This was a very difficult piece - getting the shape of the bird to read - but more importantly getting the feel for the snow goose, and the message it brings, was not as easy as some of the totem animals. I did extensive reading on snow geese, both from the spiritual and biological standpoints. From my collection of photo references, I chose a snow goose landing - for no particular reason other than I liked the way the light it the bird's wing and breast, and I liked the overall shape and the way it fit into the square format. So much of what I read on snow geese talked about migration, quests, travel, persistence, loyalty, community and vision. But to me those qualities described more what shows on the outside; I wanted to get to the Heart of Snow Goose. The inner desire, the inner quality. I knew I had chosen to paint Snow Goose landing for a reason, although I wasn't sure what the reason might be. I tried lots of different word combinations, but none felt right. But last night I took a "power nap" before painting and the words came to me in my dream-state. "The Heart of Snow Goose Seeks Rejuvenation." That fits with all my reading about geese returning to the place they were born to lay their eggs, about geese moving back in the formation to rest...and about people with Snow Goose as a birth totem animal needing to rest, to relax, to renew and rejuvenate before taking off on another Quest.
This painting is 95% finished - I just need to let the paint set up (dry) a bit so I can come in and re-write the wording so it shows up better.
The Heart of Snow Goose is the 8th painting in my series of 12 birth totem animal paintings. Those born between December 22 and January 19 have Snow Goose as their birth totem animal.
In Session 6, I worked on brightening the colors and creating more contrast in the pattern. I added a creamy white to the whites areas and added a mix of ultramarine blue and a little alizarin to the dark areas. The reds got a little more cadmium red and cadmium orange in areas. I also redrew - yes, again! - the patterns at the curves in Snake's body. I think I've got it now. This has been quite a challenge and a learning experience!
As I was painting,I thought to change the wording from "The Heart of Snake is Primal" to "The Heart of Snake is Tangled." I think people with Snake as a birth totem tend to get tangled in their emotions (I should know!). But in the end I decided to leave the wording as is.
So, I think I'm finished. I signed the front and painted the sides. Now I'll have to let Snake wait with the other Birth Totem Animal paintings until I've completed the series of twelve. Knowing me, I'll go back in and make some minor changes before being 100% done.
I found this description of Snake People and thought I'd share..."Snakes are mysterious, and secretive, hiding their feelings beneath a cool exterior. Adaptable, determined and imSnakes are mysterious, and secretive, hiding their feelings beneath a cool exterior. Adaptable, determined and imaginative, they are capable of bouncing back from tough situations encountered in life. Charismatic, but often difficult to understand. Snake people are often thought of as those who may delve to deeply into the mysterious and forbidden. Those born under this sign have the ability to deceive, as well as charm.aginative, they are capable of bouncing back from tough situations encountered in life. Charismatic, but often difficult to understand. Snake people are often thought of as those who may delve to deeply into the mysterious and forbidden. Those born under this sign have the ability to deceive, as well as charm."
In Session 5, I worked more on refining of shapes and value. I also worked on the background some more...and suddenly, the word I was looking for popped into my head. "The Heart of Snake is Primal." Bingo! It works - at least for right now. Since the painting is done in primary colors, the word "primal" seems fitting in that sense. And the word "primal" works in the sense that Snake can represent our basic nature. I think it is probably noteworthy that in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Snake is seen as evil. But in many other cultures, Snake is seen as a healer. In some Native American traditions, Snake is seen as the link between the natural and the supernatural.
I feel I'm getting very close to completing Snake.
Another good session painting Snake, although a short one, maybe an hour. I redrew some of the patterns where Snake's body curves so that it is reading better. I also lightened the lighter bands to create more contrast with the black and red, and muted the background a little more. I feel like the painting is moving along well, albeit slowly. But something tells me not to rush, to let things develop in a relaxed way. I'm pretty close to knowing what I'll write: maybe "The Heart of Snake Reinvents Itself" or "The Heart of Snake Opens New Dimensions." I have to be patient with the words as well.
I started Session III with Snake by once again finding places in my drawing that were off, mostly in the pattern of skin. This is certainly a challenge; I haven't had to draw and redraw something this much since I was in Patti André's class (she is a wonderful artist and teacher, by the way!) But the patterns have to be drawn correctly so that it appears that Snake's body is turning.
I painted in the background a little more ? started making it very abstract with lots of shapes, but then they were too distracting, so I muted it down and it is looking better. I felt more analytical while painting, lots of assessing, but, thankfully, not Obsessing!
It is interesting what Snake teaches. Creativity is definitely at the forefront. There also seems to be a sense of connecting two worlds; that of the natural and the supernatural. One strange ? but good ? "side effect" of painting Snake is that as my awareness of the shape and feel of Snake grows, so does my awareness that my own body has become less limber. I could just say it is age, but in reality I know that it is because I spend too many hours sitting in front of a computer or standing in front of my easel. So I've begun to do a combination of Tai Chi and Yoga before each painting session. It seems to limber up not only my body but my mind as well.
