Jumping Back into Acrylics with Dreamscapes

I have not touched my acrylic paints in nearly two years. After I moved to a new city, they spent a year in storage. As we had opted to get an apartment for a year while we got a better feel for the area. I am a sloppy painter. A messy process, to begin with, but I somehow end up with paint on my elbows and in my hair when I paint on canvas. I don’t know how some people can just wear an apron and walk away with their clothing intact. So it seemed wise to put my paints in storage rather than attempt to use them in a carpeted apartment, the security deposit for which I wanted back. Add to that, a hectic year made worse by COVID-19, which increased my workload exponentially, and my paints sat in their boxes for almost two years.

Last month I took them out of their boxes and was pleasantly surprised to find all but two tubes in excellent shape. I was, however, not feeling all that confident and decided to dip my toes in the water with an ArtSherpa paint along with a tutorial on YouTube. Now I have mentioned Cinnamon Cooney before on this blog. I appreciated her positivity and grounded approach. I think she is an excellent resource for an amateur like myself that just wants to have some fun and paint something pretty. What sets her apart from the paint and sip type tutorials you may be familiar with is that she is a dedicated educator, and you will learn techniques and terms from her.

I landed on this tutorial of a Camp Fire Scene in Arcadia National Park. Which set me off on a bit of an after-work obsession for the last month of dreamy night skies.

My version swapped the man out for a woman as I imagined myself in this magical place. While I do enjoy it when other people appreciate my work. I really paint for myself, and it gave me a sense of peace to insert myself into this scenario.

My fire could use some work but I enjoyed making it. ūüôā

I really enjoy the skies, and I often paint them in watercolor. But, I found this so relaxing I started doing more after work. They are not masterpieces, but the process of making them made me feel better after several tough and long workdays. I ended up switching to sponges for the Milky Way, which worked better for me. I found it easier to blend and get a more luminous effect.

First attempt on my own

I would walk away from my easel with a perspective on life that was more about wonder than feeling bleak. I guess that is the best you can really get out of any hobby.

I also love Aurora images and wanted to capture that dreamy magic.

I settled on calling these Dreamscapes‚ÄĒa landscape of imaginary night full of calm, shadow, light, and color. The idea for these was that after walking through the dark forest, one comes upon a lake or clearing illuminated by starlight and offers a good view of the sky through the trees.

I tried mixing time on the left, Aurora, MilkyWay, and sunrise On one landscape. To give the image a dreamy quality of merging three spaces in time into one. I wanted the image of the wolf to feel like an exciting surprise for the viewer after a long walk.

A lonely tree.

I hope to make a few more before I switch to ink for Inktober next month.

Happy Art Journey,

Justine

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There is a Rabbit on the Moon

Human beings are naturally inclined to find patterns even where there are none. This phenomenon is called Apophenia. For this reason, we see animals in the stars and shapes in the Moon. While it is common to view a man in the Moon in Western Civilization the rabbit is also commonly viewed in the Moon in many cultures around the world. There are many stories about how a rabbit’s image became imprinted on the moon. This last month or so I have painted several scenes relating to or inspired by the myths I am aware of.

 

The Sacrificial Rabbit

Monkey, Otter, Jackal, and Rabbit pledge to practice charity on the Buddhist day of observance. The animals came across an old beggar who was staving. Monkey offered fruits from the trees, Otter gave fish, and Jackal brought a stolen pot of milk curd. While rabbit seeing he could only gather grass a food not fit for humans tossed himself on the fire sacrificing himself to save the old man. The old man was actually a Buddhist God Sakra (sometimes Emperor of the Heavens) who honored rabbit by placing him on the moon. You can still see the rabbit draped in smoke on the moon to this day. This is a popular myth in Asia with versions found in China, Japan, Vietnam, and Korea. In some Asian myths, Rabbit is pounding the Elixir of Life or rice. Thus my inclusion of a mortar in some of the images. Interestingly there is very similar Mayan myth where Rabbit offers himself to the disguised Quetzalcoatl.

 

The Sacrifice of Jade Rabbit
The Ascent of the Jade Rabbit

 

In other Meso American myths, a god’s life was required to create the sun. The humble¬†Nanahuatzin readily¬†sacrificed¬†himself to the flames. But, the wealthy¬† Tecciztecatl hesitated and only entered the flames after feeling shamed by Nanahautzin’s sacrifice.¬† The Gods place a Rabbit on the face of¬†Tecciztecatl to diminish¬†his light as punishment and he became the Moon.

Companion Rabbit

The rabbit in the Moon is sometimes seen as a companion¬†animal to a specific¬†diety that is thought to inhabit the Moon.¬† In China, this is the lovely Chang’e¬†who rose to the heavens after consuming all of the elixir¬†of life which was meant¬†to be shared with her husband Yi.¬† There are many versions¬†of this story.

In some versions, Yi had received¬†this elixir as a reward for shooting down the extra suns which caused hardship drought. Or he may have been banished from heaven for killing the extra suns that were actually the Emperor¬†of Heaven’s sons transformed and the elixir was meant to act as a get out of jail free card of sorts.¬† Yi who loved his wife wished to spend eternity with her and gave it to her for safekeeping. In some versions, she drank the elixir¬†purely¬†out of excitement in others she did it to prevent her husband’s enemy from consuming it. The Jade rabbit became her companion and pounds new elixir of life for her on the Moon.¬†Chang’e¬†is associated MidAutomn festival but I have painted a Moon Princess in the Spring¬†as that is the time of year where I am now.

