Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Review, Resolve and the Heirophant

I mean clearly, I'm a bit like Dana Scully, really. Only worse. 

Does that make sense?

I'm not just a sceptic, but a suspicious, buzz killing cynic. Cynical to the point of joyless, bubble bursting bitterness. And yet, like Scully, I eye roll at the fanatics, but I continue to turn up with my torch. I guess I want to believe. I'm gonna be looking at my tarot card of the year, and what message it has for me going into 2019, but first I thought I'd look back at the last year in terms of the goals I had and the art I made with a few screen grabs from Instagram.

My Creativity in 2018

I'm drawn to journaling right now, and that seems to be a New Year theme for me. Here's a few pages that I was proud of from last January. My goals were to journal throughout the year, but this dropped off mid-February. This was because I started working evenings as well as managing a little day job and keeping house. I forgive myself. And rededicate myself to just enjoying the process when I feel called.

January Journal Spread

Brush line work in a January spread.

I feel comfortable with colour in my journal, and this year saw me really embrace colour in my work more broadly. I spent a lot of time in the early months of 2018 getting ready for the Artist Open House trail I participated in thanks to my very good friend Olivia Marjorie. I made things I've been sitting on for years. It was satisfying realising day dreams that I've had so much resistance to. One of these schemes was some 3D paper flowers. Here's one.

Paper flower shadow box.
I was inspired by the build into summer, and I illustrated a May Queen and some foliate heads which were also part of my show. I didn't have a particular theme for the exhibition, other then I wanted to celebrate the patchwork of my artistic endeavor and my experiments in many forms. Looking back, I know I didn't communicate my intentions fully, but I'm grateful for what I did learn about who I am as an artist. The foliate head is a symbol for man being overcome by nature, and I think it's a useful shorthand for what I'm inspired by and the aesthetics I'm most drawn to. I'll be keeping this in mind.

May Queen illustration.

Foliate head illustration.

I always dream of making bigger work and taking the time to paint, but never prioritise it. I wanted something big and impactful for the AOH show, and this large foliate head seemed like the perfect way to make an impact, and collect my styles in one place. Here I used colour and mixed media in layers like I do in my journals, and I covered every inch with a filigree of line work. It was a joy to make.

Foliate head progress.

Foliate head finished piece.

I felt like I had some breakthroughs last year with my main focus: my ink work. I wanted to bring in colour, and I've been struggling to do it in the way I see it in my minds eye. I took an excellent course by Tom Froese on Skillshare and it inspired me to add colour digitally, and revel in the textures that I enjoy so much with just black ink. 

Ink and digital mixed media illustration.

It was going to be my third time participating in Inktober 2018, and I was pumped to undertake the 30 day drawing challenge initially. But something went sour. My plan was to complete one of my own prompt lists and give life to some of the symbols that mean something to me in my own style. But I was exhausted. And I wasn't enjoying the obligation. So I abandoned ship. I'm excited by the work I did manage. Compared to previous years,  I'm a better draughtsman. Confidence has made me more loose and bold. It was worth the attempt to be able to witness a leap and a bound.

Toad illustration.

Add caption

Lastly, this character is simple, but representative of something I've been trying to capture. A darkness. A voice. A sense of humour. A modernity. Weirdly, I feel like there is so much potential with this style that I'm too scared to move in on it. (I'm hoping writing that down helps me to get my fucking ink bottle out.)

Character illustration.

So where does that leave me now we're past the first week of January 2019? When I'm stumped I quite often pull a tarot card. I love them, but I also can't stand my lack of rational logic in loving them.

How I Use Tarot

One of my favourite artists, David Lynch is constantly asked 'where do the ideas come from?' and 'how do you make films?' He says (here, and here) you get an idea because you leave the window open in your mind. The idea comes in. Then you work on the idea until it feels correct. I like the idea of 'correct'. So much of what we think we know we kid ourselves is true. When in fact, it just feels correct

Synchronicity is an idea belonging to Carl Jung, that parallels can be connected by meaning and not causality. So you keep seeing magpies everywhere. In the street. In the trees. In the graffiti. In a chaotic world this simple, totally random coincidence of a repeating image can make us feel that there is meaning to be discerned. In the face of utter and senseless churning chaos we will inevitably try to make order, repair chaos, amend it.

I don't think a medium has supernatural access to signs and symbols that I can't see. 
For me, tarot isn’t a divination system in the sense of their being a destiny that can be divined. Sometimes I’m trying to make sense of things. And an arbitrary flicking through of the tarot system can bring an experience of synchronicity. Which feels like things are making sense.

Why Tarot?

I had several exposures to tarot in my early life. I'm was born in 1989 and was a nineties kid and a teenager in the 2000's. A true millenial. I grew up around the city of Brighton, in rural Sussex. Magic was real in the woods. There were several readers visibile on the streets of the city of Brighton, in shops there, and even in a wooden caravan on the Palace Pier with a board outside. Hocus Pocus, the magical supplies shop on Gardner Street was the shiniest, most brightly coloured and best smelling shop in the North Laines. Witches were news. New Age spirituality and populist, pseudo-psychology were trendingThere were tarot cards at home that I got to handle and use. I grew up in a culture that was constructing the good witch around me, in real time. It was an option.

