of subtle changes initiated by the shaman is a thread. The painting is also about the natural interaction with nature and against the hyped and trendy notions around magic and shamanism.

Acrylic on Tyvek – 120cm x 75cm

A sketch made on my small whiteboard.

Most of the sketching takes place inside my mind. To sketch is to feel, to explore subtle feelings or stories. To sketch means a thought evolves and I take the back-seat position and observe what happens next. I do not like to sketch on paper. It feels as if the power slowly slips form between my mental fingers. I do not attempt to paint realistically and I do not study the elements that are in my painting. I try to pick up the essence of the subject matter and leave it.

Stages

Apologies for the crappy pics, my smartphone camera cannot focus any more.

The Shaman goes through stages were the first stage is the sketching in my mind and the second is to explore the space on the canvas. When I explore I try to feel the three-dimensional space but avoid getting stuck in a need to convey the reality. Especially in The Shaman is it not about the reality, it is about what could be.

Thus, the first layers are vague, unsure and certainly will change. In my mind I see an orbital sander in my hands and remove chunks of paint. Nothing is good at this stage and everything is wrong. But that is okay as I stand back, give it a moment to let it sink in and then listen.

Problems

And indeed, last night I seriously thought to sand away half of the painting. What happened? I got distracted, I got ideas that did not fit the painting. I started to tell stories and not let the initial spark tell its story. How did this happens? I watched a couple of artist (Vanessa Prager for example and I love the way she works with the paint) exhibitions on YouTube (Frank Auerbach) and their techniques inspired me. It spilt over into my next brush strokes and I lost the thread.

Before I fall asleep I reserve some time and simulate the start of my following morning. The focus this time was heavily on the painting and what should be done next. I knew the bottom part was wrong and I knew I do not need realism there. Merely the suggestion of a reflection of both the moons would suffice. I also knew that the left painting was about pulling down the moon and the right painting about a 180 degree rotation of the moon.

Focus

How would I do this, how would the shaman do this. I would isolate myself from the details of this world and imagine I had the moon in my hands. Then I would gradually pull down and rotate the moon. I need hands in the painting, I thought.

The next morning I put on my headphones and opened a binaural beat mp3 file made by Tom Campbell, and I was focussed. Then I began to mix a blue layer and applied it very thinly. Next I concocted an odd blue, a bit greenish blue with some zinc white in it. It did not make much sense but I went along and trusted my intuition. With my squeegee I applied it and this worked, the green tone neutralized most of the red ugly reflections that I created the night before and which still were shining through.

This worked and there was no need for hands. Leave out what you do not need or Keep It Simple Stupid, a mantra from my service design past. Then I fixed the moon’s edges and deepened the night sky. As a shaman (pretending to be one, I am not one) I block out unnecessary data and focus on what is essential:

  • moon
  • lower
  • rotate
  • horizon and time