Rabbit Rides the Moon

In a Cree legend, Rabbit desired to ride the moon. This myth is a bit different¬†from other indigenous American myths as he is not fulfilling¬†his typical role as a trickster. This is a¬† rather straightforward story for Rabbit folklore.¬† Only Crane was strong enough and willing to try the difficult journey. So rabbit held Crane’s legs as they flew to the Moon. This is why Crane’s legs are so long they were stretched out by Rabbit’s weight pulling on them. Durning the long trip Rabbit’s paws began to bleed from the strain of holding on to Crane. When they landed Rabbit touched Crane’s head he and his descendants have had a red mark there ever since.

These are just a few of the Rabbit in the Moon myths I am aware of. There are more I am aware of that I have not had a chance to paint yet such as the Mayan Grandmother Moon and her Rabbit companion. Do you have a favorite Moon myth? If so please share it in the comments.

Justine

Happy Belated Chinese New Year from Canis Major

I was encouraged by a cousin to create a few dog constellation paintings in honor of Chinese New Year. Although, I did manage to get them painted around the 16th. I just did not have time to blog about it until today. There is really not much of a connection between Canis Major and the Chinese Zodiac but it was a fun crossover project. The Chinese Zodiac is based on a twelve-year cycle represented by twelve animals. This year is the year of the dog. Canis Major says Happy New Year!

Canis Major is the constellation of the dog shape. Canis major can be found at the heals of Orion a faithful dog with his hunter chasing down Lepus (rabbit) and Columbia (dove) at the feet of Orion.  Canis Major holds the Dog Star or Sirius the brightest star in the night sky. Canis minor can be found just below Gemini and is separated from Orion and Canis Major by Monoceros.

 

The Hunter and his Dog

I like to think of Canis major with Orion on a never-ending cosmic hunt with Lepus and Columbia narrowly escaping each night.

 

Happy Art Journey,

Justine

 

 

Taurus as a Subject


www.dickblick.com

I have been painting Taurus the bull constellation lately as part of my series on constellations. This is a subject I enjoy because of the rich history behind it. Taurus is very old people have been looking to the sky and seeing the bull form in this set of stars for a very long time possibly since the prehistoric era. Some scholars believe that the cave paintings at Lascaux which date to the Upper Paleolithic¬†or 15,000 BC depict Taurus.¬†Unfortunately, I can’t find much on this topic outside of the BBC article I just linked in the previous sentence. Most internet sources on the topic just quote that article. But, the idea of star maps predating literature and writing is fascinating.

Taurus Night Sky
© T. Credner & S. Kohle, AlltheSky.com

Taurus was important to early civilization because at the time it was used to mark the Spring Equinox. The Equinox is today referred to as the “first point of Aries” as our view of the sun‚Äôs path has changed over time.¬† ¬†But, that is no longer true as well more on that here. The Vernal or Spring Equinox marks the first day of spring and would have been critical¬†for the planning of agrarian societies¬†like¬†Babylon. When the sun appeared¬†to be disappearing in the section of the sky that Taurus rested in people of ancient agrarian societies knew spring and planting time would soon arrive. The Vernal Equinox today occurs¬†in March and is when the sun leaves the east and passes through the celestial¬†equator to the west directly as seen from earth twelve hours later. Marking the end of winter and beginning¬†of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Daylight and night are the same length of time on that day and after daylight gradually increases¬†to be longer than the night until the Autumnal Equinox.

Taurus

In ancient¬†Mesopotamia, Taurus was referred¬†to as¬†Gugalanna or the Bull of Heaven. It is featured as one of the many monsters Gilgamesh must dispatch¬†in the Epic of Gilgamesh.¬†In a lose or lose situation¬†Gilgamesh¬†mythical king of Uruk is proposition by the Goddess Ishtar (Innana) to be her consort.¬† Ishtar is a notable bad-ass of mythology as the goddess of war, sex,¬†fertility, and politics.¬† She is the Queen of Heaven and Earth and she has a temper. Noting that all of her lovers have suffered terrible fates Gilgamesh¬†says no. Then in a not so bright move instead of trying to fake some kind of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ excuse he goes on to recite how bad she messed up each of her earlier ‘husbands’. She traded one¬†Tammuz¬†to her sister Death (Ereshkigal) to get herself out of the underworld for example. Ishtar insulted and enraged sends the Bull of Heaven¬†Gugalanna¬†to punish Uruk. Gilgamesh and his best friend Enkidu defeat the bull but there will be consequences for destroying a pet of the Gods.¬† If you would like to know the whole story Jason of the Myths and Legends podcast does an excellent retelling.

In Greek mythology, Taurus was associated with Zeus who used the guise of the bull to avoid detection by Hera while off on one of his many affairs. Or used the shape of a white bull to seduce Europa.

Taurus Dreaming

Taurus contains many interesting features including the two closest open clusters near Earth: Pleiades and Hyades. The Hyades contain Aldebaran the brightest star in the constellation that is 40 solar diameters. It is the Pleiades that are thought to be shown near a bull painting in the Hall of Bulls on the cave paintings of Lascaux.  It also includes the Crab Nebula so I attempted to give the below silhouette paintings a nebula like look.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter and spring. You can find Taurus by following the path of the sun and looking for Orion. His belt¬†points to Hydes (V-shaped cluster of stars that forms the beginning of the bull’s horns) with Aldebaran and the Pleiades which is a bright blue star cluster just off the bulls head. For more help finding Taurus check out Earth Sky News or just cheat and use a smartphone app. Which is what I do.

Happy Art Journey,

Justine