The picture at left was taken after my second painting session with Snake. A lot of mental energy used in drawing and redrawing the coils and trying to make the snake look round. This is where some of my lack of practice in drawing and shading shows up. Note to self: bring your sketchpad everywhere! I know what it "should" look like, but getting my hand to draw what my eye sees is a challenge.
The music I am listening to while painting Snake is "Spirit of the Wind". (I tend to find one CD to listen to while I complete a piece, which usually takes several "sessions".)The Native American flute music and Snake are perfectly partnered.I'm having fun with the pattern of her skin: there are shapes that look like tipis or tree trunks or even naked bodies. I'm feeling comfortable with the drawing, although I know I have to redraw some of the patterns where the body bends to create the illusion of roundness. I feel confident I'll get there?just don't know how long it will take. Perhaps Snake is here to teach me patience!
I thought I'd share this painting in my birth totem animal series from start to finish. The snake I used for reference is an eastern milksnake. I chose the milksnale, and the eastern variety in particular, because of the lovely skin pattern. Since painting snake is out of my comfort zone in many ways, I wanted to choose a snake that was both beautiful and colorful and non-poisonous. I've always loved the pattern of the coral snake, but that one is quite venomous. I found this little saying, "Red touches yellow, you're a dead fellow. Red touches black, you're okay, Jack."
Anyway, like I say, painting Snake is a challenge for me. It is not that I don't like snakes, but I've never been fascinated with them like I have with mammals and birds. But I like the symbolism of Snake, who comes into your life to help you with change. As Snake sheds her skin and is "reborn," so we can shed what is old and no longer working in our lives and be "reborn."
Session 1, a snake is "born." I was happy with the general drawing, colors and composition when I finished the first session. For those of you interested in "how long did that take?" this represents about 1-1/2 hours at the easel.
Just like Owl herself, this painting is full of mysteries. I thought I was finished with the painting - and posted Owl as finished. But something kept nagging at me. Well, Owl kept nagging at me. Telling me that something didn't quite feel right. After meditating for awhile on the Heart of Owl, I knew it had to have more of a nocturnal feel, so I darkened the background, and that was better. But something about the wording also seemed off, like I had just put the word "color" in there because I couldn't think of another word. When I let my mind relax, and stopped pressuring myself to finish the painting, the word "daylight" popped into my head. I like the word on many levels: being nocturnal, owls do dream in daylight. Many Owls I know are "daydreamers" as well.
In reworking Owl, I realized that I have been putting pressure on myself to finish the series. I set a deadline for myself and so I am trying to meet the deadline. But it is just an arbitrary deadline. Nothing will happen if I finish a day, a week or a month late. But the looming deadline gets under my skin, and my taskmaster left brain pushes for completion. My right brain says "whoa! Slow down and give each painting your undivided attention and let it emerge and evolve in its own time." My right brain is, well, right about this.
November 23 - December 22. Birth Totem Owl is an individual whose outer personality is focused upon understanding all of Life's myriad mysteries.
In Nature, the Owl is known for her ability to quietly observe her prey as she sits perched atop a nearby tree limb, waiting for the opportune moment in which to strike. When the moment comes, Owl will fly silently, taking the intended prey by complete surprise.
Like their Birth Totem, individuals born under Owl will fly into new situations and encounters with their eyes wide open and their ears attuned to the slight nuances and mannerisms that will reveal much to them about their new environment or companions. This knowledge may be utilized to gain better understanding and appreciation for Others, or (if the Owl person is operating from contrary Personality), the information obtained may be used to strike down those who they may perceive as a threat.
Perhaps the greatest natural ability of Birth Totem Owl individual is his/her ability to see the good in nearly any situation they encounter. One who is operating from a well integrated Owl center, may inspire Others to rise above their own indifference and succumb to the contagious enthusiasm of the Owl, thereby participating in a group effort to effect positive change in the world around them.
One of the greatest challenges to this particular Birth Totem is that these individuals have a difficult time in settling their own restless inclinations to be forever on the move, if not literally, then metaphorically speaking. So intent are they upon seeing all they can see, and experiencing everything that can possibly be squeezed into one lifetime, that they often miss the deeper sense of satisfaction that can come with setting up nest and nurturing a deeper understanding of a few select topics, rather than skimming the surface of many varied subjects and hence, gleaning little useful knowledge.
When Birth Totem Owl individual can come to the Ultimate understanding of their own restless nature and quell the impulse to fly in fear of what they may find within themselves, then the Higher Self may be met and embraced through their new-found skill of focused concentration.
For more info on birth totem animals, please visit Wolf's Moon.
The writing on "The Heart of Owl" came to me during the last painting session. The song "Better Man" (by Pearl Jam) popped into my head, and I knew that was what I wanted to write.
Depending on what source you use, the birth totem animal for November 23 - December 21 can also be an elk. I may end up doing another painting with Elk. I wonder how many people born in this time frame feel more aligned with Owl and how many feel more aligned with Elk?