I thought I’d add a couple of quick sketches I did this week of the sphinx. I love drawing her, and am happy with how these look…
I may be wrong, but I expect this digital painting might seem kinda strange to some people. With this nude dude running across the piece, and these brightly colored rainbow bodies running uncomfortably close with him… But this painting isn’t about ascension, as the rainbow body might normally imply. Instead, this piece is showing the descent of the soul/spirit/mind down into a physical body. When I draw, I am sometimes trying to work out through my artwork an idea or philosophy that has been on mind, and this idea of our descent into matter is something I seem to return to again and again (and again!).
I struggled with this piece. I had a number of false starts, one in particular that I spent a lot of time developing, drawing… and I was pretty happy with it… but then, one day while walking, the image above just sort of floated in front of my minds eye and I knew this was it. This was a better expression for the idea, so I started over.
It is usually hard for me to talk about the artwork I make. The picture should say it all, right? Francis Bacon said, “It’s always hopeless to talk about painting – one never does anything but talk around it”. Even though I get his point, I don’t know that I believe it is completely true, so I will try to explain some of what I was thinking the best I can.
In ancient Egypt, there was the idea that the human soul was made up of five different parts. These different parts, when combined with the physical body, are what make up a human being. Now, I don’t think I was literally trying to represent this Egyptian idea, but I am bringing it up because I’m sure this concept was lurking around in the back of my mind while I was drawing. I could see an overlap with what I was creating…
… And I was creating, like I said above, a picture of the soul’s decent into matter and the physical world.
In Asia, it was/is thought there are five different elements that combine and make up everything we see. Of course, in the western tradition we typically only recognize four (earth, water, air, and fire). That missing fifth element is sometimes called wood, sometimes called life, and sometimes called spirit. I represented that spirit in the grey human form that surrounds and encompasses the other colors or “bodies”.
The other colors or “bodies” represent the more physical and classical elements… the elements which literally do create each individual physical body. Red is fire. Fire in the mind, the fire in our heart, electrical and nervous systems. And it shows an external fire too… How does that old song go? “We are stardust, billion year old carbon“. Well, I guess we really are… elements created and forged in star fire, exploded into space and eventually ending up here. The lighter blue body is the air we breathe, the air that circulates through our blood. The darker blue is water and rivers inside each of us. And the main and most obvious running body is the earth… the meat suit. What we tend to see when we look at each other. All of these combine to make us. And the body is running because that is what it’s for. It seems to me that the body is a kind of vehicle that the spirit uses to run around in.
I’m not the greatest writer I know, but that was some of what I was thinking on while I was painting. And all of that is The Fifth World.
You can buy this as a high quality 24″ x 16″ canvas print through my website by visiting www.toddpowelson.com
I finished this here flock of bird earlier last week. I’m very happy with how they all turned out, and am pleased as punch to have them done. I really like to draw these birds (in the face!) though, so maybe I’ll add even more to the flock over time.
It is hard to explain why I like this symbol or idea so much, or even where it comes from. As I write this, the thought just came to me that maybe it has its root in the Greek god of sleep, Hypnos. I’d never really thought about that before… but if that was the germ for the idea, I think it came to mean something else for me personally.
I think way too much on that age old question of “where do we come from, what are we, where are we going?“… Way too much. I don’t really have any answers to share, but I guess I explore it a lot in my art. You know, maybe this is a good way to explain… I’ve heard that some cultures and native tribal traditions believe that a human being has two souls. One soul comes from the stars, and one soul comes from the earth. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love birds because I just love birds. They are such beautiful animals. But as a symbol, maybe they represent that concept of the soul. Or the merger of those two souls. They are fly through the heavens in their earthly bodies… they are kind of a merger, at least symbolically, of those two souls. And maybe, at least here, that is why I wanted to put a bird on it ;) Put a bird on that human face.
I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone but me, but there ya go…
I started drawing these strange birds with sort-a human faces embedded into the feathers two or three years ago and have always meant to do more with the idea. Rework the drawings somehow and make them into a of flock or murder.
I’ve finally gotten back to that, and this here bird is the first bird of that flock. I did this in Adobe Illustrator, and wanted to give the bird a woodblock kind of look. I still have more birds to do, and I probably won’t keep posting the individual birds, but I will post again one the flock is complete and flying together.
In the meant time, I hope you enjoy :)
I don’t meditate nearly as much as I should, unless you count walking… and I guess I do. There are techniques that I do practice while I walk. Still, if I am able to find a quiet moment I’ll usually choose to draw.. which, I suppose, could also be used as another type of meditation. But neither are quite the same as closing your eyes and sitting, clearing your mind, becoming aware of your body, and following your breath.
I don’t really like to talk about the experiences I have while meditating. Just because it is hard for me to describe, and also because they are personal and probably hard for some people to relate to. I am only writing about it now because it relates to the digital painting diptych that I just finished (above).
Like a lot of people, when I meditate I tend to see things. People, animals, or I find myself in different environments, landscapes or rooms. Of course, this all happens behind my eyes, but they are very significant and real. I could probably write more about it, but I firmly believe that there is more than just the mundane and material world. Meditation is a way to glimpse into, experience, and learn from those other places.
A few months ago I had one of those very significant experiences while meditating. Or maybe it was more of a trance. I sat in a dark room with my eyes closed, followed my breath, and listening to a very soft and rhythmic drum beat. Soon I found myself in a night-time and rural landscape, traveling down a very primitive path. On that path, just up the way, there was a gigantic bear crouching down. Not in a threatening way, but it was crouching. The bear kind of began to shimmer and a tiger became super-imposed over the bear until the bear became a tiger. Then the same thing happened again, and and the tiger shimmered and became a bear. I watched it change from bear to tiger and back for a little while, but soon my attention was drawn up into the starry sky. I realized the whole sky was a great goddess looking down at me (hello Nut), her arms stretched from horizon to horizon. I saw something moving quickly through her sky down towards me. I realized it was a gigantic dragon. Soon its enormous body filled all of my vision, and it just sat there looking at me looking at it. It got closer and closer until all I could see was its gigantic face. Looking at me. It would turn its head from side to side, but held my gaze the whole time. This was an amazing experience for me. It wasn’t scary, it wasn’t sacred, it didn’t make me happy, nor did it intimidate me in any way. It just was. And it was just looking at me looking at it. We just sat looking at each other for a very long time. And somehow, that was very important.
As I was ending my meditation, I asked the Dragon its name, and it told me. I will never tell anybody else, because it seemed like that was just meant for me. Its name was a gift, and I have though about it and the Dragon it belongs to a whole lot ever since.
I’m not really clear on why, but after that experience I also knew that the Fourth World belongs to the Dragon.
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“The Third World” is another new diptych that I just finished, a pair of digital paintings to be added to the series I’ve been working on called “Songs from the Earth“.
This piece started off completely different, with a number of sketches, and a few false starts. Initially, I imagined a crowd of people going about their business through a city-scape. But as the work progressed, that just didn’t feel quite right to me. It didn’t ring true somehow.
Instead, I decided to zoom in on these two individuals above. They are not really paying attention to what might be going on in the larger world around them, their bodies hunched over and focused on the task at hand. They might be building with the blocks or nurturing plants at their feet, which is good, but still only focused on themselves and their work.
“The Third World” is the human world.
These two digital paintings can also be purchased as high-quality canvas prints through my personal website at www.toddpowelson.com