In the early 2000's I read a lot of books about magic. What remains in 2019 is that I like magical systems generally when they act as systems to creatively ascribe meaning to our own lives on our own terms. At their best, in my view, they can be creative and artistic systems and they can help. You can believe in divine intervention, or fairies, or UFO’s, either because it feels correct to you, or by choice. Belief in and practice of tarot for me simply stems from synchronistic exposures and experiences that make their magic feel correct. 

Are you still there?

My Tarot Card of the Year, 2019

So there’s this idea that you can calculate your tarot card of the year. I love the way you work it out, it is classic numerology bullshit. (I’m being judgey there, but ultimately I’m open to a good numerology argument. Please persuade me.) Calculating your year card is like one of those rubrics you use as a kid that will work out who in your class you will end up marrying. Do you remember those? You add the letters of your name with the day of the week you were born and the surname of your favourite Spice Girl or something, and this sum total is equal to who you will marry. According to several online sources, to work out your tarot card of the year, you add the number of the New Year to the numbers of your birth day and month and this total equals the Major Arcana card that has messages for your year. Therefore, I was born on the ninth day of February, and it is 2019 now, bitch. So my sum looks like this:

9 + 2 + 2 + 0 + 1 + 9.

= 23.

There is no 23rd card in the Major Arcana, so in a classic numerology stylee, we go:

2 + 3 = 5.

So, obviously, this means that my key tarot energy and message for 2019 is correspondent to the 5th card of the Major Arcana. Drum roll: The Hierophant.

The Heirophant

The Hierophant is a weird one. What I glean from tarot books and websites is that the Hierophant is a Pope. A magical priest guy. He’s a scholar, a mystic, wise, authoritarian, studious, profound and in possession of secret mysteries gained by passing through levels of initiation. He represents the acquiring of knowledge through formal study. The application of rigour and discipline. A respect for status quo rules and norms. A toeing of lines, or setting of standards. A control over dominion, a maintenance and respect for tradition.

According to Merriam-Webster (www.merriam-webster.com/hierophant 02/01/2019) Hierophant is a Greek word originally referring specifically to priests from the ancient Greek city of Eleusis who performed sacred rites and maintained a cult around the myth of Persephone’s abduction from Demeter. This is the Greek rebirth and eternal life story, and the world and underworld in the story draws parallels to Jung’s ideas about the conscious and hidden shadow of the unconscious. Anyway, Hieros in Greek means “sacred” and “phainein” means to show, so it’s all about bringing the mystery to the light of day, bringing the unconscious to the conscious, waiting for Persephone to resurface and allow the flowers to show their heads above the soil again in Spring. 


Over time, Hierophant has come to have a more general meaning of ‘a spokesperson, a commentator, an interpreter or a leading advocate’. Hierophant now is synonymous with champion, espouser, exponent, friend, high priest, promoter, supporter, true believer and white knight. These are all gangster and dudeish things that I’m here for. So that's a great card message.

It is difficult to relate to the priestly, papal aspect for me as a confirmed atheist, but if we think about the function of a priest, they are someone who performs rituals, sets intentions into motion, acts as the central spoke of a specific community, and mediates between heaven and earth. IRL the Pope has something to do with the keys of heaven and being the rock upon which the church is built. So the question is, what am I building my Church on? What is my heaven? What or who do I want to advocate for?

New Year Resolutions

My new years resolutions for last year involved complicated content calenders. I aimed to produce a YouTube video every week, a long-form blog post once a fortnight, and posts for Instagram each day. I wanted to dedicate the year to creative endeavour, and be able to share it and be part of an artists community. But my day job schedule fluctuated several times, I spent most of the year involved in mundane tasks or prostate, exhausted and scrolling. Lots of scrolling. I didn't manage even a short post every month, and my YouTube efforts were a joke. I made some videos, but hated them all.

This is a success story, though. I conclude that I'm not a YouTuber. I don't like my speaking voice, or watching myself talk, and if I can't stand it, it doesn't feel right trying to persuade subscribers, somehow? I also don't have oceans of time for video editing, or the space to set up decent lighting to combat my dark old house.

I noticed that I'm a writer. I only studied creative writing and literature for six years. The clues were there. So why haven't I at least been printing zines? Why aren't I blogging? Just because I read somewhere the blog is dead? Last year I learned I am easily swayed when I compare myself to other creatives. I'm trying to move away from that.

This year my goals are similar to last years in a way, but I'm being less specific and certainly more gentle. I aim to be more productive, and regularly review my progress. To only make work if it tells some sort of story - this is written or visual. To share. To read more books. To fill more books. To make more connections with human beings, and cherish and nourish existing ones.

Overall, I want to bring the ideas I have out into reality. I want to build strength in the voice I've found. 
I want to be more devoted. I want to keep going. Come with me?